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Surviving Today’s Workforce

Recently I was working with a client who had decided to re-enter the workforce after years of being a stay at home mom. She had trepidations about making this move and so my focuses with her was on what the job market looked like today and then provide her tips to be successful with re-entry. After going over my seemingly brilliant information, my client looked up at me and said, “That’s great Melissa but I am not particularly concerned at the moment on how to be successful in today’s job market. I am however very interested in knowing how to survive it.”

To say I was speechless by this comment is an understatement.  I was completely mute by her request for tips on how to survive. Giving it some thought I began to conduct an all out research effort on survival and how it would apply to today’s workforce. Here are the top five tips I have come up with:

  1. Always Be Aware of Your Environment: Although this seems obvious enough you would be surprised how many people are oblivious to what’s going on around them. Every work environment has a culture, which is defined by key people in the organization. Be aware of whether the cultural environment you work in feels positive or negative. Learn who are the key people that are defining the culture and their work philosophies. And most importantly determine how your presence in the environment will impact the overall social architecture. Your work environment is a place you will be “living” in several hours a day and you need to determine if its an environment you can exist in long term.  Many people take a job without making this important assessment and end up hating their work life because it’s contradictory to how they think or act. Be aware of your environment and know your place in it.
  2. Know Your Subjective Value and Its Importance: Each person’s subjective value  (SV) is determined by how each of us is perceived by those around us. This is not only important to understand but its also important to know as it does not always align with how we see ourselves. This is not to say that we don’t contribute to how we are perceived by others. Our actions and words play an important role in defining our subjective value. However the reality is we don’t have complete control over how our subjective value is assessed, hence why it’s considered “subjective”. Understanding our SV is key as it determines our place not only in our environment but it essentially lets us know how others see us in their environment. For example, does our subjective value define us as a leader, a friend, a mentor, an expert, or a valuable asset? Or are we seen as difficult, unproductive, lost, lacking or unnecessary? Idealistically the desired subjective value for anyone looking to survive in business is to be considered indispensible. Knowing where we are on the SV scale allows us to work on gaps and increase our value quotient. Understanding the importance of SV is what will give us the power and influence we need in order to help us leverage those for continued survival.
  3. Emotional Intelligence is the Key to Long Term Survival: It is human nature to have emotions and to ignore the power of emotions and the role it plays in our lives can be a tragic error. Emotions guide us in facing predicaments and tasks too important to leave to intellect alone. It is a vital part in shaping our decisions and our actions as much as reason and thought. Succinctly put, emotions can lead to impulses, which then can lead to action. Emotional intelligence is the ability to understand what we are feeling and why but not necessarily allowing it to dominate our actions. People with skilled emotional intelligence or EI incorporate what they are feeling with other data or variables in there decision making process. EI is taking the power of the “gut feeling” and supporting it through knowledge, information, and other important factors to drive appropriate action. This is important because with all things, gaining support and maintaining a sense of control is through finding a balance. Deciding to act purely on emotions oftentimes compromises a sense of reality. It inhibits our ability to see the forest from the trees. Conversely to act purely on data removes a sense of self-awareness obtained through past experiences or those things that have helped define who we are and why we feel the way we do. Essentially reason without feeling is a form of blindness. The key to increasing your emotional intelligent IQ is to continually work on your emotional literacy, which in today’s market is important to survival.
  4. Always Have a Teachable Point of View on the Important Things: Noel Tichey, who wrote The Leadership Engine, describes a “teachable point of view” (TPOV) as having clear ideas and values based on knowledge and experience and the ability to articulate those lessons to others. Today’s workforce is a community of people that come from different backgrounds and have different experiences. Through our experiences we are exposed to lessons that through time help develop our perspective, our point of view, and if channeled correctly develop our strengths and can even open the door to opportunities. Having a teachable point of view is a way of relating to others because its sharing things you have learned through the experiences you have had.  Your experiences are specific to you and therefore become part of your perceived edge. Successful people figure out early that having a TPOV on key experiences or lessons provide them with an edge that no one else has and they use that edge strategically. So if you want to survive as well as thrive in today’s market then you need to have a perceived edge. I recommend sharing a teachable point of view on something you feel has been a valuable lesson to you. In the end honing your ability to have a TPOV will help you become an important member of your workforce community.
  5. Know Your Strengths but Also Your Weaknesses: Concentrating on your strengths is the act of applying those that are specific to you toward a strategy or tactic in an area you want to be successful. It’s not about knowing how much strength you have but essentially where you should concentrate your power. By following this process, you also address weaknesses simply by applying energy to the right efforts. This is the key to not only surviving in today’s market but also being successful long-term. The ability to apply strength in areas of weakness is an important strategy toward achieving a level of superiority or expertise.  The other key component is to know WHEN to us your strengths because generally the opportune time is during a key decisive point. Essentially the ability to know your strengths and when best to use them comes from self- awareness. The best way to survive in today’s competitive ever changing market is knowing what assets you have that you can leverage and when to leverage those assets. It’s the ability to standout in a crowd by exemplifying certain things while minimizing others.

In the end, despite the fact I started this article to provide a few key survival tips to my client, I realized that they could also apply to anyone wanting a few tips on how to thrive in business. Essentially they are basic rules of engagement that are just good business practices to follow. So whether you are looking to survive in today’s work place or looking to thrive, following the above tips will help you achieve your desired goal. Because in the end surviving can lead to success and determining which is more important in today’s market is essentially just a matter of perspective.

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