Degree does NOT = great job.

I read this article recently and it really got me thinking. Unemployment has gone global in a big way, and is greatly affecting our young professionals. Working as a career development professional in higher education I see students that think: degree = great job. Not necessarily true. And even if one does gain a great job based on a degree: degree does NOT = keep great job. The degree is just the start, and our job as educators doesn’t end with the review of book chapters, the sharing of good job sites, and techniques for writing a killer resume. To me the real “learning moment” comes in teaching young professional the art of life-long learning. Professionals, these days, will rarely get hired by “company x”, stay with that company for 50 years, garner an awesome pension, and live happily ever after. In reality…you work for yourself. Your current employer is simply renting your time and talent…if your talent does not grow with technology or current trends…why would an employer need your services any longer? Young professionals need to stay “rent’able”…and learn how to maximize and grow their skills and talent to get a really high rate for their hourly pay!

Here are some things I’ve learned about staying relevant, appealing to employers, and scoring a sweet “hourly rate” (salary):

1. Stay current. What is the latest in your industry? What is the next “big thing”? Who are the movers and shakers in your industry? What is a need that can be  filled in your field? All of this is a MUST KNOW as a professional. So…how do you stay on top? There are many ways. Professional associations. LinkedIn groups. Blogs. Not sure how to find these resources? Well…there is this thing called Google, and if you type in a search, it will give you relevant info – ha! For example, if you are looking to find some thought leaders in journalism on Twitter, you can type in “journalists, Twitter” and Google will give you some great places to start. No lie. I know this sounds obvious, but I spend a lot of time answering questions from young professional that a quick Google search would have answered.

2. Stay connected. This directly relates to the “stay current” rule. If you meet or collaborate with others in your field, you are absolutely going to learn something. Not only will you learn industry specific info, but you will also learn of other professional opportunities that can help you grow (and maybe even grow the green in your wallet).

Who are your professional advisors? Mentors? Don’t have any? Make some! Every company has a board of directors to help guide them and set goals. You should too! These advisors will be able to provide resources, advice, and encouragement. If you love your company, but feel there is nowhere to grow, connect with a leader in your company and ask her/him to grab some coffee for a quick info meeting. Pick his/her brain! How did s/he get started? What resources do they use to stay on top?

3. Have Enthusiasm. This is pretty simple. If you love your work, you will be excited about it. That excitement, that enthusiasm, will shine through not only in your attitude, but in your passion to learn more and grow in your field. Other professionals (ESPECIALLY YOUR BOSSES) will notice this, and trust me, everyone loves to work with someone that is not only good at their job, but enjoys it. If you can’t find the joy in your current work…maybe you should strongly consider doing something different.

4. Have a killer work ethic + don’t be a hater. I don’t know about you, but I know the folks at my job that come in late, leave early, turn in crappy work, and spend their lunch breaks complaining about how much their job sucks. DON’T BE THAT PERSON. No one likes a hater. Want respect and autonomy in your job? Make sure you work hard. Again, if you like your work this will come to you pretty naturally.

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