Back on Track: What to Do When a Career Path Swerves

Lately, even well-worn career superhighways seem less travelable. Half a million jobs disappeared in the United States in the last quarter of 2008. Unemployment reached 7.2 percent, the highest rate in over fifteen years. But there is hope--even if your career has stalled completely along the roadside. You may have to wait out a roadblock or two, or take turns you never expected. But planning, persistence, and a positive attitude will make all the difference as you travel that long and winding road. *Tips from a Good Driver* Nolan D. Archibald is a Latter-day Saint father and husband, Area Seventy, and the Chairman, President, and Chief Executive Officer of the Black & Decker Corporation. Business Week named him one of the top six managers in U.S. business, and Fortune has called him one of the country's ten "most wanted" executives. As he's navigated a successful career, family life, and church service, Elder Archibald has learned important lessons about how to get where you want to go. _Plotting His Destination_ "My parents instilled in me at an early age that if I got a good education and worked hard enough, I could become anything I wanted to," recalls Elder Archibald. His parents never finished high school themselves, though they worked hard all their lives. However, the future CEO didn't exactly start out with top grades. "I wasn't a good student in high school," he admits. "But when I got to college I became a serious student." By the time he graduated from Weber State University, he had become an A-student and had even gotten into Harvard Business School. It was during his business studies that Elder Archibald decided his career goals. He was required to read three cases each day about complex business problems. "At the end of each case it asked, 'What would you do if you were the CEO of this company, and why?' As a result of studying these cases, I decided it would be fascinating to be the CEO of a Fortune 500 company." He researched the backgrounds of other CEOs--their education, experience, and career track--and modeled his own path after theirs. _Staying On Track_ It's a long way from Weber State University (and even Harvard Business School) to the CEO desk of a Fortune 500 company. How did Elder Archibald stay on track? Persistence, focus, and recovering from the inevitable setbacks. "I learned early on that persistence was important," he says. "If you're willing to work hard enough and long enough and be persistent enough, you'll succeed." Plenty of opportunities arose to tempt Elder Archibald from his goal. But every time he accepted a position, he asked himself whether it would help better prepare him to become a CEO of a Fortune 500 company. If not, he declined, no matter how attractive the offer. "Staying focused may be difficult, but it is a key factor to one's success," says Elder Archibald. "I have known people who want to be a general manager or a CEO who accept a position or stay in a job that does not lead to their desired career goal. Some get sidetracked with a big title or large salary. They work in jobs that do not give them the experience and background to be a general manager or CEO." *Keeping Your Engine Tuned* Good drivers know the value of keeping their vehicles in good working order--and a good emergency toolkit in the trunk. So what do maintenance and emergency preparedness for your career look like? _Preventive Maintenance_ Keeping your career running smoothly means regular maintenance: in other words, professional development. "Professional development means having up-to-date knowledge in your chosen field and strong skills, whether sales or technical," says David Rust, a Latter-day Saint professional development coach in Chagrin Falls, Ohio. He advises staying current in your field through continuing education. "A variety of certifications or skills can make you more attractive to your current employer or to a new one," he continues. "Take classes. If you're a worker on a manufacturing line, get your tow-motor license or other licensing so you can operate more machinery. If you're a nurse, perhaps you get a certificate in diabetes education." Not sure where to find training? At more than three hundred centers worldwide, the Church's Employment Resource Services offers support. "We assist individuals by identifying community resources, educational programs or technical schools," says Ballard S. Veater, Manager of the Welfare Square LDS Employment Center. Contact your ward or stake employment specialist or go to _providentliving.org_ to find a Church Resource Center near you. Of course, you can find your own professional development opportunities, too. Join a professional organization; search their website or publications for training notices. Pick up course listings for local vocational schools, colleges, extension services, or community education classes. Staying well trained in your field has several benefits. You'll perform better at your current job. Your boss or clients will have more reasons to keep you around when times get tough. And if circumstances suddenly force you into job-hunting, recent training will strengthen your employability. _Emergency Preparedness Detailing_ "These days, people change jobs," says Rust. "Being ready for that change is important, whether you initiate it or your employer does." The first step is being prepared to go without an income for a while. "The Church encourages us to have cash reserves on hand," says Rust. "Know clearly how quickly your savings will run out. Then increase your stockpile." He recommends having enough cash savings to give yourself time to make good decisions. Rushing into the first job that comes along may not be the best decision for your long-term future. A little networking can also help you prepare for job-hunting. "Prioritize the twenty most influential people on your Christmas card list," Rust advises. "Make sure they know about your skills, the kind of job you currently have, and the kinds of jobs you would be available for." Finally, keeping your eye on the road ahead--and alternate routes--will help you anticipate roadblocks. What is the projected growth rate in your career and related industries for the next several years? If your own field is shrinking, what is the next logical direction for you? Answer these questions and more at the Occupational Information Network, sponsored by the U.S. Department of Labor, at online.onetcenter.org. *When Accidents Happen* If current trends continue, hundreds of thousands of people will lose jobs in 2009. Our experts offer the following advice for job-hunting Latter-day Saints and their families. _Staying Positive_ Staying close to the Lord and hopeful about the future is key to navigating unemployment. "This too shall pass," says Veater of LDS Employment Services. "But we need to do all we can on our part, and look to the Savior for His help and guidance as well." He