Six tips from successful professionals on how to manage your career

I meet regularly with people who are looking for work.  I’ve met with hundreds of professionals who are either entry level job seekers or mid-level managers who are looking to progress their careers to the next level.   I meet with senior VPs who are unsatisfied with their jobs or are looking to transition to other industries.

Managing your career means constantly preparing yourself for the next path in your career journey.  From the moment you begin your career as an entry level employee it is important to constantly assess, anticipate and analyze your next move.   What are your career goals and how can you achieve them? 

Preparing yourself is not only to fulfill the desire to be promoted or to transition, but it is also a huge insurance policy in the event that you lose your job. 

Probably the most important question you need to ask yourself:  In the event you lost your job, are you prepared and positioned to begin looking for a new job?   Are you comfortable that you’d be pretty well established and connected in your industry or career sector to easily find a new job at the same responsibility and salary level?

Here are six tips that successful professionals use to manage their careers. 

1.) Understand the opportunities that will help you fulfill your current career goals.

One of the first things to consider when researching a potential employer are the opportunities for promotion; does this company have a record of hiring from within, from training, encouraging and actively working with their employees to progress upwards?  Also consider the department within the company.  Is it a small group that offers few opportunities?  If so, is it possible to transfer your skills through a promotion to another department?  It’s a legitimate and reasonable question to ask about promotion opportunities when you are being interviewed for a new position. 

It is also reasonable to ask the question about education reimbursement benefits.  Many companies will reimburse all or a portion of classes, seminars, association dues, professional development activities and other education and training opportunities.  Your increased education should be a consideration for future promotions as well.

2.) Network, network, network!!!  Get out from behind your desk.  Join a professional association, volunteer and participate in your industry and your community.

All too often, professionals who are laid off find themselves without a robust network of contacts to help them with their new job search.  In our goals to be successful at work, we often find ourselves spending every waking moment behind our desks missing terrific opportunities to network in any meaningful way with our industry peers and our community.  Our lack of connections can also add to a perceived lack of value. 

Creating a robust rolodex of friends, associates and connectors helps job seekers in many ways.

How do you get more connected in your community and in your industry?

PARTICIPATE! 

Join an association, your local chamber of commerce, rotary club or another community or business organization.  Serve on the boards of these organizations, adopt a project and put your skills to use.

In the same way, use your skills to assist a local nonprofit or at the least, take on a pro-bono project for a local charity.  Your expertise will be welcome to a local nonprofit who views you as a third-party expert that can assist them on a variety of levels.  In addition, many high-profile and powerful community and business leaders are involved in local charity work and it expands your connections.

Bottom line – here’s what networking does:

  • Helps you to connect and meet peers, associates and movers and shakers.
  • Folks get to meet you face-to-face.
  • It helps you get noticed and gives your name familiarity in your profession.
  • It teaches you about different industries and organizations and new aspects of your chosen profession.
  • It helps you find different business opportunities for your current job.
  • It gives you speaking opportunities to show off your talents and skills.
  • It gives you new information about new trends in your chosen field.
  • You can become an expert in a different area.

3.) Always return phone calls and emails. 

There’s nothing more deafening than the sound of silence when, in your desperation to find a job, your phone calls are not returned or your emails go unanswered.

I know we all get consumed with the day-to-day stress of hundreds of emails, phone calls, etc., but everyone needs a system to return messages.  I try, at least 3 times per-week to designate at least 1.5 hours to go through my email box and my voicemail and return emails and phone calls. 

I’m not always perfect, but I had an employee who just figured it wasn’t necessary.  I’d get complaints from CEO’s of major company partners complaining that they were unable to reach this colleague!  Not even an acknowledgement or referring on a request or message to an underling to return.  Nothing!

It makes it very difficult when you are suddenly in a position of needing assistance and scratching your head as to why you are not taken seriously.

4.) Always promote your successes.  There’s no such thing as modesty when your hard work has created something noteworthy.

When you achieve something that is notable, it is critical to promote that achievement.  For example, most major professional associations have annual awards to recognize significant achievements.  Participating in these awards competitions, helps to create awareness amongst your peers, and it also adds another highlight to your resume/portfolio.

In addition, when a significant achievement is notable, promote it locally to your local business section or business publication and to national trade and industry media.  Your achievement can most likely be noted as trendsetting and your reputation for creativity will be noticed.

5.) Keep a regularly updated ‘career journal’.

In this journal, constantly keep notes of different skills and levels of expertise that you are utilizing in your job. 

Constantly keep notes on the major projects that you are involved and describe the four levels of a project’s success – development, strategy, execution and results.  This type of discipline will help you to think and analyze how your skills and talents are developing.  More importantly, you’ll be able to discuss in greater detail with future employers the level of energy and talent that it required to achieve success in your career.

6.) ALWAYS keep your resume and portfolio updated. 

Spend a dedicated amount of time each month reviewing your resume.  Keep a file that you can keep store your work product for your portfolio.  This is an important exercise that will benefit you in so many different ways now and in the future.

A resume is an important tool for your job search and you need to keep it current and make sure that you are revising it to match your skills and your career goals.  In addition, a robust portfolio of your work product will help you promote your career and makes sure that if you are laid off, you access to your work product.

There are a massive amount of websites and books that can help you best set up the ‘perfect’ resume and portfolio.  Take advantage of the advice and guidance that is currently available.

Bottom Line:

It’s human nature to reach a comfort level when you are in a job that seems to be stable.  However, its also human nature to want to progress, constantly learn and succeed in our professional lives.

Much like an insurance policy or a 401k, we need to constantly manage and invest in our careers through networking, promoting ourselves and keeping our resumes and portfolios up-to-date.

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