Use the Changing World of Work to Your Advantage

November 16, 2011

Yesterday I spoke to the Association Media & Publishing about career development in the digital age. Specifically, how to use the changing world of work to your advantage.

(Notice I’ve been doing more speaking gigs lately? That’s becoming a piece of my income pie!)

Taking advantage of trends in the workplace is a topic I’m passionate about because it offers such opportunity, opportunity that didn’t exist five or 10 years ago. Whenever I talk about this, I make a conscious effort to turn inward and ask myself: how can I use these trends to move ahead in my career?

We could dissect at least a dozen trends, but for today let’s just stick to the four I talked about at the AM&P luncheon:

1. It’s easier than ever to access people you don’t know. You no longer have to rub elbows with the CEO of a company at an expensive fundraising event to get her attention. Instead, you can tweet at her, link to her blog, tag her on Facebook, tumble one of her quotes… There are now a zillion and one ways for you to get that CEO to notice you. Or that hiring manager. Or that literary agent. Or whoever’s eyes would help you take your career to the next level.

This turns targeted networking into a totally new game. I listed this trend first because it’s the most important, and if you’re not taking advantage of it, you are missing a HUGE opportunity. This is the kind of thing that’s not going to happen by itself; you have to be proactive about it. And if you do, you’ll be far ahead of the rest of the pack.

2. Job-hopping is normal. While it was common for my parents’ generation to stick with one job for their entire career, that’s no longer expected. In the new workplace, you can switch jobs as often as you want, so long as each move continues to help you learn and grow (and you can articulate how each move did that to a hiring manager who’s scrutinizing your resume).

Now, that doesn’t mean it’s not beneficial to have a few years of experience with one company to show you’re consistent and dependable. But if a job isn’t working for you (for a good reason), by all means, find another. No future employer will judge you for jumping ship after a year if a better opportunity came along, especially if you show you were proactive for going after that opportunity. Employers like go-getters.

3. Full-time jobs aren’t necessarily the best route. In the old days, a day job used to provide stability. But can you really count on your company to keep you around next year? Probably not.

That’s why in some ways, cobbling together your own paycheck from a variety of different sources is a more effective way to stabilize your income. Creating your own career can also help you make learning and growing a priority, broaden your network and do work you love in ways working for an employer might not.

Of course, entrepreneurship isn’t for everyone, even if the newest round of workers hails from the Entrepreneurial Generation. But don’t assume you have to get a day job just because everyone you know has one. That’s yesterday’s way of thinking. If you can learn to think outside the box about your career, you will succeed in big ways.

4. Digital means opportunity. Because of the Internet, you now have tools at your disposal that never existed before. Blogs and social networking make it easier to build an online brand and community. Digital communication helps you communicate with people who used to be out of reach (see point No. 1).

Online storefronts make it possible to create and sell products at a fraction of the cost of opening a brick-and-mortar operation, so you can effectively make your living online. And with the never-ending stream of free information — tutorials and videos and blog posts and all the rest — you can learn whatever you crave so long as you’re willing to put in the time and effort.

This new world of work is exciting because it is now more possible than ever before to make a living doing work you love. (Which, by the way, is what we write about over at Brazen Life, a blog I edit about career growth for young professionals.)

Harness that energy! Rope it in! Race it to the finish line! Because it sure as hell ain’t gonna change your life until you tell it to.

Now, a question for you: How can you use these career trends to your advantage?

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