5 career truths I learned from updating Cube Rules

By Scot Herrick | Cube Rules Commentary

Aug 12

When you’ve written about careers for almost nine years on a site, certain themes come forward when you review every single article. Yes, all 1100+ articles on the site…

I changed the theme on the site, you see. Part of that change was the expectation that there would be a picture on every site. I suppose I didn’t need a picture for every article, but I like to include pictures of office cubicles and other obvious office stuff (the red stapler anyone?) because it reinforces the fact that this site is to serve people who work in office cubicles. People who work for managers (including some managers who work for managers).

Not CEO’s. They don’t need much advice. Or maybe they need a lot, but not from this site in any case.

When you see those articles written in years past, there were often times when I could remember the circumstances around when it was written. Where I was living, what triggered the idea for the article, how hard or easy it was to write. I visited the death of my step-father. Of my mother. Of jobs lost and confidence gained.

It was very interesting to me to see how my writing has changed over the years. And, I’m happy to report, I’m very happy my writing has changed over the course of the years — a lot of what I wrote early on was crap. But, like anything, you keep at it and, hopefully, you get a little better at conveying what you want to say.

Most interesting, though, were the themes that came through with all of the writing. There were a few. I call them the Career Truths.

How to interview is an important job skill to learn

Most of us don’t need help “managing our careers.” Whatever that means. Where we need help are with our career transitions. We decide that something needs to change, so we go looking for help on how to make the change. Partially because a lot of my articles here on Cube Rules were written during the Great Recession, there are a lot of articles on how to answer interview questions.

The important point here is that we usually are not very good at answering interview questions. For that matter, managers are (usually) not very good at asking good interview questions. The reason is simple: we don’t do job interviews every day like we use Word or your office app of choice. Since we don’t exercise the job interview muscle very often, we’re not very good at interviewing.

And yet, the job interview is one of the most important, critical job skills needed to make a career transition.

How to write a resume is an important job skill to learn

And what gets you that first interview? Usually it’s your resume. I can tell you that if you can write a good resume that presents your skills and accomplishments, you’ll put yourself so far ahead of your competition for getting the interview it isn’t even a fair contest. Seriously, most resumes suck.

This too is understandable. Not only do we not update our resumes very often, but there are 5000 pundits telling you the best way to write one. One page, two pages, format this, format that, engineer for robots, write for humans, blah blah blah blah blah. No wonder people are confused.

My answer is to pick a good pundit’s approach, implement it well, and you’ll do fine. I’ll volunteer as the pundit to follow (and more resume help is coming).

Your business network is more important than you think

People still don’t get this, but working with your business network to help them in what they need will eventually lead you to them helping you in your time of transition. In my (long) career, I’ve had dozens of positions (not companies, but positions) and I can tell you that within a company, I’ve never interviewed for one of them. In five of them, the interview was supposed to be an interview, but it was, instead, just an every day conversation. Getting the position — because of skills and job performance — was the opportunity and the opportunity was a foregone conclusion.

When I’ve moved to a different company? Every one was an introduction from someone in my business network. Every. One.

That doesn’t mean it is “who you know” like that’s all it takes. No, it is who you know, but who you know also has to see demonstrated job skills and demonstrated performance. If you don’t have both skills and performance, it really doesn’t matter who you know, you won’t get the job.

Job Skills + Job Performance = Opportunity

If there was a magic formula to employment security (not job security), this equation from a former manager is the one.

You have to have the job skills to do the job. And often management will want to see job skills performed at the next level up in order to be considered for a promotion.

And while there are hundreds of forum complainers about “I have the job skills but didn’t get the job,” almost all fail the great job performance test you need to pass — and show in your resume and interviews — in order to succeed in getting the opportunity.

You do need both: have the job skills, have great job performance and opportunities will be presented to you.

Employment Security Trumps Job Security

You’ll see lots of pundits out there talking about “job” security. How to achieve it, 27 ways to manifest it, 400 ways to prevent the layoff…you get the idea.

The bottom line, though, is this: there is no job security. None.

There is, however, employment security. Employment security means even if you are laid off (done that – twice), even if the company goes out of business (been there), even if your company has been bought out (three different times), you have what you need to get hired by someone who knows that you can help that person reach their business objectives.

You can get the job done because you’ve proven you’ve done it in the past.

The deal is that employment security is a hierarchy, kind of like Maslow’s hierarchy. The base is job skills, then going up the pyramid is job performance, then your business network, then your job search skills (resumes, interviews), and the top of the pyramid is your financial strength (which keeps desperation away when you interview).

Signing up for my mailing list, by the way, gives you a good explanation of each of those segments of the pyramid and following the advice there will really help you plan out how to achieve employment security.

Getting to employment security means you’ve become a Cubicle Warrior.

Net Net

Much of my review of the site was plowing through to get everything set the way I wanted it from the very first article to this one. Yet, in retrospect, it was a labor of love. And seeing when love was lost on the passion for helping people navigate the (incredible) transitions people sometimes have to make when competing against everyone on the planet for their job.

And then having that passion rekindled from seeing that what was written was true. That the help was really needed and appreciated. That my point of view with a past of being an individual contributor, manager, and a director was of value to others. And that my own advice was also, interestingly enough, necessary for me to follow as I traversed the career transitions as they have occurred in my journey as well.

Cube Rules has and continues to be a lot of time and effort. And, for me and I hope for you, worth it.

Thank you for reading Cube Rules. I love helping people in their journey from starting out in their first job through the journey to obtain employment security and finally to becoming a Cubicle Warrior.


About the Author

Scot Herrick is the author of “I’ve Landed My Dream Job–Now What???” and owner of Cube Rules, LLC. Scot has a long history of management and individual contribution in multiple Fortune 100 corporations.