As we adapt to an ever-changing world, I've come to believe that a necessary career management skill is the ability to create your own job. Whether it's work you do for a company or work you do on your own, re-inventing yourself on a regular basis is going to become more and more important.
- Retrofitting--Adding new skills to an existing job.
- Blending--Combining skills from different jobs or industries to create new specialties.
- Problem-solving--Identifying key problems and then inventing jobs that will solve them.
I want to talk about each of these in a little more detail.
Retrofitting for a New Job
This is probably the easiest strategy to employ and for many of us working for a company or organization, the clues to retrofitting may lie in that "other duties as assigned" clause of the job description.
Keep an eye out for ways in which you are being asked to stretch beyond your typical job duties. Is this something you could do more strategically? Watch what's happening with co-workers in similar jobs. Are there skills or duties they are developing that would be a good fit for you?
Another thing to watch is the the trends in your occupation that may indicate a need to develop new skills. How can you combine those skills with your current job to create something new?
This is also where I think you look at your core strengths. What do you excel at? Is there a way to develop your current job into something that more closely matches those core strengths that in effect creates another job altogether?
Blending Your Way to a New Job
This one is a little trickier, because it involves blending two different jobs or looking at two different industries. That means that you have to be much more willing to explore and be open to trends, skills and paradigms that occur outside of your particular industry and occupation.
In the past few years, I've been blending skills in social media with my core career and professional development skills. This has opened up new opportunities for me in the industries where I work, but it has required me to be open to and active in what's going on outside of my core profession. I've had to continually look at what's happening across industries and then look at how to adapt the skills, tools and processes for the places where I'm doing work.
If you're someone who's interested in and willing to expose yourself to a variety of industries and occupations, then blending your way to a new job can be a key strategy. I personally believe that this is also key to being innovative and creative in your work, but that's another post.
Problem-Solving Your Way to a New Job
This strategy for creating new work may be the most difficult to do, but I think could also be the most rewarding and beneficial. There is no shortage of problems in our world and inventing work that solves those problems is a key way to make yourself indispensable.
To do this, you need to start looking for problems that people need solved. This can be surprisingly hard to do, as it requires us to be on the lookout for questions, complaints, etc. It means we have to be great listeners, something that many of us aren't terribly good at doing. I've found it helpful to spend time just talking with people, finding out what frustrates them, where they feel like they need help. In those conversations are the first inklings of the problems, at least as they are understood by those who have them.
Of course, once problems are identified, we also have to come up with solutions and find a way to turn that into a job. This is where it can be useful to be looking across industries and occupations and paying attention to trends. Often the seeds for solving a problem in one industry can be found in what's going on someplace else.
The problem-solving approach to job creation is one you can apply to working for yourself or for someone else. One thing I've heard repeatedly from companies and organizations is that they need people who are problem-solvers. If you can combine skills and approaches to address a need, then you will be able to find a job.
This approach clearly lends itself to self-employment as well. It is the heart of enterprise, really, this ability to combine skills and talents to address specific problems.
Although I think there can be value to understanding and responding to job trends in the market, I think that in the end, there may be greater security and growth in creating your own work, by applying one or more of these ideas throughout your career. These strategies are also a way to play to your core strengths and passions, which can provide greater happiness and satisfaction at work.