• Sunday, July 14, 2024
businessday logo


Leveraging on cut-backs for progressive career strategy

Leveraging on cut-backs for progressive career strategy

The recent announcements of major international organisations leaving Nigeria have escalated the significant rise in operational cutbacks, job losses, and the economy’s instability as a whole.

The employment market is more stringent yet strategic. So, for professionals, it’s truly a game of survival to secure a tangible role in their desired expertise and thrive and sustain their existing careers in a time of pure uncertainty.

In the wake of this exit, the economy has been rocked once again, and the commotion has forced organisations to retreat to the boardroom to restructure their operations, re-strategize their market presence and visibility, and build unconventional roadmaps and contingency plans that are fit for purpose, are sufficiently sustainable, and demonstrate steady, scalable growth that can be adopted in both local and international markets.

The exit of global organisations from the Nigerian market is both a blessing and a curse. A curse in the sense that though it has put a further dent in the Nigerian economy and its GDP, it has also created a unique opportunity to develop a Nigerian-owned eco-cycle that heightens the capacity for local competitors and innovative brands to thrive and penetrate terrains that were once dominated by their “goliaths,” also known as international brands.

For professionals and jobseekers, this also opens up and diversifies the employment market because the “newly gingered” local businesses are encouraged to invest more resources in their operations now that the competition is no longer companies who held size and market penetration as an advantage; they can now refocus their efforts on driving innovation and consumer acquisition with their peers on a level playing field.

This also means that the hunt for talent will be cutthroat; even though the market will open for more jobs, the calibre of candidates they will seek will be more dynamic and diversified than ever before. This is because businesses will still “separate the wheat from the chaff” and streamline their workforce to guarantee business continuity by categorising them into “necessities’ and “dispensables.”

The “necessities” are the professionals who have acquired cross-functional skills that complement each other without compromising their core expertise.

For example, a product manager can be a certified project manager with a certification in sales strategy and data science. This professional will understand how to conduct market research, design its segmentation, and use data science to manipulate those findings to develop multiple strategies to execute bespoke projects.

The ‘dispensables’ are professionals who have excelled in their profession but are focused on developing their expertise as subject matter experts as opposed to diversified upskilling. For example, if you are an accountant, you may have worked your way up to an assistant finance manager, a finance manager, or maybe even a CFO, but you didn’t acquire any additional complementary or transferable skills outside of your remit. While this is not necessarily a ‘bad thing’ it limits your opportunities for progression in a very dynamic market where the evolution is constant.

The advantage of being multi-skilled is the ability to function in environments where no day will ever be the same and define yourself as an integral member of the team within an organisation that operates with a lean or flat structure. Not only will this heighten your chances of job security and monetise your expertise strategically by creating value, you will also be able to develop a niche where all these skills can intertwine and differentiate yourself as a unique subject matter expert who has created its own genre in a world where the calibre of talented professionals is many and opportunities are few.

So as a professional seeking career advancement, initiating a transition, or venturing into a new market, sector, or area of expertise, you need to incorporate the following into your career strategy:

Start with yourself. Look at yourself as a business within a business; you are the operations, marketing, and finance expert. The moment you view yourself as a brand, the more confidence you build when leveraging your value in the market.

Build an ecosystem. Look at the various business areas that overlay or provide dotted reporting lines to your department. For example, business analysts would have a dotted-line hierarchy for the sales team to gather their findings as an integral part of any strategic analysis and user case study.

The business analyst would also translate those findings to the IT department so they can contribute to building a strategy that will enable the technical team to execute projects successfully.

Using my previous example of a product manager, imagine you developed skills in IT, sales, project management, and business analysis. The likelihood of an organisation letting you go as part of their new lean restructuring is highly slim because you have positioned yourself as a “necessity” that can wear many hats without compromising your core.

The truth is, when the board, executives, and CEO gather to analyse the financial stability and strength of their organisation, it doesn’t take them long to realise that it’s more cost-effective as a business to increase the remuneration of a current employee who has multiple skills they can utilise than to hire or retain four people with individual yet valid expertise. This thought process derives from the economy we find ourselves in; there is no security for tomorrow. We cannot categorically predict what trends and variables will impact the GDP, business continuity initiatives, and the market in its entirety, whether it be to their advantage or disadvantage, their profit or their loss.

In light of this, businesses are attempting to strategically recession-proof themselves to ride whichever wave may carry them into unfamiliar waters and retain or hire professionals with a multifaceted skill set who are ready to ride the storm and conquer new territory amidst the uncertainty.

So, what skills can you develop to remain recession-proof?

Project management is the ability to not just see a project from start to finish but also the intricacies that come with it, for example, executing excellent deliverables with budget constraints because you have built a cost-effective yet robust preferred supplier vendor list, so quality is not compromised.

Data—not just in its rawest form from a quantitative and qualitative research perspective, but how to manipulate it to identify business trends, financial forecasts, consumer behaviour, and market/business intelligence. Moreover, understanding artificial intelligence (AI) will increase the accuracy and conversion of your data by pulling information from a robust pool of resources. Data is the bedrock of every organisation, so understanding its importance in driving business decisions is a key attribute to have.

Strategy: understanding not just your expertise but where it fits in the grand scheme of things, i.e., corporate objectives. Taking it “one step” further, how integral is your role to your sector, and how much do you understand about the intelligence of your industry to leverage when educating the market about your value?

So, build a recession-proof career strategy that translates into leveraging your value in a market where opportunities are curated and talented professionals are many.

About the author:

Oyelade is an EMEA talent acquisition and employability leader with an extensive career spanning across Europe, the Middle East, North America, and sub-Saharan Africa. She works with organisations on bespoke projects that include talent strategy, diversity and inclusion, people and culture design, and organisation transformation.