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The 5 Best Strategies for Taking Control of Your Career

Editor’s Note: The following is an excerpt from The New Job Security, Revised: The 5 Best Strategies for Taking Control of Your Career by Pam Lassiter, a career management consultant with over 30 years of experience. Ms. Lassiter’s advice is on the money and should prove invaluable for young professionals looking to fast-track their careers.

Michael is twenty-six years old and, by all measures, he should be a hot commodity in the job market. After finishing his undergraduate degree in finance at a major university, he headed for an investment banking firm to get some firsthand experience. He followed through on his master plan to get three years of work experience before enrolling at a well-known business school for a master’s in business administration (MBA) degree that would make him eligible for some of the most prestigious and well-paying jobs available.

As the source of our economic wealth continues to shift from manufacturing to information and services, the “knowledge worker” continues to rule. Graduates of well-regarded MBA programs comprise a pool of knowledge workers that the world’s best companies target for bright, motivated hires. Michael put himself on the path that leads to these high-level jobs by enrolling in a world-class MBA program. When he started classes, however, he discovered that he had become a little fish in a big pond. He’s now in classes with people who are as smart as or smarter than he is. His first job successes have paled as the bar has moved higher. Having completed the first year of his program, he’s now competing for coveted summer internships at companies that could catapult him to long-term career success.

I met Michael in a networking seminar I presented to MBA students. He was clear about his own goals. “I want to be a consultant with a professional services consulting firm. I want to design strategy for Fortune 500 companies, become a partner, and reap the rewards.” What he wanted, he could articulate, but when I asked him, “Why should a company hire you?” there were five seconds of dead air. That’s a long time for an aspiring consultant. He hadn’t thought about the company’s needs. Most of his fellow students are targeting the same consulting firms, investment banks, well-funded start-ups, and a select group of other companies.

How is Michael going to get their attention and differentiate himself from the rest of the pack?

As you can see, controlling your career isn’t about age, experience, when and where you got your degree, or what your plans are for the future. It’s about attitude. It’s an orientation to the outside world. It’s learnable.

The 5 Best Strategies

The order in which I’ve presented the 5 best strategies is not random. I begin by laying a strong internal foundation, move into more external concerns, and end with steps for negotiating the conditions of your new (or revised) job. If you jump straight to the money (Strategy #5: Negotiate in Round Rooms), you won’t typically have the base built yet that allows other to say “yes,” so take your time and work your way through them. Once you master these five strategies, you’ll continue to use them throughout your career to achieve the type of work life you want. (They’ll even work with your kids or partner, but I’m not going there in this book.)

Send Clear Signals

Sending the right message determines your results. Of course, you need a plan before you know what your message is, right? If you’re reading this book, you’re going to have both. You will no longer say, “There are no job openings,” “I don’t have the right qualifications,” “I’m too old or young,” or “I can’t move up in my company,” because you’ll be sending out the more positive signal that you’re a catch. You have a lot more options than you realize.

Market for Mutual Benefit

If you lead with the business needs of your “target markets” rather than your own needs (focusing, for example, on ways to increase their profitability rather than your interest in a promotion or employment), you will get their attention and differentiate yourself from the crowd. Using their vocabulary shows that you already understand their business at their level.

Stop Looking for Jobs

The number of approved job openings is finite. The number of problems to be solved is infinite. Which category would you rather go after?

Build Sustainable Networks

Developing networks wisely has taken some hits and changed a lot in recent years. Social networking sites have added to the noise and the pressure to nurture everyone in your network simultaneously. The goal is to feed and sustain a network that you select from the noise so that the members of your network are motivated to help you over the long term.

Negotiate in Round Rooms

Negotiating strategies are simple and often require only that you use the right vocabulary at the right time. You can put them to work quickly, and you can use them for more powerful results for the long term. These alone will pay not only for this book, but for some nice vacations as well.

What’s the bottom line? The New Job Security comes from you. It is within your control, not your company’s. Does all this sound like a tall order? Actually, it isn’t. All 5 of the new strategies are learnable. And if you practice them until they come naturally, you’ll be prepared for change. You may even create it.

Reprinted with permission from The New Job Security, Revised: The 5 Best Strategies for Taking Control of Your Career. Copyright © 2010 by Pam Lassiter, Ten Speed Press, an imprint of the Crown Publishing Group, Berkeley, CA.

What do you think? Have you used any of the above strategies in your career? Can you attribute career success to your networks, your ability to solve problems, or your negotiating skills?

Published or updated on September 28, 2010

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  1. These are really good points to follow. Having a clear mind about your future and career may turn lots of things in your favor. Building a sustainable network is a great idea as it will help you throughout your career.

  2. David Weliver says:

    I can attest that #2 — marketing for mutual benefit — is incredibly powerful. When I learned how to do this, I began to really rock interviews.

    If you can walk into a prospective employer, ask them about the biggest challenges facing your prospective position, and then fire back solutions, you’ll quickly move to the top of their list.

  3. Speak Your Mind