My father was of the generation where a job was a career. He worked in aerospace for a single employer for almost his entire career, working his way up the management chain. In return he has tons of deferred compensation, a pension, and he had incredible benefits that focused on the whole person because a job was a job for life. Heck, “layoffs” during his career were only temporary, people were hired back by the company later.
My career isn’t like that at all… just check out my profile. Except for a very small minority or workers there is zero security in a job and a job is most definitely not a career. Today a job is a transient agreement between the employee and the employer. As long as I provide great value to Expedia for the money and Expedia has the money to pay me for my service, I’ll have a job. If I want to keep a job and make a career out of a group of them, I have to constantly improve my contribution or I’ll find myself out of work when things get rough.
It is critical that you work to increase your value month over month and year over year.
Let me give you an example of how I’ve tried to do this in my career.
- I started my professional career in what consider a “Technology Trade”, as a developer. There were a lot of people with my skill set and so I had to take the going market rate for my trade and there was zero security.
- I progressed early by seeking out opportunities to lead or coordinate some piece of work, not matter how small. Over a few years time I was covering for my boss regularly, leading people in another country, and changed to a management role. Clearly my value had increased.
- Looking for the next step I started participating in industry events and forums and conferences. I started taking an active role in the procurement of tools and infrastructure. I started leading my domain across a large company, expanding on multiple dimensions. This led to the ability to change from Test Management to Dev Management. Another big step.
- In management I worked to take on efficiency, speed, and cost saving projects and to grow staff quickly. As a result I was asked to change groups within Expedia to take on a massive process and delivery problem in an area I had no experience. Clearly my value had increased again.
This practice of continually working to increase my value as an employee of Expedia has served me extremely well. By using this approach I haven’t had to wait for opportunities in the last 10 years, they have come to me (because of my value), or I’ve been able to create the opportunities I want to take.
“Try not to be a man of success but to be a man of value” — Albert Einstein
Since you’re still reading I know something about you… you want to increase your value or you want to advance your career. You can do that today by stealing my method!
Look at your current job at your current employer. Think about what you’re doing on a daily basis. What is something small you could do today that would increase your value to get some momentum going? Maybe you could learn something. Maybe you could read something. Maybe you could dig in to something you’ve been holding off. Maybe you could go out and meet some people at work. Maybe you could help solve a small nagging or wasteful problem. Start really small, start doing it regularly, and you will find that the things you take on get bigger and bigger over time. Soon, people will come to you asking what you did to change your trajectory and increase your value.