Survival Kit for Success

Achieve your long-term career goals by fulfilling basic needs

by Teresa Whitacre

Most of us will not get a golden parachute. But we can create our own version of a golden parachute in the form a survival kit—actions we can take to ensure success at our current job or in finding a new one.

The employment process is a two-way street. By understanding the basic needs of an employer or organization, we can determine how to fulfill our needs at the same time. How you fill the needs of your organization is just as important as how your needs are met in performing work for your employer.

Remember the basics

When thinking about basic needs in your career, think of Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and how it applies to succeeding at your current job or finding a new one.

In Maslow’s hierarchy, basic needs for survival include food, shelter, clothing and warmth, protection, security and stability. Higher needs are belongingness, personal growth and fulfillment. Maslow’s theory illustrates that if we don’t have the basics, such as food, water and warmth, we can’t move to the next step.

Keeping ourselves healthy—physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually—is one of the important basic steps in obtaining and maintaining the relationship with an employer. If you are currently or have been out of work for an extended period of time, you know how draining it can be—physically, emotionally and financially. Think about what you can do to keep yourself in top shape. It’s important for your career.

Impressions are important no matter when and where they occur. Physical appearance aside, the way you communicate with those around you is important, no matter what the situation. Verbal or written communication, as well as body language, matter in personal settings. Often, personal contacts or relationships lead to professional opportunities.

Create what you want

It’s tempting and quite common to blame the economic climate for a lack of employment opportunities. Rather than blame the economy, consider the possibility that the techniques used in a job search don’t work as well during difficult economic times as they do during a thriving economy. The economy is just a factor telling us that our techniques need to change to meet the conditions.

Many industries have needs to fill but often cannot find qualified individuals who are capable of filling those needs. You can survive in the job search jungle by constantly keeping your skills up with the market. If you haven’t done that lately, you can still be a survivor. Inventory your skills and how you can market those skills to prove you fit the needs of an organization. Focus on what you have, not what you don’t. What can you do, or what have you done? How can you demonstrate that?

Create what you need or want to replace what you cannot get. Your survival—whether related to basic human needs or job skills—is often up to you. If you cannot find the employment opportunity you want or need, then it is time to create your own path.

I speak from experience, having created my own path more than once. I applied for work with organizations, even though I felt I was better suited for something other than what they were advertising. They wouldn’t have known I existed had I not taken the chance.

Think about your needs in terms of an employment relationship. Are you looking for a career move? Career advancement? A close commute? Strictly some income to pay your bills? After you determine what you need, you can work toward creating something to fulfill that need.

Excuses and hurdles abound if you let them get in the way. Think about all the reasons you allow to stand in the way of getting what you want: too old, too young, over or under qualified, over or under educated, physical appearance, medical history or financial history.

Your view of yourself affects the image you portray and how others view you. Making sure your basic needs are met and knowing how to use your skills to meet the needs of the employer will help you survive in a job search or succeed at the job you already have.

Teresa Whitacre is a quality assurance manager in Pittsburgh and a principal in Marketech Systems. She has a bachelor’s degree in organizational management from Ashford University in Clinton, IA, as well as ASQ certifications as a quality auditor, engineer, manager and Six Sigma Green Belt. Whitacre is the chair for ASQ’s Pittsburgh section, instructor for the section’s certified quality inspector refresher course and deputy regional director for ASQ Region 8. She is an ASQ fellow.

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