How To Work On Career Sustainability

Sustainability is a big thing to discuss, mostly as we watch a world of changing climate and resourcing issues come about there’s more awareness. It’s probably a few years behind, but its there.

Of course there’s other kinds of sustainability to discuss as well. We learned that an ever-inflating home markets are unsustainable. We’re learning that a blockbuster-driven Hollywood is unsustainable. Seems like a lot of stuff isn’t sustainable and we’re very surprised about that since people have only been warning us for ages.

(Do I sound bitter? I was mistrusting the housing market before it was cool. Oh gods, I’m an Econohipster.)

But out of our various looming disasters, I want to narrow down and discuss a kind of sustainability that we often miss -and that is illustrative of survivability, systems, and having a functional life.

Career sustainability.

Career sustainability, by my definition (which I guess is the only one that matters since I’m writing this), is ensuring that your career continues and evolves so you have a sustainable income and life. Without going insane as you hate your career, since insanity diminishes the financial and life value of a career.

This is an issue I’d like to see addressed a lot more considering how many people can’t find work, aren’t sure what to do, or are worried where their jobs will be in the next five years. I know I’ve seen enough cases of people suddenly realize they didn’t know where the money is coming from, and realized how little instruction we get in Career Sustainability.

So having realized someone has to say something about this, I designate myself since it’s hard to shut me up. Here’s my tips for Career Sustainability:

Get what it’s about:

  • Career Sustainability means that you’ve got a career that will financially support you (or let you become financially independent) and that can adapt and adjust to reasonable variances so you can survive.
  • You won’t always follow your plan, but at least you’ll know why you’re changing. Speaking of . . .

Have a plan:

  • Have a plan at least five years out for what you’ll be doing and how you’ll be making money. It may get blown away, but at least you’ll have a starting point when you pick up the pieces. Have an idea of what you’ll be doing, where, and how it will pay.
  • That five year plan should be reasonably well-researched to the point where you could explain it to someone else. If you can’t explain it to someone else in a way that’s convincing to a neutral party, you don’t have a good plan.
  • Review this plan annually.
  • It’s OK to have more than one plan – but they should cohere very well, one should dominate, or at a near point you make the call which one becomes dominant. Trying to do two at once equally is a recipe for failure.

Do it and show it:

  • Keep educating yourself in your career. This will help your career – and will provide warning signs of negative changes.
  • Follow industry news. This lets you look for advantages – and for potential problems.
  • Have a set of work to show and be ready to discuss your work. Blogs, portfolios, white papers, something. You need to show you’re capable.
  • Get certifications, good ones. They show skill and commitment, and preparing for them is educational.

Have backups:

  • Have a backup career or two in mind, preferably based around other useful and related skillsets.
  • Ask yourself “how low” you can go on the career totem pole and still survive. It’s nice to know that just in case (just don’t leap down the pole unless it’s needed).
  • Have alternatives to relocate if the area you’re in goes downhill, and that includes “untouchable” megaregions and cities. Remember the dot-bomb era and Detroit. Yes, Detroit was not always a mixture of a joke and a basket case, and remember how badly Silicon Valley was hit for awhile.
  • In these economically unsure times, talk to friends and family about possible living/moving arrangements just in case things tank. It’ll put your mind at ease.

Follow The news:

  • Follow news for your industry. Ask what the impact of changes are to your life and career.
  • Follow the news for your profession the same way.

Engage people:

  • Join a professional association or two so you can keep up on your career, get involved, and meet fellow professionals.
  • Seek mentors in your field and ask questions. At some point you’ll find you’re the mentor, so turn it around and help people
  • Network, network, network. You make friends, contacts, and keep up on your industry.

Career Sustainability is about personal satisfaction and personal survival. You want to make sure you’ll be paying the bills well into the future.

– Steve