in Self awareness and improvement

If someone offered you free career insurance, would you take it?

Are you playing career roulette?

In a time of economic uncertainty, a lot of people are worried about finding fulfilling work or just keeping whatever job they have.

If you knew free career insurance existed and would give you access to more opportunities, would you take advantage of it?

When you’re laid off

What will you do? It’s unpleasant, but think about what you would do in the days and weeks after you’re laid off.

If you’re like most people, you’ll take your newfound free time to update your resume and your LinkedIn profile. Maybe you’ll reach out to a few people for coffee and ask if they know about any openings. If you know a recruiter, you’ll give her a call. Or you’ll ask friends for recruiters they might recommend.

Amidst the emotional and financial turbulence, you’ll be playing career roulette, relying largely on luck and hope. And you’ll be wishing you’d reached out to people before you needed to.

What is career insurance?

It’s hard for people to hire you if they can’t find you, or if they only know you as a piece of paper or a profile, hard to differentiate from any of the others. Career insurance is simply taking control over your visibility – and your access to opportunities – by using social platforms to purposefully shape your online reputation.

…social business platforms enable everyone at work to have more control over their reputation and greater access to opportunities…the roles of a manager as patron, arbiter, and gatekeeper are gradually coming to an end.

The reason for this is that modern tools and practices make it easier to contribute in a public way and to have those contributions valued by others. That kind of transparency and open access to an audience is much easier to achieve with the advent of social platforms. And they can give employees control over the perception of who they are, what they do, and how well they do it.

For career insurance, the key is working out loud. By making your work observable and narrating your work in progress, you create a much richer description of who you are and what you do. And the social nature of this process lends itself to discovering people who are interested in what you do. That growing network is what provides access to a much larger set of opportunities.

Instead of waiting till you need people, working out loud helps you build a purposeful network while you’re working. And instead of trying to fit your career into 2 -pages or a short interview, you’ll have built a rich, public tapestry of your work as a byproduct of working.

5 reasons why almost no one buys the free insurance

Yet, very few people take advantage of career insurance and perhaps it’s human nature. Hundreds of years ago, we locked the barn door after the horse bolted. Now, we backup our data after the computer crashes. We update our resume and build our network after we lose our job.

I know many people who want career insurance but don’t do much about it. And I’ve seen 5 common reasons for that.

  1. They don’t know what to do.
  2. They’re afraid. They want to be more visible but are afraid of possible negative feedback or other consequences.
  3. They’re too busy. The way they work, filling up calendars and inboxes, is a set of habits they find too difficult to change. And they value the feeling of being needed (“I’m so busy!”) and the immediate feedback associated with all of that busy-ness. (“Inbox zero!”)
  4. They’re a victim of WYSIATI. (What You See Is All There Is, courtesy of Daniel Kahneman.) The way their current job/team/division works is all they see and they can’t imagine other possibilities.
  5. They’ve a victim of learned helplessness.  They’ve tried something before and it didn’t work so they’ve stopped trying.

Each of these can be overcome with education, coaching, and a lot of practice.

Another possibility

But there’s one more possible reason, one that’s been haunting me. Rachel Happe  tweeted about it this week:

Maybe some people, even a majority of people, would rather just show up, get told what to do, and simply not deal with creating a better career. Maybe, despite what they say, they’d rather take their chances than actively try and work differently.

An offer

I refuse to accept that. Not that I know it to be false, but that I don’t want it to be true. Life is a set of probabilities. Why should people rely on hope and luck when they can, for free, take more control and increase their odds of having a fulfilling career?

So, if you’re interested in free career insurance, I’d like to talk with you. Just leave a comment on this post. (You can just say “I’m interested.”). I’ll spend an hour with each of the first 20 people, either in person if you’re in NYC or by phone if you’re not.

Thank you in advance for considering it. Each session will help me better understand how to make work better for everyone, not just a few lucky ones.

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  • http://houldsworth.wordpress.com Barry Houldsworth

    I’m interested :)

  • kittywooley

    John, I’m interested.

  • http://elginkevin.wordpress.com elginkevin

    I’m interested!

  • http://johnstepper.wordpress.com John Stepper

    Barry, Kitty, Kevin, thanks for making my morning. :-) I’ll contact each of you individually and will post here if I’m having any issue finding your contact info. Thank you very much.

    • http://houldsworth.wordpress.com Barry Houldsworth

      Thanks! Looking forward to it.

    • kittywooley

      Looking forward to further conversation – you’re doing important work. I’d love to come meet you and buy you a cup of coffee.

