Obviously, a staffer can't be in five different industries or permutations of her job description at once. But the more hats you wear, skills you hone and business sectors you dabble in throughout your career, the more employable you'll be during hard times like these. Likewise, if you dabble in teaching, consulting and public speaking, you not only add a few new skills to your resume, you bring home a little extra bacon and spread the word about your expertise to potential employers.
Long story short: The days of slotting into one nice, neat job description are over.
Having a fat Rolodex (virtual or otherwise) is a must for free agents looking to line up new work in a jiffy. But in case you didn't get the memo, the time for nine-to-fivers to make professional connections is also now, while you still have a job. After all, the person you help with an introduction to your company's HR manager today may be the person who hooks you up with a job lead or critical contact tomorrow.
Employed or not, if you can't name at least 10 people you've met since the summer through an online community, industry event or social gathering -- that is, people you'd feel comfortable e-mailing with a question about your career -- it's time to get off your duff and start shaking hands. With all the holiday parties coming up, meeting 10 people by year's end should be a breeze.
I know some employees experience something along the lines of an existential meltdown any time they need to update their resumes and hone their interviewing chops to impress a potential employer. But it doesn't have to be this way.
Making networking a regular part of your work life as I just mentioned forces you to keep your resume, references and work samples up to date. Because once you start networking, you're going to be passing around your CV (and, if you have one, portfolio) like crazy, and you'll want it to look its Sunday best. If you need an added incentive, try putting your resume on a Web site like VisualCV, which lets you add images, audio, video and documents to it. Nothing shames you into updating your resume faster than slapping it online for the world to see.
More important, building networking into your routine gives you ample practice telling people who you are, what you do and how much you cost, just as a free agent would. Suddenly, none of these conversations will seem traumatic. Instead, they'll become second nature, until, lo and behold, you actually feel confident spouting off about your work experience, expectations from a prospective employer and going rate.
In fact, you may get so good at it, you'll put me out of a job.
This work is the opinion of the columnist and in no way reflects the opinion of ABC News.
Michelle Goodman is a freelance journalist, author and former cubicle dweller. Her books — "The Anti 9-to-5 Guide: Practical Career Advice for Women Who Think Outside the Cube" and "My So-Called Freelance Life: How to Survive and Thrive as a Creative Professional for Hire" (October 2008) — offer an irreverent take on the traditional career guide. More tips on career change, flex work and the freelance life can be found on her blog, Anti9to5Guide.com.