It is that time of year where many people take a moment to reflect on what they want to do differently in 2018. Many people strive for resolutions related to health, family, or many other topical areas. In this article, I would like to challenge you to add at least one (or more) career resolutions to your list. Whether you are currently job seeking or not, this is still highly relevant to you. Your career and job change preparation is not a onetime task, it is an ongoing process that changes over time and requires attention throughout your career in order to meet your goals, be ready for changes, and to put your best foot forward. Please peruse some of the options I have provided and commit to at least one to set yourself up for success in 2018 and beyond!
- Work towards employability instead of just employment.
Employment is defined simply as the condition of having paid work. However, employability is different in that it is more so a set of achievements, career awareness, and personal attributes that makes a person more likely to gain employment on an ongoing basis and to be successful in their chosen field. With the new norm of workers changing jobs more frequently than previous decades, this is even more important. You become employable when you (just to name a few):
- Can articulate verbally and in writing your work results.
- Understand the skills and experience needed for your potential next roles.
- Close any gaps in knowledge, skills, and experience for potential next roles.
- Network and gain insights from other professionals on how to make yourself marketable for potential next roles.
- Have a vision of potential next roles you would want while still in a current role.
- Initially seek your next role(s) while still in your current role.
- Are known as a potential fit for future roles before they become open.
- Update all of your communication to position yourself for your next role.
Especially when you are not job seeking, you should update your resume about every six months to keep track of key information like tangible metrics to prove your achievements. You should also treat your communication – whether it is your resume, LinkedIn Profile, elevator pitch, and more like living pieces of communication and update regularly.
- Learn more about potential next steps in your career.
Whether you are looking at a new role in your current company or a new role at a new company, you should already have an idea of what you want well before you are ready to make the move. You should engage in activities such as informational interviewing to better understand your fit, how you need to market yourself, and any potential gaps you will need to either fill or be prepared to talk about. In doing so, not only do you gain needed information on how to talk about yourself in a way that aligns with what you are seeking as well as being highly relevant to the reader/listener, but you also start gaining buy-in from those who can help you make your next step. You should gain knowledge of what skills and experience you need to put in your written and verbal communication that most appeals to the reader/listener vs. generally talking about yourself. Seek to optimize the percentage of your messaging (again either verbally or in writing) that directly appeals to the listener/reader. The potential pitfall if you do not do this is that you could come across as a less than ideal candidate if your message is muddled with irrelevant information.
- Conduct research into potential next steps, especially if you are not sure where to start.
Read my article that covers some of the very basics of research – there is much more about this that I hope to write about in the future. You can engage in thoughtful and regular research habits by setting weekly goals for yourself. In doing so, you accumulate a wealth of knowledge over time that sets you up for success – particularly in your written and verbal communication (yes I am mentioning those two things again as they are highly important). Set S.M.A.R.T goals weekly (specific, measurable, action-oriented, realistic, and time-bound). Perhaps you are looking to break into a new industry and decide to read industry related publications and articles each week to keep current with major topics and shifts, and to learn the language and terminology that are important to that industry. Perhaps you start curating your target list of companies if you are seeking a new company. Or, perhaps you keep tabs on your current company and industry so you can see themes in where your company may be heading and how that might fit your agenda. These are just a few I am naming, but there are many other ways to utilize regular research to meet your goals.
- (Insert your individual resolution here).
Everyone’s career journey is different. Take time to reflect on your career and what S.M.A.R.T goals you can set for yourself to get you there. Again, your career is an ongoing process that changes over time and requires attention throughout your career in order to meet your goals and be ready for changes. Make a comprehensive list of gaps you see in your experience, skills, and knowledge, and come up with a plan of action to fill those gaps over time. Whether you are seeking to move up in your current company or switch companies, make a list of key people you want to talk to in order to ask questions, gain knowledge, and ask for advice. Perhaps you even seek out a mentor or two outside of your direct manager to help you navigate the unknown and make that next step.
In the end, your career is what you make it. You are the owner of it and you must take that ownership to steer your career in the direction that fits your interests and needs. In the absence of truly owning your career and its progress creates a situation where you are constantly waiting for someone else to give you the next role. The result of that could put you in roles you do not like, stagnate your career, and put you at risk of unemployment due to lack of focus on employability.