This Year, I Resolve to Hide and/or Remove My Tattoo

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Career advisers love to prognosticate about the coming year: the number of layoffs, the size of your bonus, what kind of shrimp they’ll serve at the holiday party. Equally popular among HR professionals are career-related New Year’s resolutions. Along with turning flab to fab and memorizing your kids’ teachers’ names, it seems office workers start each year aquiver with the possibilities of achieving career milestones over the next 365 days.

One well-known recruiter, Dale Winston, chief executive of Battalia Winston International, advises creating a board of advisers. In an article titled “Eight Ways to Enhance Your Career,” Winston tells The Wall Street Journal:

Find two or three people you admire, and take each one to lunch a few times this year. Look to your advisers for counsel, feedback on your career progress and introductions to new people or ideas. The ideal board will include someone at work who understands your company better than you do, someone within your industry who has a broad sense of what’s happening in the field, and a third person who understands what you want from life.

Got that? Just make sure your board agrees to backdate your stock options. Seriously, I don’t know what kind of person would read that advice and think, Hey, I never thought of that–I ought to have supportive people playing key roles in my life! But then again, we office workers tend to wear blinders when it comes to our own careers; we can’t see the corner office for the cubicles.

That’s where advisers like John Challenger come in. He’s a widely quoted HR pro–CEO of the Chicago-based global outplacement consultants Challenger, Gray & Christmas–whom I’ve known for many years and who’s a no-B.S. kind of guy when it comes to career advice. So when I saw a release from his office titled “2007 WORKPLACE RESOLUTIONS!”–all-caps and the exclamation point his–I had to call for some explanations.

RESOLUTION: Start a MySpace Page. More companies are searching the Internet for more information about candidates, so create a professional-looking page that tells them you are exceptional. With more than 67 million members, MySpace is also a valuable networking tool.
Work in Progress: Seriously?
John Challenger: I feel like social networking is here to stay. We’re increasingly seeing that employers do want to take a look at what’s out there. A MySpace page is my ideal conception of myself–my social self. But we’re more and more going to need something that’s an ideal conception of my professional self. People just out of college who might already have a MySpace page are saying, I don’t want to be seen as a nerd but I recognize that I have to edit my page in case an employer sees it. Or they’re creating a separate account elsewhere for professional use. The site LinkedIn is the adult MySpace. I think it’s reaching a tipping point.
WIP: Would you list your MySpace page on a resume?
JC: I think that’s not a bad idea. I haven’t seen it start to happen a lot yet. But if you’re in sales, and you’re highly networked and it shows, that’ll make an employer more interested in you.
WIP: Are recruiters trolling social networking sites for candidates?
JC: Some are. Look, it’s not a sine qua non yet–you don’t absolutely have to have it. But it’s free. And it may not be for long.
WIP: Are we going to see social networking sites geared specifically for job searches in ’07?
JC: Absolutely. It’s inevitable. In many ways, they’re web 2.0 Rolodexes. It’s like your Microsoft Outlook Rolodex, squared.

RESOLUTION: Meet your boss’s boss. At the next company event, go out of your way to meet those at least two rungs higher on the corporate ladder. They are the ones who can advance your career.
WIP: How do you do that without seeming like a total–
JC: –brown noser? Easy: at company events. And the more of these events you go to, the more chances you get at that. I do think you have to be intentional about it. And you have to work at becoming capable at it. If you’re an extrovert you can do this naturally. It certainly was not true for me for most of my life. I made a decision that I had to change. The way you do it is by making a point of asking people you do know to introduce you. The more times you go to these events, the more people you’ll know.

RESOLUTION: Attend all after-hours company functions. Do not skip the company picnic or holiday party, even if attendance is not required. These are excellent opportunities to socialize with others in your organization, including high-level executives.
WIP: Come on. All of them?
JC: The world is about relationships. Of course it’s also about the quality of your work, but there are a lot of really talented people who don’t get the promotions or the plum assignments or get recognized for what they do because they don’t work at building relationships. Companies are communities. The more engaged you are, the more insulated you are from layoffs, giving you an edge, or support, in putting you out there. The more you participate, the more in the center you are. Going to all events–all–means you build stronger relationships.

RESOLUTION: Meet 10 new people in your field but outside of your company. Building these relationships may help you in your current position and they will definitely help when you enter the job market.
WIP: Why would you do that?
JC: When people start their job searches and only then start to do this, they’re behind. Not only will you find a better job more quickly when you are let go, you’re much more likely to be picked out when you’re working [by a new employer]. A lot of people who do this find jobs while they’re working. Those who lost their jobs say, I put my head down and did my work–never again. This year, I’ll devote 10% of my time to getting out there.

RESOLUTION: Remove/cover tattoos. While body art is becoming more common and more accepted in some offices, many still find it unprofessional.
WIP: But it’s 2007. Who doesn’t have a tattoo these days? And if you’re a good worker, does anyone really care?
JC: We’ve been talking a lot about this lately. A tattoo is sort of like an angry blog–once you put it out there, it’s really hard to take down. It’s more or less permanent. As you hit 25, you think about your professional life, and if you’ve got some embarrassing tattoos that don’t present you in a professional way, you might want to wear clothing to hide them. Yes, I do think it’s far more socially acceptable. But realistically, people also hit a point in their lives when they begin to say, Is this appropriate? Your identity that’s tied in with that tattoo begins to change.

So my mama was right. Dang.