5 Ways To Ensure Endless Career Opportunities
I currently have two jobs: financial author and Executive Vice President for a licensed broker dealer. I do not have a degree in journalism or finance. In fact, I don't have any degree at all. I say this not as a point of pride, or of shame, but to illustrate that I haven't followed the traditional path one would expect to have the jobs I do.
The 2008 financial crisis was a watershed moment in U.S. history. The failure of historically sound financial institutions like Lehman Brothers and Bear Stearns created a domino effect that erased billions of dollars almost overnight. In addition to the monetary losses, millions of jobs disappeared as well, most never to return.
Perhaps the most disturbing result of the crisis has been the way in which it has undermined the working public's sense of job security. No longer can you count on a degree, tenure, or even industry expertise to guarantee you will be employed. Your company, and in some cases your industry, may be susceptible to "disruption" or even elimination.
In the new paradigm of employment, the only thing you can count on is yourself.
To ensure you can bring home the bacon, you must be sure you possess not only the skills, but the mindset that allows you to be an asset in a wide range of employment situations. This gives you career flexibility and increases both your pool of potential employers and opportunities in general.
Though it took me a number of years to change the way I thought about the job market and my place in it, I have come to believe in a number of core principles that have served me well. They can be used by anyone who is contemplating -- either by choice or necessity -- a career change outside of their conventional comfort zone or area of expertise.
Don't Wait For Permission to Begin
As an active trader with over 25 years of experience in the markets, I felt like there was a lot I wanted to say when the financial crisis began in 2007. Unfortunately, none of the traditional media outlets were interested. And why would they be? I had no background in journalism. I had no body of work I could point to as evidence that I could write. I was an unknown as far as they were concerned.
So I began to write a regular market commentary on my own blog. I didn't wait for anyone to give me permission to start writing, I just did it. And it was really bad. But I kept at it, writing for a few hours each night, and improving bit by bit.
At first nobody visited my site, but over time I built a small but loyal following. Then one day I got a call from Phil Pearlman, who at the time was the Executive Editor at StockTwits, an online financial community. He said he had been reading my stuff, liked it, and wanted to know if I would join their blog network. That was the beginning of my financial writing career.
Never Take Yourself Out of the Game
When I was first approached by a management group to join them in creating a new broker dealer, there were a million reasons I could have given myself not to take the meeting. The most notable of which was that I had no background in the brokerage or financial services industry.
But I have learned that no matter how much you prepare for a race, though you might lose it anyway, you are guaranteed to lose it if you don't show up.
We all know people who say "They wouldn't want me," "I'm not qualified," or "I don't have the skills they need," when contemplating a job or career change. Don't be one of those people. Don't take yourself out of the race before it is run.
It turned out that they wanted to create a different and innovative type of broker dealer and were specifically looking for hires from outside traditional channels -- people who could think about the markets and finance from a different perspective. And it turned out that I was a perfect fit, something I would have never know if I had taken myself out of the game prematurely.
Emphasize the One Skill That Matters
The most important skill that you can possess is the ability to execute. Ideas are a dime a dozen, but the ability to take an idea and make it come to life in a real and value added way is a rare and in-demand quality.
If you are thinking about applying for a position or going into an industry without the traditional qualifications, you can swing the odds in your favor if you can point to a history of being able to execute on projects and initiatives. Most times the ability to execute will trump a lack of industry or job specific skill in the eyes of a potential employer.
When I interviewed for my EVP position, I showed them a history of being able to execute in my own small business, which had no relation to financial services. But the ability to understand process and drive it to a successful conclusion is a skill that is universal and applicable to a wide range of employment situations. Quality employers and/or partners will recognize that.
Provide Value First, Ask For Payment Later
Though I was technically a financial writer by being on the StockTwits network, I was still an unpaid financial writer. I felt that I had what it takes to land a paid writing gig, but knew I had to prove it, so I began to write for any outlet that would let me, for free.
This gave me a chance to hone my craft, build up a following, and prove that I could deliver quality content on a consistent basis. More importantly, it gave my writing exposure to the people who would potentially hire me. And it worked.
I was eventually approached by an editor and asked to join their team as a paid contributor. Once that happened, I began to get offers from other outlets who were willing to pay me for my work as well. That led me to meet and work with other editors who have helped me improve my craft, creating more opportunity for me both in financial and non-financial writing.
Never Stop Learning
Career flexibility is a process, not an end goal. As the job climate continues to change and evolve so do the opportunities, and you have to make sure you are always one step ahead of the game. This means continuing to build and improve on your skill sets.
Though I already get paid to write, I continue to try to improve by taking writing workshops and networking with authors and writers whose work I admire. I also attend industry events and keep abreast of the latest developments in the broker dealer space so that I am always informed and up-to-date.
But more importantly, I look to see how the existing skills and experience I have can translate to wider opportunities. This has led me publish a book on trading through Amazon's Kindle Direct program and explore how my writing can be repurposed into other formats like podcasting. My six-years in the financial industry has led to both speaking engagements and television spots, and I am exploring more opportunities in both of those spaces.
Perhaps the best thing that came out of the financial crisis was the shattering of long-held ideas about jobs and careers. This means you no longer have to be bound by outdated ideas of what you're qualified to do or what your path has to be in order to make a living. And if you are willing to take charge of your own destiny, you will amazed at how many opportunities will open up for you.