continues, "Don't get caught up in the cycle of self-defeat. When you look at it, even when you have a high unemployment rate--even ten percent--it still means ninety percent are employed. It is a matter of developing opportunities and presenting yourself well enough." Elder Archibald agrees that Latter-day Saints can find jobs even in the current economic climate. "You can find work out there," he says. "There is always a job for someone who will produce superior results. You just need to convince people that you are an extraordinary hire, that you will produce excellent results. You should not get discouraged and give up. Go out and find the right spot." _Accepting Help_ Strong emotions can surface when someone loses a job: denial, anger, depression, hopelessness, and fear. As manager of an LDS Employment Center, Veater often advises people to share these emotional burdens with loved ones. "Some try to protect their family from the grief of losing a job," explains Veater. "That family support mechanism is so important. Many times family members can help through their prayers. Teenagers can cut back on things." Even young children can learn to be more frugal and less demanding. Also, ask for emotional support, prayers, and other appropriate assistance from your ward. "As members of the Church, we are somewhat unique because we belong to quorums and Relief Society," Veater says. Still, "we're somewhat hesitant to let people know we have needs. "People can help, and they need to know how," he continues. "Do you need a ride? Do you need to borrow a computer or internet access?" Furthermore, he points out, Church members often hear of employment opportunities. They can help you network--but only if you allow them. *Getting Back on Track* _Job Hunting_ Finding a job is a full-time occupation itself that requires special skills. "Looking for a job is a sales activity," Rust says. "Most people are not salespeople. The majority of people will have to be very motivated and courageous in order to succeed." Attend networking events, job fairs, and other public events where your potential employers may gather, he advises. "The managers who might hire you might be at those events. You can talk with them in a relaxed environment before having a formal interview. They may also be able to refer you to a company that is hiring if they are not. "Be very determined about the number of calls you'll make each week," he continues. "The phone is critical in a job search." Rust advises starting your search each morning at the same time, and spending the full day researching, pursuing, and following up on opportunities. "I encourage people to be very specific about the kinds of jobs they want and the specific kinds of companies they want to work for," says Rust, echoing Elder Archibald's advice on being focused and persistent. "I've seen people be successful in chasing the company when they're specific." Is being specific really worth it when you're worried about paying the bills? And what happens to your well-laid, determined career path when your long-term career goals are challenged by job loss or a changing marketplace? There's a difference between retrenching--coming at your goal from another angle--and just plain giving up. "If after a period of time you cannot find your desired position, you may need to change or modify your goals," states Elder Archibald. "You should always remain open and flexible and willing to change--and yet I think most people give up their goals too quickly. You shouldn't just continue to hit up against a brick wall if it's not leading where you want to go. But I think most of the time people give up their goals too soon rather than try to get around that brick wall or go over it. If you remain focused and persistent over the course of your career, there is a very high probability you will achieve your goals." _GPS for Your Career_ Looking for a professional navigation system to help you find your way? The Church's Employment Resource Services and ward or stake employment specialists give great directions. They can help Church members update resumes, prepare for interviews, and find job leads. But that's just part of what they offer. Two-day career workshops, taught through Employment Resources or local stakes, help participants understand their employable skills, mine available resources, improve interactions with others, and polish skills needed to keep a great job. Also, in many areas, Employment Resources now offers a Professional Placement Program, which brings job-hunting professionals together to network, develop job leads, and provide mutual support. If you're self-employed or thinking about starting a business, Employment Resource Services may be able to help you, too. "Many have the capability to run a business but can't find employment in the community," says Veater. "We identify organizations that help people with self-employment. We teach what it will take to become self-employed and refer people to organizations in the community to find funding." What other resources help job seekers? Rust recommends books like What Color Is Your Parachute? A Practical Manual for Job Hunters and Career-Changers by Richard Nelson Bolles and Cool Careers for Dummies by Marty Nemko. But he believes that the best support comes from people who will help you through the process. "Since I'm a coach, I believe a coach can help a job seeker the most," Rust says. "If a person cannot use a coach, I encourage him or her to find a friend or a relative (not a spouse) to have weekly phone accountability calls. Accountability is crucial." *The Road Ahead* With all the curves and switchbacks our career paths can take--layoffs, strikes, recessions, or even personal crises that affect our ability to work--it's sometimes difficult to see far down the road. And the feeling of driving blindly may be unsettling, at best. "Staying close to the Lord and knowing that He knows the end from the beginning can give us the comfort and peace that only comes from living the gospel of Jesus Christ," Elder Archibald says. "The Savior taught: 'My peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you.'" Elder Archibald continues, "In a world filled with wars, violence, and economic uncertainty, what did He mean by this? Christ clarifies what He meant . . . 'not as the world gives, give I unto you.' The Savior makes a very clear distinction between His peace and that which the world gives," Elder Archibald points out. "His peace is a special kind of peace. A peace that brings a deep, calm, inner assurance that all our trials will be for our own good. The world gives only temporary peace. The Savior promised a peace that would last forever if we have faith in Him and keep His commandments." Concludes this CEO and Area Seventy of the Church, "There is no greater acquisition in an uncertain and tumultuous world than the inner peace or which the Savior spoke."
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