How To Increase Your Career Marketability

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?career marketability

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.

Money Management Is Career Management – 5 Moves You Can Make In Minutes

In this episode, I cover money management because money and career are tightly linked. I share 5 of my favorite tips and strategies, including:

• Money education resources, including my personal favorites

• How employers vet your money skills in the hiring process and how you can stay on top of this

• Why networking is a money move

• The importance of interim feedback, whether or not your company has an official performance review process

• The importance of benefits to your bottom line and possibly your “getaway fund”

For 5 more money moves, see my Forbes post on 10 Money Management Moves To Make In Just Minutes Per Day:

Networking Tips For Career Changers

In last week’s post, I shared Marketing Tips For Career Changers, but given that career changers will get more traction from Networking (so they can directly tell people their story, rather than hanging out a resume and hoping to get a call), this post focuses on Networking For Career Changers, that essential person-to-person contact. If you want to change careers, you will have to put yourself out there. Here are 10 Tweets from my latest book, Jump Ship: 10 Steps To Starting A New Career (2015, Forbes Media):networking

Well-meaning and normally supportive people might not be supportive of your career change

Networking scares people so to ease into it many career changers lean on people they know. This could be a good way to practice networking, but it may not help you change careers. Career change scares people, and they can project their fear onto you.

Some of your family and friends may not want you to change and therefore won’t be helpful

On a related note to the above, even your family and friends might not be helpful. The people who are with you now benefit from the old you and may prefer you to stay exactly how you are. So they may not share leads or good advice or even encouragement. You may not necessarily want to network with those closest to you.

Career changing requires a larger community, because you are expanding into a new area

It’s more likely that your career change network will be new people, strangers to you now. From a practical standpoint, this is because you’re entering a new area – a new industry, a new role, a different sector (public, private, non-profit). But an added benefit of networking with strangers is that they don’t know you from your old career. It will be easier to see you in the new career because they don’t have preconceived notions.

If you want a cold contact to respond, explain why you are reaching out to him and not someone else

Therefore, you need to resolve that you will reach out and make new contacts as part of networking for career change. The best way to do this is by getting referrals from people who know you, so it’s a warm lead. But you won’t get referrals to everyone you need to meet. You’ll need to cold contact people. A key ingredient to a successful cold contact is making sure the cold contact knows WHY HIM (or HER) and not someone else – otherwise, they will just not respond, assuming that you have lots of other people to ask.

Don’t get defensive if a friendly contact needs more information (before helping you)

Just like cold contacts need more information, even your warm contacts may need more information. As a career changer, you’re entering an area that you’re not (yet) expert in. Your friendly contact knows you’d be a great referral for one thing (your old career) but now needs to be confident that you’re still a good referral for this other thing (your new career). Information about what you’re doing, what you’re learning, what your objectives are, and what you need are necessary for cold AND warm leads to buy into what you’re doing.

Don’t assume that if people want to help (your job search), they will offer! You have to ask

In addition to information about what you’re doing, be prepared to ask for what you need. Don’t make your network guess what would be helpful. Don’t assume your network knows you even want them to act – they may think you’re just looking for encouragement!

You want to be mindful of oversharing, especially in the beginning of your career change

While I’m a proponent of letting people know about your career change, you want to be thoughtful about how much and what you share. You don’t want to come across too much as a newbie because then people won’t feel like you’re ready to be introduced to their contacts or leads. You don’t want to bad-mouth your past career because you don’t want to alienate people who might still be there. You don’t want to get into all the emotional detail of the career change – the roller coaster journey! – because then you’ll sound like you’re all over the place. Remember that networking for career change is still a professional activity, so you want people to know you mean business.

Why change careers? Focus on the pull, not the push

One way to share without oversharing is to focus on the Pull over the Push. The Pull is the new career and why you’re excited by it and what you’ve been doing to change in this direction. The Push is the old career and why you’re leaving it. Push talk is negative talk. Push talk is oversharing. People don’t need to know that. Instead, Pull them into your vision for your new career.

W/ career change, market feasibility is as important as personal meaning 

While Pull talk can get people excited for you about your new career objective, you still need to convince them you’re right for this career (especially if you want them to refer you or even hire you). It’s not just about what you want; it’s also what the market will bear. Are you able to perform in this new career? Is landing this type of job something you can feasibly do? You need to prove to people you have the right skills and expertise, not just the desire.

