Bolster Your Career at Every Level

Chief Talent Officer Offers Tips for Finding Opportunity Amid the Chaos

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Laura Agostini
Laura Agostini

In today's economy, holding on to your job is no easy feat. No matter where you look, the headlines are grim, proclaiming the worst. Economists are predicting a loss of at least 2 million jobs this year, and we don't know what lies ahead in 2010.

Even under these circumstances, many of us are seeking a career, not just a job. But finding a way to build a career in one of the worst job markets in decades is a new challenge -- and many of us are not quite prepared for what that entails. In the best of times, there still aren't enough hours to get your own work done. Now you're most likely doing your job plus someone else's, and still trying to network after hours.

So the question becomes: How can you find opportunity within the chaos? The answer isn't simple (these things rarely are), but the first thing you can do is stop worrying and start focusing on every assignment at hand.

Given the realities of today's economic climate, employers are asking their employees for more time, more accountability and more innovative thinking. And therein lies the opportunity for ambitious employees, at every level, to demonstrate their value and make themselves indispensable to their managers and executive team. These actions will pay dividends not only in the short-term crunch but also in the long-term, as the industry emerges out of this slump and companies are in a better position to reward employees who outperformed during tough times.

Now is the perfect time to go that extra mile in building your career. Our business is about relationships, and people will always remember additional effort.

Here's how to say ahead at every level.

Junior (1-5 years in the workplace)
This is likely the first time you have faced an economic crisis. The uncertainty of it all and watching your colleagues lose their jobs can be overwhelming. Use this time to rededicate yourself to your career aspirations and, in turn, your position.

Do Less ...

  • Chatting with friends on Facebook
  • Procrastinating
  • Worrying about whether you will have a job tomorrow, next week or next month

Do more ...

  • Focusing on the now and what you can to become a valuable asset
  • Finding a mentor to advise you and check your work
  • Researching and reading up on your client, your industry, your competition

Middle management (5-10 years in the workplace)
By now, you know what it takes to succeed. You've moved through the ranks. You have the opportunity to reflect on how you made the grade and what it is going to take to stay on top of your game.

Do less ...

  • Complaining about the new generation's sense of entitlement
  • Feeling comfortable or complacent
  • Stressing about revenue and focus on relationships, both client and company

Do more ...

  • Mentoring and training
  • Identifying and rewarding talent who are willing to put in extra effort
  • Reinvigorating yourself and remember what attracted you to the job and career initially

C-suite (15 years or more)
You are the coaches, the leaders, the ones steering the life rafts. Keep your eye on the business and help everyone row together through the rocky times.

Do less ...

  • Reminiscing about the old days, wishing you were old enough to retire
  • Ignoring networking opportunities
  • Looking over your shoulder

Do more ...

  • Accepting that times have changed and that you need to as well
  • Diving into the latest technologies that engage and connect
  • Listening to your employees, clients and peers

Laura Agostini is chief talent officer at Mediaedge:cia. Before joining MEC, she was chief talent officer at Publicis Modem, the global digital arm of Publicis Groupe.

Whether you are 22 or 62, connecting with peers and business professionals both in and around your area of expertise is critical. Social networks such as LinkedIn and Facebook and industry organizations open you up to new technology, trends and opportunities to add to your skills portfolio. They introduce you to new ideas and new people that will inevitably keep you thinking at the top of your game.

Common sense? Sure. But finding the energy to execute against these tips can be a challenge right now. Make the time. You will continue to add to your resume and enable everyone in the organization to help build and maintain a positive culture through open communication, strong leadership and the sharing of ideas.

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