  • Sam G

    I’m interested. Looking forward to it.

  • http://twitter.com/mor_trisha Trisha Liu (@mor_trisha)

    John, does your offer apply to me? :) Working out loud worked for me this week… some posts I made in an employee network that I don’t frequent anymore were found, and a person contacted me for help. It was such a great feeling. This stuff really works!!

    • http://johnstepper.wordpress.com John Stepper

      Absolutely! I’m hopeful we can continue to learn from each other. Are you up for an hour session?

      • http://twitter.com/mor_trisha Trisha Liu (@mor_trisha)

        Yay! Certainly John, an hour with you – what a gift! I have a feeling it will pass by all too quickly. ;)

  • http://www.whizbangpowwow.com Neil Glassman

    I’m interested, John. [BTW, great preso at #BDI1!]

  • Lonnie

    I’m interested

  • ASM

    Thanks for your generous offer! I’m interested.

  • http://www.facebook.com/christian.e.jensen.528 Christian Errboe Jensen

    I am interested – let me know if you need contact details.

  • themanwithnoboo

    I’m interested, John. But I’m ‘at the office’ so happy to give up a place on this list and get in contact at work. David

    • http://johnstepper.wordpress.com John Stepper

      Thanks, David. Happy to have you as one of the first 20.

  • Marie-Louise Collard

    Thanks John.
    Is “working differently” the same as “creating a better career” or simply improving life’s quality?
    I’m a long way off, but I’m interested.

    • http://johnstepper.wordpress.com John Stepper

      Hello, Marie-Louise. I was hoping you would sign up.

  • http://thingsthatresonate.wordpress.com Frank G

    John,
    love that post! NYC is way abroad from NZ :( still would love talking to you.
    I think you will learn as much from your offer as each of us. Great idea!
    best
    Frank

    • http://johnstepper.wordpress.com John Stepper

      Thanks, Frank. So we can’t have coffee :-) but I’m looking forward to talking with you.

      • http://thingsthatresonate.wordpress.com Frank G

        thanks John, virtual coffee that is ;) What would you like: Moccachino, Capuccino, Latte (my choice) or simply black?

  • http://twitter.com/absolutesubzero Emanuele Quintarelli (@absolutesubzero)

    John,
    thanks for another great post.

    I’d like to see more people “in the circle” helping others for free to learn a new way of working and building a social insurance.

    That would enrich us in the first place and organizations one person at a time as a side effect.

  • http://tmiket.wordpress.com/ tmiket

    I’m interested!

  • Connie

    I am interested!:-)

  • yemi

    Hi John

    I’m interested! Over the other side of the world – we have met once as we both used to work at the same organisation!

  • Roland D’Costa

    Another great post, John. I’m interested.

  • http://Www.mattwkane.com Matt k

    Very interested. Would love to talk about how this is important even for having insurance within a big company but what do you do to get it out there in the right way

  • http://idearipples.tumblr.com/ Vishal Agnihotri

    John – as always a fantastic post, and one that I absolutely resonate with. Would love to compare notes (phone or the City – once the trains start again). Interested :)

  • Pankaj Sahasrabudhe

    Great post! I am interested!

  • http://www.logica.com John Schwiller

    I’m interested – #19 I think? :)

  • http://twitter.com/MoyraMackie Moyra Mackie (@MoyraMackie)

    John,not sure if I am number 20 or 21?? I have taken the leap only in the last few weeks and would absolutely love the chance to learn from you!

    • http://johnstepper.wordpress.com John Stepper

      Hello, Moyra and thank you. You are #21 and with a nice comment like how can I resist? I very much look forward to talking with you.

      I chose a limit of 20 sessions so I could be sure and schedule them all in a reasonable time. I’ll write about what I learn (without sacrificing anyone’s privacy) and then will see if more sessions would be a good idea.

      So even though no more slots are available, I may open up more in the future. If so, I’ll schedule time with additional people in the order they comment.

      Thank you to everyone for your response. I very much appreciate it and look forward to talking with you.

      • http://twitter.com/MoyraMackie Moyra Mackie (@MoyraMackie)

        Flattery and flexibility! Thank you. I can see why you have had the response you have. We see you put your money (or media pen) where your mouth is and we can definitely learn from that.

  • Nicola

    I’m here, I’m interested, just in case there will be a free slot.
    Nicola – Italy

  • Jon Bidwell

    Would love too. For efficiency’s sake lets just append the discussion onto the one regarding the other project. BTW Rachel is right. Recognizing that fact is one of the most critical size-up criteria in employees and colleagues.