Recruiters need to be convinced first and foremost that you have already changed

When networking with recruiters (whether exploratory meetings or official job interviewers) your career change journey is irrelevant. You need to be at the end of your journey and have already arrived in your new career with all the skills and expertise you need to do the job. How can you show that proof when you haven’t worked in your new career? Full-time, paid experience is not the only form of proof. In a recent episode of the SixFigureStart Career Q&A radio show, I share other ways to be active in your new career – consulting, volunteer, new projects within your old employer.

In Jump Ship, I cover Networking in Step 8 and Interviewing in Step 9. What are your go-to strategies for Networking and Interviewing for a new field?


Changing Careers Is Different From Just Changing Jobs: 10 Marketing Tips For Career Changers

I created a series of Tweets based on my latest book, Jump Ship: 10 Steps To Starting A New Career (2015, Forbes Media), and the finished list of Tweets serve as good reminders of how to navigate a career change. Here are 10 relating to how to effectively market yourself to prospective employers:

Identifying your new career interest is a necessary step but only the first step

Many career changers spend so much more time analyzing what they want to do and not enough time going after it. You better refine what you want by actually getting out on the market.

marketing your career change

Career change is job search where your competitors have a head start and you have the burden of proof

Yes, you bring skills and experience from a previous career but remember that employers prioritize expediency, and other candidates who already have relevant experience will be the more expedient hires. Your proof is the advantage you can convey that makes up for the additional runway time you may need.


For career changers, be careful not to come across as too much of a newbie

Yes, you’ll do informational interviews and schedule networking meetings to ask for advice. But these are also about putting your best foot forward – you have to know the basics and ask intelligent questions.


For career changers, traditional job search avenues—resumes and recruiters—HURT rather than help

Instead focus on networking and getting directly to decision-makers. This way, you have a chance to share your story and your proof.


I don’t recommend job boards because the employer who posted is not looking for career changers 

Job boards call for resumes and are often manned by recruiters. See point above!


A resume is tricky for the career changer — it’s a retelling of your past, completely unrelated

You still need a resume, and it needs to be accurate. But if you can use more general terms, and not the jargon particular to the industry you’re leaving, that is one way of smoothing the transition to your new career.


#LinkedIn has other features helpful to a career changer that a resume does not

That Summary box right at the top of your profile is prime real estate to share your story and your proof. Sections such as Volunteer and Publications also give active career changers a dedicated place to show they’re more than their current job.


Craft a networking introduction to emphasize your next career so others see you as an active peer

Most people waste their networking introduction on what they’ve done – i.e., the old career. Focus on what you’ve done towards your new career – volunteer work, consulting, classes, professional associations, etc.


Career changers, keep the focus on how you will help the employer, not your career change journey

Yes, it’s interesting to hear how you discovered this new passion and your against-all-odds story to focus on this new adventure. But what are you going to do to solve the employer’s problem? That’s why they’re hiring, and if you can solve their problem, that’s why they’ll hire you.


A career changer’s cover letter should never include the words, “change” or “transition”

You’re there to solve a problem. Your change and transition story only highlights how new you are!


In Jump Ship, I cover Marketing in Step 6 (Tailor Your Job Search Technique For Career Change) and Step 7 (Tell Your Career Change Story).

Have you changed careers? What marketing tips have worked for you?

Underemployment Is On The Rise – How To Stay Competitive

According to the Accenture Strategy 2016 U.S. College Graduate Employment Study, 51% of class of 2014 and 2015 graduates think they are underemployed in their current job. This number has steadily climbed in the four years Accenture has been conducting the survey — up from 41% in 2013.

The above statistics were the inspiration for my recent Forbes post on how to stay competitive when you’re underemployed:college graduates underemployed

While the survey and the post is targeted to recent graduates, underemployment occurs at the mid and late stages of a career as well (and the six recommendations I make for staying competitive apply to experienced professionals too). If you’re not proactively focused on growing your skills or expanding your scope of responsibility, then as you get more efficient on the job, you need less energy to do just as much. You start to “coast” on the job, which can be fine for a time (in fact, resting on your laurels can even be beneficial), but eventually your skills will atrophy, your attention will wane, and you risk becoming irrelevant.

