Career management and advancement is an ongoing process. You must be proactive at taking charge of your career and keeping it healthy by nurturing it with the nutrients of career building skills and industry knowledge. Read and act upon these tips to keep your career healthy always. In the coming weeks we will detail each of these points with more information and insight.
1. Clarify your career goals.
What are your aspirations at the present job or career? Perform a personal career “check-up” – is this the job or career you want to be in? Are you using your skills effectively and to your satisfaction? Does the present job / career inspire you? What can you do to enhance your career? Do you aspire for more success and contentment at work? Would you work better in a different work environment? Ask yourself such questions and answer honestly to correctly analyze your present career health. Take charge of your career – it is you and only you who can make the required changes to help yourself to an accelerated success and growth.
2. Analyze your current skill set.
What other skills can take you ahead of the crowd. Make a list and see how you can acquire these skills by either taking courses or learning on the job. Learning new skills should be on your list all the year through. Most of the companies reimburse you for your work related courses and certifications, utilize them. As values are to a personality so are skill set to your career growth and health. Invest and grow them as much as you can whenever you can to ensure constant career advancement.
3. Networking is an ongoing process.
Network and aim to diversify the group you interact with. You will learn a lot more from people from different business sectors or even different business divisions within your company and who knows you might discover your dream career that you thought never existed.
4. Document your successes.
Whatever project you work on today, keep on writing and updating about your accomplishments in a separate detailed “resume” or call it your portfolio. Thinking on how you increased your company’s revenue 3 to 5 years down the road might be difficult if you have not documented your accomplishments and testimonials from customers / colleagues anywhere now.
5. You don’t really need that MBA.
A higher degree in education or an MBA does not necessarily mean that it will make you smarter. Take initiatives and prove to be a leader at your workplace, experience teaches a lot more than what a degree can. Making yourself competitive to a position does not always call for a higher degree, your previous and present work will say a lot more. But if a certification or a degree makes you get ahead on the corporate ladder and you feel the need – go for it.
6. Be a team player; build a supportive relationship with co-workers.
Good interaction amongst your own group will help in generating good vibes and a good team to work with makes a great place to work in. Offer taking up project responsibilities for your colleagues / co-workers who wish to go on vacation. Being a team player and a good colleague has its value and who knows when you have to take a vacation or a break and then you might not need to even ask for a cover-up, the offer will come before you can ask. What goes around comes around.
7. Avoid office politics
It never helps anyone, if you do your job well and right, there is nothing else you should spend your time at in office. There is a wonderful life outside of the cubicle – use your energy there rather than on useless politics.
8. Learn to say NO.
If you feel you cannot manage everything under the present project responsibilities, learn to say no to what you cannot accomplish in the given timeframe, it is better to get this clear upfront than be confronted later on for not getting the tasks done.
9. When feeling frazzled with the workload – learn to prioritize.
At times the work load seems impossible to handle and the confusion ensues, learn to prioritize your work or work with your manager to help you identify the key issues to work on first. Delegating would help as well. Prioritize your work based on due date of an impending project, length or intensity of a task or the mere simplicity but do prioritize, it helps you get the tasks of your mind and desk one by one. It says a lot about your organization skills as well.
10. Soft skills – communication skills.
The importance of communication skills should never be underestimated. With good communication skills you can land a better job, pay raises, presenting great presentations at your industry’s expo gets you brilliant testimonials and client appreciation or just better communication with your colleagues and manager improves your daily work-life. Work towards polishing these skills. Interpersonal skills will help you better in negotiations, being a good leader and working in a culturally diverse workplace.
11. Don’t be on phone, messenger or Email for too long.
Though it depends on an individual company policy, the time you spend on “other” activities may be monitored. Emails can be immensely distracting when concentrating on a particular task, practice accessing Emails only a couple of times a day when the workload demands more focus.
12. Be Assertive when it calls for. Make yourself visible.
Make your manager aware on the list of tasks accomplished by initiating regular meetings or weekly work reports. If the manager is too busy to traveling to have these regular meetings mark on your calendar to send via Email a weekly report either at the end of the week or the beginning of the week. By doing so you are making yourself visible and marketing yourself as a reliable and accountable worker. Market yourself; the corporate world is a lot about how well you market yourself.
