CenterNetworks’ Allen Stern brought up an interesting conversation last week that I think is worth touching on. He created a great video post that asked, in a time when the economy is as stable as New England weather and layoffs are hitting the technology industry hard, are you employable or are you just employed? It was one of those posts that stopped me in my tracks and made me think.
First off, what’s the difference between the terms?
Allen defines them this way:
- Employed: You’re going in, doing your job and then going home.
- Employable: You’re going in, doing your job and then doing more than your job.
As Allen mentions, being employable doesn’t necessarily mean doing more work. If means taking advantage of more opportunities. Taking advantage of every opportunity.
The conversation caught my eye because it’s one we don’t see in the SEO community very often. There’s always lots of talk about how you should first learn about SEO. There’s plenty of documentation on the best blogs, forum threads and sites to get you up-to-speed on the basics. However, there’s not much conversation about what people are doing to stay informed. What they’re doing to constantly increase that knowledge level. To stay relevant to people.
It’s easy to be employed. Being employable takes a bit more effort.
You also have to consider this concept in terms of your company, as well. As the market gets tighter, businesses are going to look closer at SEO as a way to save money on marketing costs and build authority. And when they go looking, they’re going to be interviewing companies harder, trying to find the most well-rounded, employable SEO company out there. The one who has differentiated itself from the rest. What are they going to find when they look at you?
Here are some ways I think companies and employees can remain employable:
Expand Product Offerings: It doesn’t matter if you’re an individual or a company, you have to be able to prove that you’re more than what you were 10 years ago. It is no longer 1998. In fact, it hasn’t been for quite some time now. If you’re still running your business or hailing the same qualifications as you were back when Usher was in his heyday, then you probably want to take a look at that. If you’re an employee, look for new opportunities to grow your skill set. Don’t work more; work smarter. If you’re a writer, read everything you can get your hands on to familiarize yourself with what’s hot and what people are responding to. If you’re a programmer, learn every language available, not just the one your company is using inhouse. Your company may be the one employing you today, but you want to make sure you’re employable to all.
A lot of companies rely on the same old tricks, hoping that what worked a few year ago holds true today. In most cases, it doesn’t. Or at least, it won’t forever. I’ll point to We Build Pages as a very public example of this. We’re significantly increasing our line of services in preparation for the future. That doesn’t mean the old stuff that we’ve been doing doesn’t work (it does work. It works very, very well. ) but we know that the search engine algorithms are constantly evolving and that there may come a time when it’s less effective. By acting now, we’re making sure our clients are always ahead of the game and never have to question their rankings.
Be Immersed In The Industry: Unless being totally and completely adorable counts, I don’t have too many employable traits. However, I am immersed in the SEO world. That means I’m better able to pick out the hot conversations, I know what folks in the space are interested in/worried about, and I have an easier time separating the sky-is-falling threads from information the We Build Pages audience actually needs to hear. It means I have (some) value and is likely the only reason why I’m not living in my parent’s basement right now.
As both a company and an employee, you need to become an information hound, taking in absolutely everything you can. Otherwise, you’re going to fall behind. If you’re too busy to do it yourself, task someone with the responsibility of keeping you informed. Let them pick out the important news for you and then put it on your desk to read. But you actually have to read it! And you have to find a way to keep your hands in the space you’re dealing with. You can’t assume that simply reading about the new tactics in your industry is enough. It’s not. You absolutely have to keep experimenting and getting those hands dirty. Once you stop testing and your collar gets too white, you’re useless to pretty much everyone who’s not just friends with you for your money.
Spend a Weekend Away From Your Industry: You know how if you repeat a word too many times it starts to sound like total gibberish? (Go head, try it. We won’t laugh.) Well, your brain suffers the same mush effect when you spend too much time doing the same thing all day, every day, with no relief. Spend some time venturing out into neighboring industries to give your brain a break from the repetitive conversations and to open your eyes to new opportunities and ideas. Attend conferences that complement what you do to put yourself in contact with new faces and broaden your reach.
I think the SEO community is rare in that there are considerably more employable people than there are simply employed. Perhaps it’s because we’re all just giant nerds, but most of us have a passion and a thirst to always be on the top of our game and exceed even our own expectations. That means we’re not content to be dinosaurs. Or at least that’s my impression.
What say you? What have you done to stay relevant and employable in your space?