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Your Career in the Post-Recession Workplace

By Aubrey Bloom, University of Houston

On June 8th 2010, the EMPOWER Program at the University of Houston hosted their inaugural Leadership Luncheon on campus at the University Hilton. The luncheon focused on helping participants to prepare for careers in the post-recession workplace. The event was led by a panel of experts including Kathi Crawford, SPHR, IAC-CC, President of People Possibilities LLC, Cheryl Smith-Bryan, Executive Coach and President of Coaching for Career Success, Kathy Rapp, Vice President and Managing Director for hrQ-Texas and Mercedes Suraty-Clarke, Assistant Director of Continuing Education at the University of Houston.

Guy Felder, Program Director for the University of Houston EMPOWER Leadership Program, opened the luncheon with a presentation about the concept of organizational flattening. One of the trends in the post-recession era that is expected to continue, he said, is a movement away from an emphasis on technical skills and toward emotional intelligence. According to Felder, it is becoming increasingly important to be able to work with diverse groups of people in a variety of situations. In the past, advancement within an organization was based on the ability to perform tasks. While technical skill is still important, often it has become secondary to the ability to motivate others and collaborate with co-workers. As a result, career paths often no longer go “up.” Modern career paths can involve constantly shifting roles across multiple departments or organizations. To read more of Guy’s views, check out his blog “Work Need Not Feel Like Work.”

Following Felder’s presentation, the panel shared ways in which you can prepare yourself for the modern workplace. The topic that participants were most interested in was awareness of your personal brand. The panel agreed that in the post-recession era, it is important to showcase not only your ability to perform in the role you have, but also to demonstrate your ability to perform in roles you want to move into. This is key in interviewing for new roles. A growing trend is demonstrating not how a prospective employee fits a role, but how a role fits them. Companies want to hire dynamic individuals who can influence beyond their title. Your title in your imagination is as important for your career advancement as the title on your door.

Much of the conversation also focused on how we work with those around us in the workplace. Emotional Intelligence (“EI”), as coined by Daniel Goleman, who wrote a book by the same name in 1994, has become an integral skill for the modern workplace. The basic components of EI (self awareness, self management, social awareness and relationship management) are vital to effective communication, building relationships and increasing productivity. An increased awareness of how we behave and what others need from us can easily bridge behavioral and cultural gaps in the workplace.

Participants in the luncheon came away with a better understanding of the current trends in the workplace, and some advice on how to get the tools they’ll need to succeed. The biggest theme that came across throughout the luncheon was awareness. Awareness of the roles you have held compared to the roles you see yourself in moving forward. Awareness of how your personal brand affects the role you currently hold in your company. Most importantly, awareness of how your Emotional Intelligence influences yourself and those around you.

The host of the luncheon, the University of Houston EMPOWER program, has a course designed to increase understanding of Emotional Intellegence and how it affects the workplace called the EMPOWER Leadership Fundamentals Certificate Program. People interested in the program can visit the program website.

Aubrey Bloom is a freelance writer and the Program Coordinator for Continuing Education at the University Houston. Aubrey’s passion for writing is mostly around sports. If you want more, you can follow Aubrey’s blog “A Bloom With a View.”

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