From Caretaker to Self-Reliance: We All Need Our Own Employment Plan aflu.1888932-2946.ws

All of our employment related institutions are geared to servicing the full time employment model – being employed by someone else and receiving regular pay for the work performed, on a regular basis for a minimum of thirty-five hours per week. Think about it. Consider how employment rates are measured and how the popular press treats these figures. Consider how government employment support mechanisms work. They are based on the number of weeks worked within a certain period, the more you work, the higher portion of available dollars you receive.

Even our social and personal lives revolve around income generated by full time employment. When you meet someone new, they ask what you do, and expect you to be either employed full time with one employer or self-employed. Being employed full time by one employer is, unofficially, a measure of who you are and your value to society.

Growth industries such as social services, health care (due to demographic aging of our population), retail and wholesale trade, hospitality and food services tend to favour contract or part time employment models. Manufacturing and finance are not experiencing growth and some companies, within these areas, are even decreasing in size. Larger traditional industrial employers, such as US Steel and Canada Post have been in negotiations with their unions for changes to the traditional defined benefit type of benefit and pension plans to contribution plans where the employer no longer carries the responsibility for managing these funds.

It is over to the employee to manage their pension and benefit contributions, to take on total responsibility for investing and growing their future nest egg. This is another significant step away from the ‘caretaker’ role previously assumed by the employer for their full time workforce.

The employer is there to service its customers and is seeking more cost effective means to do this, including one of the largest costs, which is the labour force. Pension and benefit plans are expensive on their own merit. Having to employ administrative personnel to manage these plans on behalf of employees is now deemed too costly for employers. So they are seeking to opt out of these plans. Couple this with the view by Generation X and Generation Y, that employers no longer elicit loyalty by this move away from caretaker type of behaviour (downsizing their loyal boomer parents and reducing benefits previously associated with full time employment) and we see the workplace environment of loyalty and caretaker being replaced by one of self-importance and self-reliance.

And then we have human resource, training and development, organization and employee development gurus decrying the loss of employee engagement. Seriously, why do we expect employees to be engaged with their employer’s culture, strategy, customer service, and financial plans when these same employees do not believe employers care about their needs and requirements? Let us keep in mind, also, that approximately 40% of the senior manager and executive positions are held by the boomer generation – the same generation who decries the loss of loyalty and moans about the selfishness of succeeding generations. This is a conundrum, for sure.

So how do we grasp all these differing trends, bring them together in one neat package, and put this package to good use in our need and requirement to generate regular income? How does today’s employee find the type of employment they need to service their income requirements? There are a number of options available but the employee needs to understand that their role is quickly becoming one where they take control of their employment life and build a personal employment plan to make that happen.

How to Craft an Employment Plan

Any plan has to be well researched, well defined, have specific measurable milestones, be time-based, and have realistic actions and tasks built into it. Utilizing the tried and true SMART (specific, measurable, achievable or actionable, realistic, and timely or time-based) method for goal setting applies equally to crafting a good plan.

Your employment plan needs to be considered as part of a journey, with a clear direction, a clear strategy and, a concise marketing plan if you want the end result to be achieved.

Step 1: Scope out your market niche.

Just like any marketing plan developed for a business, your personal employment marketing plan is formal and incorporates actions required to reach your target market. Do you have a clearly defined market niche? What differentiates you from all the others seeking employment who have similar expertise? What are the features, advantages and benefits of working with you? What specific contribution will you bring to your potential target market?

And you need to make a decision about the type of employment model you want. Is it full time, contract, part time, self-employment? Don’t expect recruiters to work for you if you are not clear about your desires and requirements. If a recruiter’s specialty is contract employment, then they are not best suited to help you secure full time employment. Advising recruiters that you will take any type of employment does not send a message of confidence and self-reliance.

Step 2: Research preferences and requirements of your target market.

Your target niche and target markets should be as a result of solid research conducted by you, based on the expertise you are attempting to market to potential employers. Many recruiters, whether in house or external, are looking for that differentiation, someone who stands out from the rest. Remember, recruiters are evaluated on their success in finding the right person for the role, finding the person who fits the company culture so they are just as interested, as their client, in finding the best person for the role.

Step 3: Craft the plan.

Viewing this plan as a project will help you to incorporate all the important components – specific tasks to be performed such as:

  • identifying possible referral partners and the steps necessary to get them on board and performing referral actions on your behalf;
  • determining which media you will use to communicate your expertise, and;
  • identifying the right mentor or coach who will help to remove barriers and obstacles.

Step 4: Review the plan with people whose opinion you value.

Be selective. Seek out those people who know you and your expertise well and, who also know the target market you are seeking to hit. You should utilize your mentor or personal coach as well, but they may not know you as well as past colleagues, family and friends. Mentors and coaches are more objective than colleagues, family and friends but when you are looking for work, a strong support network – provided by family and friends – is absolutely necessary. And many times, these are the ones that provide the right connections that help job seekers to find the right fit.

