7 Ways to Progress Your Career, Even During Difficult Times

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National Career Development Month is coming this November, so here’s my annual PSA to encourage you to give some thought to where you are in your career right now. It’s a good idea to always be managing your livelihood, no matter where you are in life, no matter what is going on in the world. It’s important to give your career regular attention, not just when you’re unhappy at your job, think you’re about to lose your job, or in job search mode.

I understand that it’s not realistic to execute big plans for your career as a top priority at all times, but you should not let years pass without any consideration of your career management (even if you’re on a long break to raise a family, you often still have ways to influence your career). To help you take charge of your career, here are my top seven tips for effective career management, even during these tumultuous times. 

  1. Learning something about yourself: Inventories and assessments can be very helpful. I always say that it’s never a waste of time to learn more about yourself. I believe this is especially true with career management. While I agree that assessments can be misused and are not the solution for everyone, they do offer a great way to begin your reflection and start career conversations. This page on my website shares links to free assessments to discover your personality, workplace values, and transferable skills.
  2. Reflect on what roles you might consider down the road: Even though no one can predict the future and career theories tied to the concepts of happenstance and chaos show the value of the unknown, it’s always a good idea to take some time to ask yourself. “Am I where I want to be in my career?” If not, “What could I envision that is worth looking into further?” One client, who was well networked, making a good living and excelling in his role, but burning out, said it well. He was receiving offers and taking the ones that seemed exciting but with no thought to the future. When I first met with him he said he had been going through door after door of good opportunities, but he ended up in a room that he didn’t like. He wasn’t sure how he got there or how to get out of it.
  3. Talk to three people who can shed light on the direction you are considering: As mentioned in the point above, you will want to speak with people who can provide information related to your future goals. This could be people who have done or are currently doing what you think you might want to do. It could also be people who work at companies that you admire. Maybe this turns into an informational interview or asking someone to be a mentor. Get started on seeking out others who can help your career exploration.
  4. Learn something new: There are many free offerings available, even more so during COVID. Learning something that can make you marketable in your career path is always great, but so is pursuing a curiosity that may not be directly connected to your field. Sometimes by stepping away from your area of expertise and taking on a beginner’s mind, you can make new connections and insights that will help you grow (and may help you in your current career).
  5. Inventory your past roles & accomplishments: I suggest creating a master document of job data. It would include past information (job title, list of accomplishments, dates of employment, etc.) and employer details (salary, name of boss, contact information, etc.). Having a master document helped me many times in the past and it can help you in two ways. First, it provides a list of data that must be easily accessible when you are in job search mode. It’s much easier and faster to fill out an online application when you have this information at your fingertips. Second, it allows you to keep a repository of accomplishments. This can be helpful to review when you are feeling down about yourself and your career.
  6. Ensure you have a quality profile on LinkedIn: This would include a good headshot, completed experience and education sections, appropriate skills listed, and an About section that explains who you are and what you can bring to the table. If you want to step it up, add a background image (behind your profile picture) and additional sections, as appropriate including certifications, publications, and languages. Utilize the Featured area that allows you to display documents and media (PDF, URL, video, pictures, etc.). I truly believe that overall, LinkedIn is the best social media site for professional purposes worldwide. Do your career a favor by getting serious about LinkedIn.
  7. Commit to reach out to a certain number of people on a regular basis: Try weekly or monthly. Setting a specific goal that is verifiable will make you more accountable. I understand that people have more or less time, so pick a reasonable number that works with your life. Even if that’s one person a month, at the end of a year, you will have reached twelve people. Some of them will be new additions and some may be former friends or colleagues. Either way, you will have enhanced your network in a positive way.

II challenge you to select two of these tips to work on in the coming month. This way, when National Career Development rolls around, you will already have a head start. For those who are extra motivated, select two more to address after the first of the year. I’d love to hear if one of these tips works well for you, so please keep me posted.