It’s really hard to believe that we’ve entered a phase in history where employees have to brand themselves to gain access to opportunity. There was once a day when people could just work hard within their company for which they would get rewarded with raises, bonuses and promotions. However, it seems that these perquisites have become endangered and almost extinct. Companies have created organizational structures that don’t resemble anything we studied in business school. In fact, some companies say they don’t have any structure at all. This could be a sign that those once great benefits of work are scarce and you’ll have to figure out how to get one for yourself. With a lack of structure comes a lack of a visible career path. This small change has allowed companies to step away from the career development of their own employees. Basically, it’s all up to you now.
If this wasn’t enough, recruiters and HR have changed the rules of hiring by seeking out what they call ‘passive’ candidates. In the old days, we didn’t do this. It was considered to be ‘poaching.’ Some companies today still have rules against ‘stealing’ each other’s talent. If they are disgruntled and unhappy, that’s one thing but if they are satisfied, we just left them alone. Today, the passive candidate is a target for new opportunities. Passive candidates are the people who are working already but not actively looking for another job, leaving those who are unemployed at a disadvantage.
Let’s take a look at a few other things that may be impacting that elusive little critter we call ‘opportunity.’ Technology has greatly improved productivity, which has resulted in a reduction in workforce. We all thought that this would be a temporary scenario but it wasn’t. Companies are striving to do more with less. Another huge game changer is organizational change. A constantly changing economic landscape means that skills that are in ‘demand’ today may likely be in ‘supply’ tomorrow.
Another challenge is that many professionals feel that new opportunities are found online, exclusively. While there are many jobs listed on company websites and job boards, it doesn’t mean that’s how you’ll gain access to those opportunities. I recently spoke with employees at a company who has posted over 50 open positions. These employees stated that submitting your resume through their website won’t help you get a job. “They don’t use those resumes. They use recruiters to find who they want,” one employee stated. Getting your resume in front of the hiring manager is difficult and best done by someone on the inside.
Even when you are within reach of an opportunity, companies put up more barriers. The hiring process, according to a study by Glassdoor, has gone from 13 days in 2009 to 23 days in 2013. The cause for this dragging of the feet by companies is unknown at this time. Professionals are just embracing the new prolonged interview and vetting process. I think this stems from the fact that hiring managers are finally being held responsible for making hiring mistakes. Therefore, they are taking more time to find a candidate that is ‘safe’ but not necessarily the ‘best’ choice. Of course, as companies continue to reduce headcount, everyone must be able to do more than when they were originally hired. This leads to inefficiencies in the process.
Lastly, managers, leaders and HR have taken on a whole new mindset when it comes to handing out opportunities. In the old days, inclusion was the driving principle. We would look at a person to determine what they had that we needed. Today, we look first to see what they have that we don’t want. It’s an exclusion mindset where we seek to rule all candidates out until we find one that just seems to fit.
I know all of this seems to be overwhelming. It is. Finding opportunity, even in the land of opportunity, is not easy. In fact, it’s just as hard to find as anywhere else in the world. We discriminate on every possible aspect of a person, though we’ll never admit it out loud. So, how do you fight such forces that seek to separate you from opportunity? You brand yourself.
Unless you have connections inside the company, you’re unlikely to manifest influence on decision makers. The best way to bring opportunity closer is to draw those with opportunities closer to you. Check out the infographic. There are opportunities and people are looking to give them away. Are you poised to be found? Will people like what they see?
Branding is required and that need is here to stay.