This topic of career marketability was inspired by a question I received at a workshop. Two weeks ago, I led a career Q&A for Indian executives in residence at Columbia Business School, and a question came up on how to measure your marketability. You can read my answer to that question in a recent Forbes post: How Valuable Are You In The Job Market? 3 Ways To Measure Marketability Without Looking For A Job.
But once you have a sense of your marketability, what if you’re not happy with your result? What if you want to increase your marketability – start getting those unsolicited opportunities, move your compensation back up to market?
I see 3 specific areas where professionals get bogged down in their career, and it’s these 3 areas where you can shore up your marketability:
If you stepped out of the workforce for months or years, the gap is a loss of continuity. If your job tenures have been short, this lack of momentum is another type continuity problem. Finally, if your roles have covered a wide range of functions – say, you’ve been in marketing but it’s a bit of research, some content production, some digital, some communications – this is lack of continuity from a function or skills perspective. If this describes your background, then you need to emphasize where continuity exists when you tell your story because the employers will have a hard time finding it. You’ll need to account for your gaps and how you stayed active – i.e., here’s how I continued by body of work albeit outside the workforce. You’ll need to show logical and compelling reasons why you moved around – i.e., there is a continuous thread in your actions. You’ll need to categorize your diverse skills so they hold together – i.e., here’s how my skills come together in a cohesive whole
What exactly do you do? What exactly have you done? I’ve met some talented and experienced professionals who can’t concisely and clearly answer one or both questions. What you do is what problems you can solve for the employer. Where would you fit in an organization? What role would you play? What skills, expertise and experience would you bring? What you have done is the proof – the stories, tangible results, and hard numbers that support the claims of what you do. If you’re having a hard time identifying exactly what your accomplishments are, get help on this. Helping our clients frame their diverse skills and experience into a cohesive and compelling body of work is a big part of what we do when we coach because it’s not always so straightforward when you have a large body of work, and sections of your career may be disjointed (hence the continuity point!).
While continuity shows staying power and consistency, progression shows build-up and advancement. You can’t be doing the same thing from 20 years ago. Your skills have to have advanced and have to be current with what’s required today. Your expertise should be deeper and more insightful. Your experience should span larger projects, budgets or teams or some other increasing scope of responsibility. As you make choices for your next role or next project, consider how it adds to your progression. Is your next step a step up or more of the same?
What are you doing to maintain or increase your marketability?
PS. As you can see, I use actual career questions from real-life professionals for my various columns – I post several pieces each week so I need a lot of topics! Please post a comment with your career questions. I’d love to address them in future posts.