Here are five suggested approaches to managing your career:
1. Improve your self-awareness: reflection
Look back at your career to date and meditate on you experiences – the skills you have developed, the different positions you have held, and the contributions you have made to your employers. This simple exercise helps increase self-awareness, identify accomplishments, recognize sources of professional satisfaction (or dissatisfaction) and discover where you have room for improvement. And where you can make the biggest contribution.
If you can, also ask a few colleagues, friends and peers who know you well to help you complete your career retrospective. They can provide useful insights on your skill sets and competencies.
2. Experiment: baby steps
While dropping everything and diving into new projects is daunting, and not always good advice, you should be open to new possibilities that allow you to grow. Get your feet wet by volunteering, offering your services to associations, taking up new hobbies, or contributing to new projects in the company. Remember social networks and on-line courses, for instance, are there to help. You may not receive financial remuneration, but you will gain insights into your skills and passions.
Informational interviews, though not common in every country, are another way to explore different sectors or businesses. They can also show you how to position yourself to (potentially) transition into a new area. However, don’t misinterpret the purpose of the interview and never drop off your CV while you’re at it. These sessions are purely informative and are not recruiting opportunities. Read how to prepare for informational interviews for some useful tips.
3. Manage your online presence
Like it or not, we all have an online presence and recruiters sift the Internetin search of a candidate’s digital footprint. So be sure that what they find is how you want to present yourself. Is your LinkedIn profile up-to-date? What can someone find out about you through Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or other social media? Do you, for instance, have a Branded.me CV? Make sure all these show what you have accomplished, what you are good at, what you can do. Offer some content that shows what you know. Are you good at project management? Write a blog that adds content. Make a series of short videos and upload them to YouTube. Remember: you are your own brand ambassador. Do not only tell the world what you are good at: show what you know, how you can contribute.
And remember: not being on social media is already showing who you are. It is not enough to think that since you are not there “you are safe”. Not being on social media is saying a lot about you. Is that what you want?
Today’s world of fast change means that adaptability and flexibility are indispensable qualities. Some jobs today were virtually unheard of just five years ago, while others that have been around for ages require new skills. If your self-awareness exercise yielded evidence of inflexibility, never fear. Flexibility is a meta-competency that can be learned and developed. You might have to step outside your comfort zone, but there are countless resources – many of them free (like Coursera and Lynda, now part of LinkedIn, which offer free online courses in a variety of subjects) – which can help you develop new knowledge and skills.
Bear in mind that in general we don’t find jobs through the people that we know really well, but through ‘weak links’ – those people our friends and colleagues know. While you don’t have to be a networking guru, you should make a conscious effort to maintain a solid and diverse web of contacts and relationships. Within this network, you should strive to build developmental relationships with people who could be a peer-mentor; or who can help you develop the competencies to boost your employability.