So how can you keep your skills sharp when your job doesn’t provide the challenge? You’ll have to make your own challenges:

  • Join a Board.
  • Be a mentor.
  • Guest lecture at your alma mater (that will force you to hone in on your expertise!).
  • Attend a conference.
  • Speak at a conference.
  • Organize a conference.
  • Read blogs and listen to podcasts outside your typical area (right now I’m listening to the Hay House Summit, which is very different from my left brain tendencies).
  • Throw your efforts into a personal interest (I’m on a kick researching extended travel/ living abroad – perhaps it’s the very late arrival of spring in NYC)
  • Start a side business (or volunteer, using organizations like Taproot to help you find substantive roles)

There is no shortage of ways to flex your skills and expertise even if your current job doesn’t fit the bill. While it will take some willpower on your part, the upside is a more active and fulfilling life and a stronger, more competitive career. The market is better than it was a few years ago, but it’s still volatile, and you want to be job-search ready at a moment’s notice.

What’s your favorite activity for keeping your skills sharp?

How To Get Unstuck And Break Out Of A Rut When Your Career Has Stalled

There are many ways that a career has stalled:

  • One communications entrepreneur landed promising clients and publicity early, only to have recent leads dry up.
  • A human resources director landed several interviews but no callbacks.
  • An operations manager knows his current employer is too small to keep him challenged (and paid competitively) but every time he resolves to look for a job, the volatile work schedule keeps him too busy for his job search.

Remember that the way to break out of a rut will be individualized based on your situation. But it will be some combination of improving your mental game and improving your tactics/ activity. Look internally at your mindset and commitment to moving forward. Look externally at what actions you have been taking — both the quantity/ volume of activity, as well as the quality of activity. Get help where you need it!

I share additional ideas in my Forbes post: Five Ways To Get Unstuck And Break Out Of A Career Funk.

How To Maintain Career Success Within A Struggling Industry put out its 28th annual “Jobs Rated” report, rating jobs on environment, income, outlook and 11 stress factors….Of the top 10 worst jobs, newspaper reporter was ranked worst for the third year in a row. Several other media jobs also made the top 10 worst: broadcaster (No. 3); disc jockey (No. 4); and ad sales (No. 8). Interestingly, the three worst media jobs beat out [pest control (No. 6)]!

The above statistics are featured in my recent Forbes post on Best and Worst Jobs for 2016:maintain career success

However, just because media figured so prominently on the Worst Job list doesn’t mean you should avoid this industry altogether (in the post I give the example of a talented newspaper reporter who is still in the industry and doing just fine). If you’re committed to a field and willing to navigate the ups and downs, you can still carve out a successful career. Here are five ways you can maintain career success within a struggling industry:

Proactively manage your career, not just your current job

Doing a good job is not the same as having a good career. Your career includes performance at your current job, but also looking forward to your next role (what’s the right move? Are you positioned to get there?). It includes your skills as a whole – there may be some critical ones that you’re not using in your current role that you’ll need to develop elsewhere. It includes your network – colleagues, advisors, supporters who can and will refer you.

Maintain your outside contacts

It’s not enough for your network to be strong in your current company. You need to know people outside – at competitors, even at different industries altogether. You should also know people in different types of roles – down the road, you might stay within the industry but perhaps change your functional area. Knowing people outside your area and your industry isn’t just about career security; it also helps you avoid insular thinking.

Maintain your personal brand

As you maintain your network, be thoughtful and proactive about what you want your network to know about you. What is your expertise? What is your management and communication style? What project or opportunity is particularly suited to you? In other words, what is your personal brand? Be deliberate about how you describe what you do. Keep an updated online profile. Position your online activity so that it showcases your expertise.

Be flexible to opportunities

If you’re in a volatile or shrinking industry, the best career management, network and branding may not be enough to preserve the initial career you intended. You need to be flexible enough to pivot – perhaps you work in a different area of the same industry, or you become a consultant if your target companies are outsourcing over hiring.

Build a reserve

All of the above suggestions require reserves. Successfully pivoting your career may mean you’re not working at full capacity for a time period and requires money reserves. Proactively managing your career, network and brand requires time and attention, which requires a reserve in your schedule. Set aside a savings account to give you cushion in the event of a downturn, or to finance classes or other requirements for your transition. Set aside blocks of time to work on your brand, to meet with people, and to stay on top of your career and industry.

Just because your industry is struggling doesn’t mean you need to find something else, especially if you love what you do. But it does mean that you need to do extra work to protect yourself and ensure that you stay busy and challenged.

How is your industry doing? (Are you even keeping tabs on your industry and the general economy???) Are you staying the course or considering a career change? Keep us posted. We’re here to help!

If your industry is struggling and you’re considering something new, hiring in the non-profit sector is projected to outpace the private sector this year:

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