01/19/2012 05:33 pm ET Updated Mar 20, 2012

In 2012 Career Success Is Up to You!

Today's constantly changing workplace challenges us to continually update our skills, keep abreast of trends on a global scale, and reinvent ourselves to remain successful. Like many other aspects of life, there is a good news/bad news scenario to this current state of affairs.

The bad news is that the job security we knew in our youth is virtually nonexistent. Downsizings, layoffs and reorganizations are now daily occurrences. Moreover, this destabilization is taking place within industries (such as finance and banking) that we formerly viewed as being the most secure. The days of the corporation as family á la "Ma Bell" are gone.

However, despite the ongoing assaults to our sense of equilibrium, there is plenty of resulting good news to be found in the modern workplace. No longer are we stuck in longstanding careers that hold little promise or professional reward. We are freed up to chart our own course. In fact, it's best to consider ourselves as entrepreneurs and/or consultants whether we're self-employed or getting a paycheck from someone else.

Here are four career realities of 2012 you'll want to bear in mind:

  • The new job security -- You're considered only as valuable as the skills you offer, the problems you can solve, and the ideas you present. Job security is no longer met through external structures. Rather it is experienced by way of internal direction, innovation and preparation.
  • Flexibility is key -- The ladder of advancement is more likely to be horizontal rather than vertical (i.e., increased skills, experience and training rather than enhanced job titles). Recognize you are the master of your own destiny. Take a proactive approach to your career by keeping current with the demands of the times, identifying opportunities as they arise, and consistently reevaluating your direction.
  • You have to market yourself -- Whether you're in a job search, vying for opportunities within an organization, or attracting clients or customers to your own business, you'll need to market yourself as a valuable problem-solver. Although tooting one's own horn is anathema to many, it's a necessary skill. And you can learn it!
  • It's generally helpful to think of yourself as selling a product -- and that product is you! You'll need to define the product (you) with well-chosen descriptive words, differentiate it from other products, and identify its benefits (how employing you as a problem solver will bring value to the organization). To substantiate your claims, you'll want to describe problems you have solved in the past, the skills you used, and the positive results you achieved. This way you'll be providing a framework for demonstrating what you're capable of accomplishing in the future.

Managing your career in 2012 is a bit like piloting a boat. In order to avoid being blown adrift by the winds of change, you have to adjust your sails, keep your eyes on the horizon, and proceed on your chosen course. Focus, flexibility, preparation and planning are all essential components for successful sailing. These same qualities will keep you moving towards your goals... even in the choppy waters of today's workplace.

Mary Eileen Williams is a Nationally Board Certified Career Counselor with a Master's Degree in Career Development and twenty years' experience assisting midlife jobseekers to achieve satisfying careers. Her book, >Land the Job You Love: 10 Surefire Strategies for Jobseekers Over 50, is a step-by-step guide that helps you turn your age into an advantage. It's packed with information providing mature applicants with the tools to successfully navigate the modern job market and gain the edge over the competition. Visit her website at Feisty Side of and celebrate your sassy side!