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by Vault Careers | February 26, 2010


Inability to respond to a changing marketplace.

Failure to deal with the concept of dwindling resources.

Falling out of favor because of a shift in your perceived importance or relevance.

Lack of long term planning.

Each of the statements above aren't surprising in a week where a deal to save Hummer collapsed, likely signaling the end of the once-powerful brand. Indeed, if there's any brand that symbolizes the bubble economy, Hummer's it--the only thing that sets it apart from other high-profile failures of the period is that it's been allowed to succumb to market forces, rather than being bailed out.

Each of the statements above applies just as much to careerists in this day and age as they do to Hummer—and each, hopefully, are things that we should all be seeking to avoid, rather than things that are already affecting our careers. Here's how to avoid falling into the same trap that crushed Hummer:

Look beyond your own industry for things likely to affect it

It would be easy to argue that Hummer was simply a victim of the downturn, and that being blindsided along with the rest of us is the reason the brand got into trouble. We've known for a long time, however, that oil is a finite resource, and that consumers are becoming ever more keen on using less of it to conduct their day to day business. Hummer chose to ignore that (unless you count the H2 as a concession to the fuel-consumption conscious). Similarly, turning up at work and doing the same thing day in, day out while blinding yourself to what's going on elsewhere is that fastest route to career obsolescence. The need for continual career management and skills development has never been more pronounced than it is today. So if you see a new development on the horizon, learn about it.

Plan for the future, all the time

Even if you're in a safe job, in a safe industry (is that exactly the same thing as saying you work in healthcare?), that concept of looking towards the future to try and perceive what an employer would want from you should never be far from your thoughts. And part of that lies in envisioning several versions of the future—something the folks at Hummer don't seem to have done. (How else do you explain a luxury retailer having no backup plan for an economic downturn?) In good times, it's very tempting to do little more than the basics of what your job demands. But going the extra mile even when you don't have to can make the difference when the ax starts to fall during bad times. It's about more than just branding yourself, though: you have to actually prove your value—something that the folks at Hummer just couldn't maintain when gas prices started skyrocketing.

While it might seem a little strange to be comparing your career path to the rise and fall of a car company, it's clear that there are similar concepts at play. If you consider your career to be an exercising in building and maintaining your own personal brand, considering the missteps of one of the most marketable brands of the last decade can definitely help you to avoid making the same mistakes—at least in principle.

--Posted by Phil Stott,


Filed Under: Workplace Issues

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