Navigating Your Career in Today's Work World

If you want to survive - and thrive - in today's work world, you have to be aware and you have to be prepared. Awareness starts with accepting the breathless pace of technology and the fact that corporations can no longer guarantee job security. So how can you be prepared? You're just getting started, trying to decide what you want to do - and you have no "real" experience. Never fear. You couldn't be better suited to this ever-changing climate.
 

Flexibility is key

You're part of a generation that expects things to develop and evolve rapidly. (Think about how many times you have had to teach your parents how to program the DVD player or check their e-mail.)

You're always ready for something new. And that's your advantage.
 

The new "Jobscape"

Let's face it, the workplace has changed in recent years. Gone are the days of the guaranteed 9-to-5 job, with a nameplate for your cubicle and a long 35-year wait until retirement.

That said, it's still possible to land a permanent position with benefits and your own cube. And it's not a bad time to consider full-time work.

Employers, no longer able to woo the best and the brightest with promises of security and fast-tracking, are zeroing in on other factors, including:

  • flexible working arrangements
  • education assistance programs
  • mentoring programs
  • career management seminars

They realize you will be moving on sooner rather than later, but they want to get the most out of your skills while you're around. And hey, who says you'll never be back?

On the flip side, many corporations and employees are turning to alternative employment arrangements, such as freelancing and contract work.
 

Freelancing

Companies often farm out projects to freelancers to fill a short-term need and save on overhead costs, such as computers and office space, since you'll likely be working off-site.

Freelancing gives you more autonomy and schedule flexibility. It will also cut down on wardrobe expenses, but you have to be self-disciplined to succeed.

If you're considering freelance work, here are a few tips to ensure you take care of business, meet those deadlines and get repeat customers:

  • Prepare a business plan and fee structure: Make sure fees for your work are high enough to make up for not having a regular salary or company benefits.
  • Consult an accountant: Learn the procedures for sending and tracking invoices and filing and making GST payments.
  • Set a routine: Whether you get up at 8 a.m. or noon, take a shower (well, at least brush your teeth) and get into work mode right away. Go to your desk, the library or the café down the street. It doesn't matter where you set up your office, as long as you can concentrate and access the tools you need.
  • Actively manage your time: Know how many hours you need to get your work accomplished. Write a project plan. Set specific times to check your e-mail and voice mail.
  • Don't live in a bubble: Make sure to schedule social time into your day, whether that means meeting friends for lunch or going to the gym. You don't want to be consumed by your work and completely forget how the rest of the world lives.

The key to success is to maintain a work/life balance. Schedule your time in a way that suits your lifestyle. This might mean that you'll work four 10-hour days, with every Friday off.

As long as you're getting your work done and still stopping to appreciate the fruits of your labour, you can pretty much set your schedule any way you like.
 

Contracting

For those of us who need more structure and stability, or prefer to work in a team or office environment, contract work is the way to go.

Employers hire contract workers to work for a finite time period. This contract work may also offer the flexibility of working a few days in the office and a few days from home.

As a contractor, you have the chance to develop new skills and contacts. If you excel in your position and build a strong relationship with your employer, there is always an opportunity to return for future projects or even to be hired as a full-time employee.

On the other hand, if you are dissatisfied with your position or your employer, you know there is a light at the end of the tunnel.
 

You're in control

Understanding this new world of work is key to your success. Armed with an up-to-date resumé and references, with an eye to continuous development, you control your own destiny.

For more tips on how to prepare yourself psychologically, socially, and financially for this jobscape, check out our article "Preparing for the New Work World" by selecting "Read more" below.

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