Don’t disappear into the job


The job won’t bury you; you can do that all by yourself.

When I coach senior execs, I often find two different career groups.

The first have recently gotten a new position, internally or externally. The second are looking for their next job (outside the company), and have not actively done so in years.

This first group necessarily burrows away in the new job, much of the initial six to twelve months spent getting familiar with the corporate rhythm, culture, staff, management. It is a huge investment of time until enough is in order to take a step back and come up for air.

That second group, however, is quite different. Many times they’ve remained burrowed at work, and now have to get exposed to the elements. Let me explain.

These are people with an average of 25 years or longer of work experience looking for their next role, often the first time in a long time. Far too young to consider retiring and too ‘experienced’ to immediately land a new job, it’s a quandary–how to tackle an unfamiliar market to present themselves anew. They are often rusty with job prep basics; researching whom to target and why; deciding on a pitch and polishing it up; writing a [compelling] CV and merely reflecting on where they fir best,as it is ‘I just need a job’.

So when I ask about their network efforts (outside of their former employer) I usually hear: “I was never in town, way too busy/travel schedule/management/budget issues/offsites/deadlines/cost-cutting/headcount freeze. I average 60% travel, and when I was back home, it was family and down time before heading out again.”

Understood fully, and commiserate. But I also know plenty of road warriors (in Asia, no shortage) who do an admirable job of keeping a thriving network going with an open communicative flow.

Not keeping in touch due to travel or workload can usually be managed and improved. We’re all accessible today. Some people are more adept at contacting others, person to person or virtually, and they don’t disappear inside the job. The challenge is that as the job becomes larger, the person may becomes less visible to the outside world. But that’s their choice.

My other truism is that you won’t get rewarded for being the hardest worker, staying at the office all night or having the perfect spreadsheet. None of us are judged exclusively by your hard work, but rather by results, management style, communication, and overall behaviour.

If and when you do get re-org’d or let go, you’ll have to spend time reintroducing yourself. Target ex-peers, ex-bosses, ex-subordinates; everyone has a larger network than they realise. Go after those who admired or respected you, and vice versa. It’s so easy with LinkedIn to reintroduce yourself. (And while LinkedIn is great to reinvigorate dialogue with certain people, it is not time well spent to look for a job through Linked In — a hope, not a strategy. Keeping busy is not sending CV’s to HR, sorry).

The hard–but liberating–part is that you’re no longer identitifed with the job or the company. It is entirely about you.

People I barely know (mostly men – women are often better networkers) ask if I can help them find a job. I can’t, although I understand the anxiety. The maxim of teaching someone how to fish rather than giving him a fish is applicable.

I can–and do–coach; how to toss that fishing line true and straight, again and again, to watch for a ripple and know when a tug is real, and be patient when reeling it in; it may swim away.

If by chance you’re reading this on your phone, queueing at the airport gate, use the time now to map out your network strategy. Don’t wait until “later, not right now.”

  • What will you likely be looking for next–and why
  • What can you positively say about yourself, out loud– and why
  • What are you known for, and get regular confirmation from others about it?
  • Who needs to know what you do — and why

Promise yourself to ‘throw that line’ to a couple of people daily. No more. You may be surprised what you catch, over time. And remember your hard work is only part of how you move along. No one is assessed by how hard they work only. No one.

The job won’t bury you; you can do that all by yourself.

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