Networking

How Marketable Are You?

market yourself

In some industries, it’s pretty obvious, because there are talent wars for people with particular backgrounds. If you work in tech, you don’t have to read the latest The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) report to know that software development is one of the fastest growing occupations (though, if you happen to be one, it’s probably nice to know that the BLS expects nearly 144,000 new jobs in this niche to materialize from 2010 to 2020).

Looking at this type of research is more useful if you’re not sure where you stand. If you’re in a field that statistics say is declining, don’t put off taking classes to pick up transferable skills, or volunteering for projects where you can learn on the job—even if, like many professionals, you find yourself doing the work of two people already. Make the time, or you could get sidelined. In my own field, those who put off branching out from print journalism to newer digital forms have had a hard time staying employed.

The 2013 report by Accenture called “Trends Reshaping HR: The Rise of the Extended Workforce” that I referred to in Part 1 of this post notes that highly educated professionals are doing contingent work in fields such as engineering, IT, healthcare, accounting and finance. “Even top-level managers and executive teams are being replaced by temporary CEO’s, CFO’s, COO’s. and other highly skilled troubleshooters, brought in for their expertise in solving specific problems,” the report says. It points to Wall Street firms that are enlisting experienced finance professionals, often with Ivy League degrees, on an hourly, contractual basis to tackle critical projects that arise sporadically. I’ve come across such professionals who line up several of these projects at one time, working remotely from their home offices, each generating the equivalent of a generous professional salary as a result. They operate like a consultancy, but they get their work through firms such as Accordion Partners and Elance that that supply contract talent to companies with short term needs.

Many people feel like victims of current labor market trends, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Responding to the changing environment with a creative and entrepreneurial approach will keep you in the driver’s seat of your career so you can profit and thrive.

What’s critical is that you face the future and your career prospects with eyes wide open and you embrace learning new skills and retrofitting old ones.

About the Author

Elaine Pofeldt is an independent journalist who specializes in writing about entrepreneurship and careers. She was a senior editor for Fortune Small Business magazine, and her work has appeared in Fortune, Money, Forbes.com, Inc. and Crain's New York Business, among others.