Many people just let their career “happen” to them. People who really get ahead usually take a much more proactive approach and intentionally manage their career. In this post, we want to look at some things you can do to plan ahead.
1. Keep in contact
What you know is important, but whom you know may determine what opportunities present themselves. The whole idea of applying for a job where no one knows you is pretty antiquated. Yes, I know people still get jobs that way, but as the world becomes more interconnected, it is becoming more and more important to “know someone who knows someone” where you want to get a job.
How many people have you worked with in the past that you haven’t spoken with in years? Those lost contacts represent a lot of lost opportunities–not just for them to help you, but for you to help them. Some of the biggest consulting contracts I’ve had can be traced back to a co-worker from years ago with whom I kept in contact.
2. Manage your web presence
If you want to look good, you need to make sure you brush your teeth, comb your hair, tuck your shirt in, and most importantly, maintain a good presence on the web. I have a client right now who is looking for a software engineer. I’m helping in the interview process. The first thing I do when I get someone’s resume is type their name into Google along with a few broad keywords. What I can find out online carries a lot more weight than what gets put on a resume.
When you apply for a job, people are going to look you up online. Search for your name and see if you would hire someone based on what you find.
3. Change jobs before you stagnate
Your job should give you money, but it should also give you an increasing skill set. If all you are getting is a wage, it might be time to start looking for another position. If you spend the next 10 years at a job and learn no new skills, how viable do you think you’ll be on the job market? You need to be in a work zone where you are performing well for your employer, but still growing in your skill set.
Sometimes you may be able to get new experiences by just telling your boss you want more responsibility or to take on new challenges. However, if it isn’t an option, you may want to consider looking for a place that will keep challenging you.
4. Pursue education
Education comes in many forms. As mentioned above, experience is a great way to increase your skill set. Formal education is becoming easier and easier to obtain while working a full time job thanks to internet-based classes and courses tailored for working adults. Sometimes your employer may even pay for your tuition if you want to continue going to school.
There are a lot of options out there and more reputable schools are going online each year. I’ve been particularly impressed with the master’s degree programs from Harvard Extension School, but Stanford has what appears to be a good program as well and a number of state schools are offering online courses and degrees.
5. Watch for trends
The world changes quickly. Keeping track of which skills are in high demand can be a good way to make sure you are ahead of the curve. When I was in college studying music composition, I was paying for school by working in the IT department of a network of hospitals. They were just starting to get PCs and hook them up to each other. One of the first departments we “wired” was the accounting department. I remember one of the younger people in the office telling me that she wished she had gone into technology, but she chose accounting because she had been told that it was the field that would be in high demand. The advice she received was probably correct at one time, but it was out-of-date at the time she got out of college.
That is the problem with trends. Usually by the time they become obvious, it is too late to really take advantage of them. If you want to benefit from trends, you need to be able to spot them before they are obvious. For example, look at how the internet is changing the way real estate works. Traditionally, realtors have made a living off of the 6% commission from selling a house. The internet is making it easier than ever to match up buyers and sellers, so I’d be hesitant to launch into a career based on the traditional value provided by realtors.
There you have it. Five things you can do to be proactive about your career. But don’t stop with these five things. There are probably a lot of other things you can do to prepare today for your career needs tomorrow. If you have some suggestions, please add them to the comments.