DEAR JOYCE: Approaching 40, I worry about hitting a career wall. But I'm so busy I'm not sure how to avoid waking up one day to find that the wall appeared overnight. Advice? -- C.G.
DEAR C.G. -- Career survival 101 for managers and professionals begins with maintaining visibility in communities that can support your aspirations. That is to say: Brand yourself. Consider these two aspects to staying alive in a world where change is on steroids: self-marketing visibility and career management.
-- Try to spend as much facetime as you can with your managers, associates and customers.
-- Avoid becoming entombed for a few years in a low-profile, back-office project where nobody knows your name.
-- Another way to grow visibility is to ply your skills in a second environment. If things look shaky at your workplace, consider moonlighting with a noncompetitive start-up company to which you may be able to flee if you're suddenly chased away.
-- Joining and volunteering for leadership roles with professional societies and trade organizations are legendary routs to recognition. Ditto for writing professional articles for publication.
-- Networking groups often fail because their self-serving activities lack the glue of a higher calling -- such as that espoused by civic or cause groups -- to hold members together after an initial burst of enthusiasm. So maybe a service-club luncheon is more valuable than you thought.
CAREER MANAGEMENT. Set aside an evening every month or two on a regularly scheduled basis. Suggestion: Ink in a meeting with yourself in your appointment calendar so you are less likely to forget.
Create a career organizer to record and monitor your personal data. Include goals, fluid timelines for steps along the way, earnings sought, people to cultivate, plan B's for when your career is sidetracked and any additional education, training or skills required. Important: Add check-off columns for reaching goals and performing tasks -- accomplishments keep you motivated
During your career management meetings with yourself, weigh such questions as these:
-- Can I use my skills and competencies in another industry if my industry turns downward?
-- How smooth are my interpersonal relationships with my boss and co-workers?
-- Are existing conflicts likely to be terminal?
-- Am I promotable, or am I seen as a disposable commodity? How can I distinguish myself from competitors? What will it take to get where I want to go from the place I am right now?
-- Do I really like my work, or am I hanging on, just marking time?
-- Have I checked out my market worth adequately? Am I being rewarded at my true worth? If I am in a field facing global competition and cheaper workers, how can I rebalance the scales to avoid leaving my career in tatters?
-- Do I have enough time for my family and hobbies?
THREE TIPS. Here's some sage advice from Ford R. Myers, career coach and author of the new book, "Get the Job You Want, Even When No One's Hiring" (Wiley & Sons):
-- Keep your career documents up to date, including your resume, reference list, recommendation letters, accomplishment stories, and dates of your educational achievements and work history.
-- Always keep the competition in sight, whether it's companies or professionals in your industry; know who they are and what they're doing.
-- Check out job openings, even when you're not job hunting. Your efforts will help you to know the market, gauge aspects of your current position and to stay "plugged in."
(E-mail career questions for possible use in this column to Joyce Lain Kennedy at firstname.lastname@example.org; use "Reader Question" for subject line. Or mail her at Box 368, Cardiff, CA 92007.)