Sometimes Untraditional, Counter-Intuitive Career Goals Are Best

This week I was in Detroit for the Public Relations Society of America 2008 International Conference where there was a lot of talk about social networking, blogging and the changing landscape of communications in America. So I thought I’d share with you some of the career advice offered by the speakers. Penelope Trunk, a career columnist for the Boston Globe, and author of “Brazen Careerist: The New Rules for Success” offered these tips for navigating today’s workplace. Warning: some of her untraditional, counter-intuitive ideas that may shock you.

1. Money doesn’t equal happiness. We all know that, just look at the divorce rate in Hollywood, but a decent pay check sure makes it a whole lot easier to pay the bills and get a good night’s sleep.

2. Focus on optimism. “Anybody can switch their optimism around by changing daily things that they do,” she said. That’s a better route than saying, “My life sucks, so I need a new job.” She continued: “The key thing about increasing your happiness is your sex life. It has nothing to do with your job. As long as your job is OK, then you should focus on your sex life.”

3. Mentoring is the new currency. Keep your learning curve steep. One way to do that is find a mentor. Everyone needs one no matter where they are in their career. Even those of you who are about to embark on a Second Act need the guidance of someone who has made the transition before.

4. Job Hop. No, it’s not a misprint and I don’t agree. Trunk advocates changing jobs as soon as your learning curve flattens. She says young people get that and are not afraid to make the leap. She cited statistics that workers ages 18-30 last in a job an average of 18 months. “This means they’re building their skill set really fast. They’re more engaged. They’re building their networking faster.” That may sound good to an audience of 25 year olds, but the fact of the matter is many companies still frown on job hopping. I am working with a client right now that wants to set a limit for the number of job changes they will accept from prospective candidates.

5. Breaks are good. “The people who have no breaks in their resume are the people who don’t take any time to think about what they are doing,” Trunk said. “So everybody should cultivate some breaks in their career. It makes you look more thoughtful.” I think that depends on how long the break last. As a recruiter, I need to explain a gap in a resume. My advice: find some consulting work while you are contemplating your next career move.

6. Think about writing a blog. Blogs are a tool for career stability. They allow you to take control of your personal brand. People who are willing to put out their ideas are engaging. Blogs are also a hunting ground for thought leaders in various professions.

7. Office politics are nice. They are an inescapable part of work life. Putting your head down and doing your work is a good way to ensure that you don’t connect with anyone, Trunk said. “People who do office politics best are the people who sit back and look around to see who needs help…and what their own skill set is to help them.” I like this idea. We all have to play the game. If you think that just doing good work will result in a promotion, guess again. Connect with the stakeholders in your organization, find out what matters to them and figure out how you can contribute to their end goal.

8. Everyone is in PR. “You can’t associate yourself with your corporate brand all the time. You have to associate yourself with what you stand for, what you believe in, and how you generate ideas. You have to define your brand for people, so they know how to connect with you.”

Leave a Reply