The key to being in-demand your entire career: Be a 'producer'

From January 2010 to February 2013, the average unemployment rate was 8.8 percent, a stark contrast to the average of 5.3 percent from January 2003 to December 2006. Though the unemployment rate - currently at its lowest point since 2009 - has begun to improve, it is a slow recovery; the percentage of unemployed Americans out of work for more than one year has skyrocketed from 10 percent in 2007 to more than 30 percent today, according to The Pew Charitable Trusts.

Despite the competitive employment outlook, certain individuals seem to remain employed no matter how dismal the job climate. These professionals are the first to receive offers when companies are in acquisition mode and are rarely laid off during lean times. Their seemingly “charmed” reality is far removed from the struggles experienced by the vast majority of their peers, and inevitably begs the question: What is the secret to their success? The answer is simple - they possess the skills that keep them in demand.

Career expert Bill van Steenis, frequent speaker at colleges and universities across the country and author of “In-Demand: How to Get Hired, Develop a Career and Always be Successful,” offers a three-part formula for staying in-demand:

1. Solve a problem. Every successful career begins with the critical understanding of why people are hired in the first place: to solve a problem that a company or organization doesn’t have the resources to solve from within. It is important to remember that filling an open position is about what’s best for the company, not you. “If you aren’t achieving results, they’ll find someone who will,” says van Steenis.

2. Be competent. Possessing competence in your field may sound obvious, but according to van Steenis, it’s imperative for individuals to stay current and remain relevant. “Employers don’t hire you for your ability to theorize. They hire you because they know you’re capable of doing what they need you to do,” says van Steenis. This is especially critical for those either pursuing or expecting to pursue a college degree.

When selecting a university, it is important to consider schools that can provide hands-on learning and experiences from professors working in fields related to the courses they teach. Ensuring you will be able to demonstrate competence upon graduation is vital during your job search.

“Colleges and universities are shifting their mentalities to career-focused educations in order to adapt to the changing job market and address America’s skills gap,” says van Steenis. “DeVry University, for example, works with Fortune 100 companies to develop curriculum that prepares its students for emerging job opportunities, to ensure that graduates are ready to add value from Day One of receiving their first career opportunities.”

3. Produce. “My father always told me – ‘the world pays for producers – be one,’” says van Steenis. “You may be able to solve a problem, you may be highly competent; however, the key to staying in-demand is to be a producer.”

Organizations look for all the signs of a good candidate when hiring, but once that employee begins the job, the only question is, “How are you helping the company?” Employees that produce are the least likely to be let go despite rough economic conditions, and the first to be recruited when openings become available.

To read the full article, please visit the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's website.

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DeVry University strives to close society’s opportunity gap by preparing learners to thrive in careers shaped by continuous technological change. Founded in 1931, the university offers undergraduate and graduate programs onsite and online in Business, Healthcare and Technology. DeVry University is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission (HLC, The university’s Keller Graduate School of Management is included in this accreditation. To learn more, visit