With stronger career literacy, jobseekers can optimize career opportunities amid disruption

Tim Ragan

author headshotMuch like literacy was a core skill in driving 19-century industrialization, career literacy is a key skill for success today. Consider how rapidly our economy and work environment are evolving. The level of organizational disruption – driven by technology, globalization, outsourcing, automation – is unprecedented and accelerating. For individuals, the higher their level of career literacy, the more they are futureproofing themselves for the turbulence ahead.

Career literacy is about developing the habit of constantly exploring and optimizing career opportunities. It is being continually attuned to what is working, what is not, and having an action plan to address identified deficiencies and opportunities.

How can we help our clients develop greater career literacy to futureproof their careers? By coaching and helping them through these seven steps.

1. Take ownership of “Platform of Me”

Futureproofing starts with the client’s commitment to take full ownership of their career – and life – with a framework known as the “Platform of Me.”

For each of us, our one truly scarce resource is time. When you take away sleep, basic personal grooming and eating, we have maybe 100 remaining hours weekly to program in our most purposeful life. What are our clients choosing to do with those 100 hours? Help them break it down into meaningful categories (e.g. paid work, commute time, family activities, relaxing, hobbies) so they more clearly understand the choices they are making.

This opens the space for a valuable conversation about how they would invest their time in their ideal world, revealing insights into required shifts in time usage to approach their ideal.

2. Bolster your productivity

It is one thing to know how you want to invest your time and quite another to develop the discipline, routine and habits to invest it that way. We can help our clients centre their career objectives by guiding them to create and maintain a “weekly heartbeat” habit for planning and managing their work. In this approach, the client identifies a theme for the work week that will drive their focus. Rather than just being driven by an endless to-do-list, this encourages the client to visualize what a successful work week will look like.

Mid-week reflections allow course correction as required and the week ends with recording a short status report of the week’s activities. These simple actions can become a powerful routine over time. That is when a client’s performance really takes off, because they are being deliberate and disciplined in what they are choosing to focus their time on.

3. Get clear on how you add value

Let’s go back to a core issue for work-life success: We all must decide what we stand for and how we want to invest our time. The “Platform of Me” provides the structure; your programming focuses on maximizing the value you derive from the activities you invest your time in.

We want to put our clients on a path where they can gravitate toward work that fulfills them, and this means they need to be crystal clear about what they find important and meaningful.

“We all must decide what we stand for and how we want to invest our time.”

Our clients all see the world differently, are wired differently, have vastly different capabilities and experiences, and find themselves drawn to different working situations to contribute their time and effort toward. We need to provide a step-by-step approach for leading them through this discovery process.

4. Hone your story through practice

Having greater clarity of purpose allows our clients to shift their time from the highly ineffective job board “spray-and-pray” routine to more disciplined networking activities. By investing their time meeting people, they create ample opportunity to practise sharing, tightening and refining “their story.”

It is important to understand that their story is not about education certificates, role descriptions and years of experience; it’s about why they are drawn to seek out certain types of challenges and how they add value in solving those problems. The more they share their story, the more comfortable and confident in telling their story they become, and the more their personal and professional network grows.

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5. Get more curious

In these highly disruptive times, perhaps the greatest value from ongoing networking is learning about and from others, what they are seeing and experiencing, and how they making sense (or aren’t) of what is happening around them.

Our clients can tap into that rich vein of insights, challenges and opportunities through the simple act of asking more and better questions. Here’s a few tips and tricks to help them boost their curiosity:

  • Continue to reach out and meet new people. This will help jobseekers tighten their brand messaging and enhance their conversational skills.
  • Ask lots of questions. Listening to others share their stories demonstrates interest and makes jobseekers memorable to their connections.
  • Always follow up. A “good to meet you” note is courteous and jogs the connection’s memory of the interaction.
  • Stay in touch. Clients should periodically “drip-feed” their growing network with interesting articles or connections.
6. Churn your opportunity pipeline

Each new connection represents a new opportunity for jobseekers. A client’s opportunity pipeline is just like a salesperson’s prospecting funnel: there are many prospects at the top and few at the bottom. Our client’s job is to fill the funnel at the top continuously with fresh opportunities and transition evolving opportunities down through the funnel, making them increasingly tangible and real.

Key to your client’s success with this step is “churning”: adding new connections to the top of their funnel while nurturing existing relationships to move them forward. This should not be transactional (“Do you have a job for me?”), but an opportunity to develop deeper relationships.

7. Join an accountability community

A well-functioning accountability community with other motivated professionals provides opportunities to learn, collaborate and grow. Unfortunately, most people don’t have a support community to tap into.

What do our clients need from an accountability community? A handful of people who are simultaneously cheerleading for them and their dreams – while asking tough questions to force them to get serious and specific. People who hold their feet to the fire, while encouraging their passion to reach for the stars. That is the kind of engaged community we all need, the village that it takes for each of us to reach our full potential.


Helping our clients through these seven steps futureproofs them against the unknown – and undoubtedly challenging – times ahead. Dedicating as little as one hour weekly to their “Platform of Me,” they can take regular positive, tangible, bite-size steps. As they build this routine into their life, they’ll enjoy greater professional success and satisfaction and achieve their goals faster.

Tim Ragan (BScEE, MBA, owner Career Constructors), leveraging 35 years of varied business experience, is on a mission to help others survive and thrive our modern working times. Ragan’s career book (Reboot Your Career) has helped thousands create a powerful values-based brand, and he facilitates a community of self-employed professionals (Free Agent Collective) to accelerate their professional growth. tragan@careerconstructors.com