Meet Your New Employee – The Career Activist

Peter Weddle

Way back in the dark ages of 2010, I wrote a book called The Career Activist Republic. It introduced a number of principles that, in retrospect, were probably ahead of their time. But, thanks to the Covid-19 pandemic, the global recession and the social justice movement, it has suddenly become more relevant than ever. Perhaps that’s why there’s been a dramatic increase in the number of visitors to The Career Activist Republic page on Facebook.

Now, before I go any further, I freely acknowledge that the book shows its age from time-to-time. A lot has changed in the world of work over the past decade. Nevertheless, the foundational principles of career activism remain as valid today as they were when the book was first published.

Why is that important to employers?

Because more and more workers – especially those who are top performers – are transforming themselves into Career Activists. They may not call themselves that, they may not have even heard of the term, but that’s how they’re acting. To recruit and retain them, therefore, employers have to (a) understand what career activism is and (b) adjust their value proposition for candidates and employees alike to support and advance that activism.

How Does an Employee Practice Career Activism?

The pandemic, the recession, the social justice movement have all made acquiring top talent critically important to an organization’s ultimate success. There are now more, not fewer openings for top talent in the job market. That reality makes the competition to acquire and hold on to these individuals even more intense. And, top talent is keenly aware of that fact and the power it gives them in the job market.

Those who decide to leverage that power are Career Activists. They are no longer willing to entrust the development and advancement of their career to an employer. They recognize two truisms in the modern world of work: first, layoffs are likely to increase as companies deal with the recession and move to automation to reduce costs, and even top performers aren’t immune from them. And second, top performers are likely to work for a number of employers over the course of their career, and they can either be in charge of those changes or their victim.

Given those truisms and their power in the job market, Career Activists make it their responsibility to find and take jobs that not only work for their employer, but for them as well. The financial reward must be commensurate with their contribution, to be sure, but just as important, each position must enable them to grow in their field and in their ability to take on ever more challenging roles. It must strengthen their ability to advance themselves in the workplace.

That perspective reflects a commitment to their talent, a word that is used frequently in employment, but is little understood by employees. While talent is a universal human characteristic – as fundamental to our species as our opposable thumb – most workers have never been taught how to discover their talent or been encouraged to do so. And, that’s what makes a top performer different.

They see themselves as a person of talent. They know what their talent is, they are determined to protect and nurture it, and they get great satisfaction from using it at work. To them, talent is their capacity for excellence and their stepping stone to fulfillment. It is expressed in a skill or occupational field, but it is something more basic. It is the intersection of their passion and ability.

While there are a host of other attributes shared by Career Activists, those two – a commitment to career self-management and to the optimization of their talent – are the most important. The best way for an employer to recruit and retain them, therefore, is to be an enabler of career activism. It should use its recruitment marketing, career site, job postings, internal messaging and leadership to highlight the values, programs and opportunities it offers to support career activism AND THEN it should use every resource it can muster to deliver that support within the organization.

Food for Thought,

Peter Weddle is the author or editor of over two dozen books and a former columnist for The Wall Street Journal. He is also the founder and CEO of TAtech: The Association for Talent Acquisition Solutions. You can check out his latest books on Amazon or in the TAtech Bookstore.

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