You never know when the next recession will come or when you’ll be out of a job and scrambling for the next one.
So if you have a stable job, take advantage of the power that it gives you—and prepare yourself for the vicissitudes of fate with these five tips:
1. Be a ninja, not a peasant
If you read professional blogs on the Internet, you’re exposed to a world of rockstar ninjas who blog, tweet, connect to hundreds of contacts on social networks, attend professional conferences, write open source, launch startups and jump from job to exciting job.
It’s a distorted image. The ninjas are a tiny percentage of the population of knowledge workers, but you see their writings, their open source and their online profiles.
The vast majority of software engineers, IT professionals and other knowledge workers are the peasants of the industry, doing their job and doing it well, but with no intention of playing the game.
Sorry, but being a ninja is no longer optional. The days when an IT prole could labor anonymously for decades in the code mines are over. You need to sell yourself and build your brand, or you’ll be out when your skills get stale and the crunch comes.
And if you want one thing to start with, put your professional presence online. The resume of the future, as “Ecogrrl” Aimee Fahey points out, will be composed of links to your online self, so build an online self. You can start out quietly and anonymously at first, but start building.
2. Look for a better job
Arrange to get poached. It’s fun!
A good salesperson is always selling. The biggest asset you’ll ever sell is your labor, so always be on your toes to find the best new job possible. Maybe the job you have now is good. But it may disappear at any moment.
Hunting actively is time-consuming. You also don’t want to look desperate; you should be playing hard to get. Passively receiving serious offers is a lot easier and keeps you up to date on your opportunities in the job market.
3. Learn to connect worldwide
It used to be enough to develop good relations with your coworkers in the office or to build your freelance business with contacts across town. But the trend, despite Marissa Meyer’s recent announcement at Yahoo!, is to work with colleagues worldwide, whether from home or the office.
Recently, some companies have been building all-remote teams, even for functions like development, which used to be the last to remain office-based. As Larry Silverman, CTO of TrackAbout, has described, this leads to very different hiring considerations, and you need to be ready for that.
Make yourself remote-ready by learning to collaborate using remote tools. Your current stable job, where the boss trusts your work and can loosen the leash, is the best place to gradually move your work off-site and position yourself as a denizen of cyberspace, not your office cubicle.
4. Negotiate a better job for yourself
Your boss needs you doing the good work that you’re doing. But if she knows that you may jump ship (and you should always have her wondering if that’s a possibility), she should be prepared to let you move up to new responsibilities and enhanced compensation. It’s not just a question of getting a more interesting job or a bigger salary. In today’s fast-moving job market, you must stay up to date or find yourself left behind.
Remember: the boss is not giving you work. You are giving the boss work, and she will offer you exactly what you can negotiate out of her. Mark Herschberg, a BetaBeat Most Poachable Player, offers some tips on this, but the key point is that job offers from a new employer and the package you are getting now from your current employer are opening positions for a discussion, not final offers.
5. Get yourself a better job title
A title is just a word or three, but when hiring managers spend less than a minute on a resume on average, those are some very important words. “VP of Development” looks a lot better than “Team Leader,” no matter what the actual responsibilities.
Patrick McCuller’s book How to Recruit and Hire Great Software Engineers is aimed at hiring managers, but it can give you some fascinating insights into how these managers think. A relevant job title for each new job is one of the crucial elements they look for, as a title is just a way of summarizing the responsibilities of a position in a brief phrase. Don’t make stuff up, but the moment you get the boss to agree to a new title, feel free to flaunt it.
The pace of technology is accelerating, and you will have to accelerate with it. The economy is becoming concentrated in fewer hands. This means that more people remain unemployed while a select few get ahead by running the new technology-driven economy.
Be one of them. Be a ninja, not a peasant. Learn new things. Get some eye candy for that resume. And always—always—keep your eye on the job market.
Josh Fox has long wondered why experienced software engineers and other IT professionals stick so long at one job. He helped create FiveYearItch.com to help them anonymously receive job offers that meet their requirements.