  • http://twitter.com/rhappe Rachel Happe (@rhappe)

    John – I hope you are right because I too viscerally believe people want more control over their jobs, their careers and ultimately their lives than they get by just showing up and doing what they are told. That particular tweet was me just double checking my own assumptions in this social business space – because that premise underlies the entire movement.

    And… awesome how you turned this into an offer to help 20 people see your perspective. Now THAT is cool.

  • http://mariewallace.wordpress.com Marie Wallace

    John, your offer raises an interesting question and suggests an even more interesting social application; Lets call it “The Career Dating Agency” ;-)

    If we follow your premise that people to want to “take control” of their own careers and build a career insurance policy (which is important at any stage of your career), the question becomes; “how could we collectively create a support system to make “career insurance” freely available to those that need it?”

    * How would we incentivize sharing of knowledge? A pay-it-forward program? You can only get if you give ;)
    * How would we maximize the value of the exchange for both the mentor and mentee? For example; prioritize people with the greatest likelihood of actually using the knowledge (so the mentors investment is not wasted).
    * How would we effectively match mentors & mentees? Everyone has something specific to share, it might be as obscure as “they moved country” and yet for someone who’s considering such a move that could be hugely valuable.

    So… good blog post. It definitely got me thinking :-)

    • http://johnstepper.wordpress.com John Stepper

      Thanks for this, Marie. The more we understand the reasons why pele aren’t taking advantage of free insurance, the more we can help them (via your Dating Service :-) or some other model).

      I’m looking to these first 20 interviews (and maybe additional research after that) as a simple step to start understanding those reasons a bit better,

  • http://twitter.com/ITSinsider Susan Scrupski (@ITSinsider)

    I want you to spend an hour with my daughter at her favorite East Village cafe! She hates social media, and I keep telling her she needs to build a personal brand! (Irony, I know. But, I am actually serious.)

    • http://mariewallace.wordpress.com Marie Wallace

      Even folks that love social media often have a problem with the concept of a “personal brand”. I did a social media education session a few weeks ago and was amazed that even with the folks that did actively engage with social media (a small percentage), no-one thought of social media as a source of career development or personal branding.

    • http://johnstepper.wordpress.com John Stepper

      You know where to find me. Your daughter and I even like the same Kaffe 1668 as evidenced by your foursquare post about the place. :-)

  • Nikki Bussard

    John, Count me in if a 22nd (?) slot opens up. @Marie, love the career dating agency idea.

    • http://mariewallace.wordpress.com Marie Wallace

      Thanks Nikki ;-)

  • http://twitter.com/nbussard Nikki Bussard (@nbussard)

    John, Count me in if a 22nd (?) slot opens up. @Marie, love the career dating agency idea.

  • John

    John – Late to the party but I am interested. Alumni discount for your free service? ;-)

    • http://johnstepper.wordpress.com John Stepper

      I was thinking of you and hoping you’d comment. If these first 20 sessions go as I hope, I will open up another round after Christmas. If not, then I’ll talk to you individually and you’ll benefit from the lessons learned in that first round!

  • http://aakagarwal.wordpress.com/ Aakriti

    Hi John, I am interested!

  • Aakriti Agarwal

    Hi John, I am interested!

  • Albert Marrero

    I’m interested

    • http://johnstepper.wordpress.com John Stepper

      Thanks, Albert. I hope to open up more slots after working with the first 20 people. If I do it would be after the holidays and I’ll reach out to people in the order they commented here. Looking forward to it.

  • todddavisjordan

    Hi John, I really appreciate what you are doing at DB. I’m fascinated by the possibilities of social networking within corporations – and how they can drive grassroots change in the company. I’m working on using it effectively from the software side of things where my passions are – I feel like I have a lot to learn. If you come visit the Cary,NC lab I’d love to chat.

    • http://johnstepper.wordpress.com John Stepper

      Thanks, Todd. I expect to be in Cary next year and will be sure to see you then.

  • Kieran Kelly

    Hi John, I’m interested. I’ve been following your blog closely and though I’ve missed the ‘first 20′ boat it would be great to connect at some point in there future. In the meantime I’ll make a real effort to work out loud. All the best.

    • http://johnstepper.wordpress.com John Stepper

      Thanks, Kieran. Your comment makes me want to open up another 20 slots even sooner!