Step 5: Craft the communication strategy for marketing your services.

There are so many communication media available today that you can easily become overwhelmed by trying to utilize and manage all of them. Deciding on the best media for your search should be as a result of target market research. Find out which media are used most by the employers you are targeting and how they use this media. Plan your communication strategy as fully as you plan your marketing strategy and plan. Your communication needs to be targeted if you expect to get your message to the right people. You may consider using a social media on line support such as Roost to help you manage all your message and network connections.

Step 6: Implement.

Follow your plan and remember this is a journey. As each task is completed, make note of the results achieved by implementing each task. Work the plan daily, particularly as it relates to the communication targets. If you conducted due diligence related to your target market, then your plan should be solid, so work the plan.

Step 7: Evaluate and revise as required.

Just because you have a solid plan and you have positive thoughts (having visualized success from implementing the plan) does not automatically guarantee you will be successful on the first implementation stage. Evaluate what has happened with each communication medium and adjust your plan, based on the results. But each step or stage of the plan must be given the right amount of time and effort, in order for you to achieve success. Realistic plans that are based on your market niche and focused on the right target market, where you are required to expend time and effort daily, are best practice for securing the type of employment model that is best for you.

As the world of work continues to change, and the growth of the digital world consumes the past and creates a new workplace environment, the number of employment models will increase. Crafting an employment plan which takes these changes into effect is still the best practice to help you make a successful transition from the caretaker to the self-reliant world of work.

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Work-Integrated Learning (WIL), Work-Integrated Education (WIE) and Employment Readiness employment journey

The students at the institutions of learning are better advised to join the Work-Integrated Learning, Work-Integrated Education and Employment Readiness Programmes on arrival on campus, i.e. in their first year of studies. They should constantly participate throughout their studies. The programme is fast becoming core to all lines of studies across the globe.

The World Association of Cooperative Education (WACE) is the global organization advocating for Work-Integrated Learning and Work-Integrated Education integration in all degrees and diplomas. The aim is to make transition from the world of learning and education into the world of work seamless.

In South Africa we have the Southern African Society for Cooperative Education (SASCE) made of the academic and industry practitioners. It runs biannual continental conference called WIL Africa, to advance Cooperative Education and Work-Integrated Learning across the continent. SASCE and WACE work together on a number of initiatives, incluidng the annual WACE global conference that is hosted by different member universities.

The kind of programmes conducted under the programme must be relevant to the industries that are likely to absorb the graduates from the institutions of learning. They must be aimed at closing the gap between theory and practice during the whole period of studies.

General activities are organised and held on and off campuses by the Cooperative Education Departments of the Institutions, for example, industry visits, guest lectures by industry practitioners, visits to career fairs and exhibitions, industry specific workshops, seminars and conferences, on the job learning during the vacations, work readiness programmes like how to write curriculum vitae, how to apply for employment, how to conduct job interviews, how to research industry and companies suitable to the graduate’s dream career, etc.

For those institutions that have embraced the programme, partnership with the industry in offering P1 and P2 practical work is a natural practice. The training contributes credit points toward the qualification. The programme follows a well formulated integration of theoretical lectures and learning at the industry.

There are many reasons why the companies would partner with the institutions of learning and participate in the programmes. Among others, the opportunity for the learners to network with the industry practitioners, students given reliable sources of information in their career choices, companies source of recruitment of new talent, an acceptable standard of transitioning from the institutions of learning to the world of work, both the institutions and industry have interest in the graduates that are clear on why they chose the line of career they are following, and placement becomes successful as a result.

The above points bring us to the most important objective, namely employment readiness by the graduates. Employment Readiness Programme is extremely important, and requires special focus. How a graduate arrives at their first place of employment depends on their transition management and readiness level. This is their second toughest transition after transitioning from high school to the university/college.

There are many potential fault lines that require a mentor to assist the graduates to overcome. It is impossible without the guidance of a mentor to overcome this hurdle. It is the first time that the graduate will know if their choice of studies and career was spot on or not. They ought to have mastered the logical transition steps that include the basic tasks like identifying the industry and company to apply for the first employment, choice of the type of job, choosing the career direction, putting together convincing curriculum vitae, prepare for the job interview, shopping for appropriate corporate clothing, etc.

Arrival at the world of work is the beginning of huge personal responsibility. It is the beginning of a long journey into the corporate life. This journey, depending on the readiness level or lack thereof, can be good or bad one. It is at this point that the graduate and his sponsors (family or other funders) would want to confirm return on education investment.

The role of the mentor during the WIL and WIE period cannot be underestimated. It is absolutely necessary in this last mile of the graduate’s educational journey. The mentor should accompany the graduate during this critical phase of their holistic human capital development. The graduate must consider mentorship arrangement as a crucial investment, not an expense. The foundation on which to build corporate life must be solid.

Work-Integrated Learning (WIL), Work-Integrated Education (WIE) and Employment Readiness