  • http://www.facebook.com/frankgerhardhoffmann Frank Hoffmann

    Hi John, would like to be added to your interview list. Thanks. :-)

  • Mark G

    Always interested but far too slow… :-)

  • Bo P.

    I’m interested if there’s still a spot open

    • http://johnstepper.wordpress.com John Stepper

      Hello, Bo and Mark. Thanks for your comments. While the original 20 slots are taken, I may open up another 20 after Christmas depending on how the first set goes. I’ve already scheduled the first 5 for next week.

  • Geff

    I’m interested.

  • Flo

    Hi John, We haven’t spoken in a while but maybe you’ll find some time for me in your calendar before Christmas? I’m interested :-)

  • Amanda Sheng

    Hi John, it is a great post. I’m interested

  • http://twitter.com/KevinDJones Kevin D. Jones (@KevinDJones)

    Very well done, John. I have thought a lot about this same concept. I’d like to add one more reason they don’t buy the free insurance. Complacency masked as comfort. They have a job and hope that is stays (although we know hope is not a strategy). They get comfortable which grows to complacency. Not intentional, but it happens because their focus does not stay on maintaining that network. It takes time and energy and right now their time and energy is on keeping the job they have (your point #3). There is a part in us that wants everything to settle down and to not have to worry or always be on our toes.

    But, change is a’come’n and we need to be ready for it. This was a great warning/reminder post.

    • http://johnstepper.wordpress.com John Stepper

      Thanks, Kevin. Do you think complacency can be undone (reasonably)? The grads entering the firm aren’t complacent so it seems like it’s a learned helplessness at least in part. I’d hate to give up on what could be a large percentage of the workforce.

      • Marie-Louise Collard

        Kevin is right, we need to be ready for change but I don’t think one should underestimate
        your point 1 John “not knowing what to do” – and rather than” learned helplessness”, – fear of the unknown. Far from having tried it and not succeeded, perhaps they have never tried it and lack the “knowledge confidence” to put themselves out there. They fear their lack of reputation and how to build it effectively in order to take advantage of that free career insurance. Most people want to feel comfortable in their work place and progress in a meaningful way – but I’m not sure that should be mistaken for complacency, but rather a need to belong and find value in what they are doing and why they are doing it. Should they be given up on? They need you most.
        Thanks

        • http://johnstepper.wordpress.com John Stepper

          Thanks, Marie. It seems all of the barriers I listed are real, whatever the percentages. (If anything, I missed a few including “Considers working out loud unsuitable for introverts”.)

          So I’ll keep researching to help develop a more comprehensive approach while I try to tackle the basics of education (techniques), motivation (stories of others who’ve done it well), and ease (ie help people develop new habits).

  • Patrick Arnold

    I’m interested!

  • http://johnstepper.wordpress.com John Stepper

    The first 10 discussions have been excellent! I find each individual’s story to be fascinating. Some patterns are already emerging (one of which inspired the post on Working out loud & the rise of the introverts).

    I’m finishing scheduling the next 10 now and hope to have those discussions before I travel.

    Thank you again to everyone who commented.

    • http://twitter.com/twiliew C.C. Liew (@twiliew)

      That’s fascinating post, John! What an eye-opening way to share and offer help!
      Maybe that’s the way we can offer helps to our colleagues who still face difficulties to work out load. You make me curious about the “emerging” patterns…

      I hope you can share the patterns with us, and I’m looking forward to reading your next post.

  • http://johnstepper.wordpress.com John Stepper

    Thank you, C.C. I’ll be sure to write about the patterns I discover. The first pattern was that some people saw working out loud as “tooting their own horn” and not suitable for them. I wrote about that – and how working out loud might be especially good for such people – in “Working out loud & the rise of the introverts” – http://johnstepper.com/2012/12/01/working-out-loud-the-rise-of-the-introverts/

  • Hayley Webb

    Who wouldn’t want FREE Career Insurance? I’m Interested!

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  • James

    *jumps enthusiastically into the line. Oh, hi Hayley!

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  • Marc Kessler

    Hi John,

    came across your post when reading David Griffin’s blog on myDB.

    It’s been a while since you posted your blog entry and you mentioned you might open up slots again in the future. I relocated to NYC 3y ago, been with DB 10 so could do an in-person session.

    Best,

    Marc

    • http://johnstepper.wordpress.com John Stepper

      Hello, Marc. I’d be glad to meet you. Will send you a direct message.

      • David G

        Do I get commission or something here? :)

        • http://johnstepper.wordpress.com John Stepper

          David, you get 100% of my fee! (Sorry that’s still zero. :-))