13. Don’t be shocked or feel paralyzed when or if you are in a layoff. Take Action.
If you are prepared and have taken time to keep your career healthy all the year long, the layoff could offer you with the best of opportunities. And if you are prepared be sure to negotiate a severance or a suitable package as soon as you can. You can only do so if you plan this now – ahead of the axe falling and you feeling too numb to take an action. Preparedness is the key to getting what you want. And taking charge of your career now is the essence of it all. There are many articles on Satisfying Career – Happier Life which will guide you through the layoff and towards new employment opportunities.
14. Research Salary Structures and Promotion opportunities in different companies.
Research and read about the salary structures in other states or business sector close to yours. Prepare ahead of a yearly review on how and why you deserve a salary hike. You get what you ask for.
15. Is there an entrepreneur in you?
If you have entrepreneurial skills, dive in early to launch a start-up or partner to do so. Procrastination might only show you that someone else had your idea and launched a cool start-up – the one you only thought about or the market plunges while you were sitting on the idea and having your legs in two different boats. You can also implement your entrepreneurial ideas to your present job if you think hard about it and of course take on the initiative to present to higher management. That can be considered a valuable contribution to your present career. It also gives you hands on experience and tools and advice that you could take perhaps years to gain on your own.
16. Don’t skip jobs just because the other company pays you better.
You will not find satisfaction if your job description does not inspire you or you want more creativity in your work. Take time to decide on a company and a career, even if it might mean being out of job for some time or taking a slight salary hit. You can find yourself going up the promotional ladder much faster in a company that supports multi-directional promotions than that with a flat management hierarchy.
17. Always keep abreast of news on companies within your business area.
Read and keep abreast on their market rankings in your area of interest. Read trade magazines and newspaper research on the hiring trends and market value of some new companies that you feel can be a good company to work for, for better growth and salary. Keeping pace with the changing marketplace is the key to sustainable survival in the job market. Job market and the way people work is changing fast learn to adapt well and you will be in control.
18. Prepare well ahead of your performance review.
Send a copy of your accomplishments and work record well ahead of time to your manager. Take notes during the review and discuss in details with your manager on a future road-map to further training / improvement or setting new goals. Schedule a follow-up meeting if you did not agree with the assessment in the given time-frame, substantiate your feedback with evidence of your performance as perceived and testified by customers or colleagues you have worked with.
19. Don’t be in a job burnout.
Practice work-life balance and that would keep you more focused and provide a satisfying career. Talk to your manager about flextime working or telecommuting if you think it helps you get some stress out of daily routine. Managing your time and leading a balanced life is a key to your career and personal health. Excessive stress and tension at work breeds a health risk and tends to affect your social life as well. Only a healthy you can help steer your career to a better place. Always make health a priority.
20. Don’t eat alone.
Again it is an emphasis to the networking topic we talked about earlier, but it is work taking it in again. Don’t skip the lunch hour or eat alone at your desk, this is a perfect time to make new contacts or in other words – networking. As stated before, networking is an ongoing process – it happens everywhere anytime. Also take walks or just move away from your desk at times, creative ideas and solutions pop-up mostly when you are not staring continuously at the computer screen. Getting away from a known and comfortable spot enables the mind to see the situation in a new light.
21. Learn to separate work life and personal life.
Don’t take work home if you can. The more you let yourself work from home in non-working hours, the more the habit reigns. There is something on the back of your mind always that you have to check the Email or get the work done. If you are not trying to meet an urgent deadline, don’t bring work home. Try to get work wrapped up in the office hours, always remember that work would never be “done with” even if you worked two hours extra every night. Work procreates!
22. Challenge yourself. Create new opportunities.
Attend your company expos and learn new skills at work to enhance your career. Create a career opportunity if you do not see any. If you have some special skills that your company can use, discuss with upper management how and if a new position could be created to use your full potential. Present a fictional case study or provide solutions to a current problem that your company now faces to showcase your abilities. Get out of your comfort zone and do something new – be it your career or your personal life. Life energizes with challenges, be an active participant to new challenges within your company.
23. Find a mentor.
An effective career strategy involves seeking out more experienced people in one’s field, and learning new skills from these mentors. You learn from their experience and mistakes as well. Learning from people who have already been there will help you get over the obstacles you face or the fears and anticipation you have for a particular task – faster than with your stumbles and experiments alone. Advisors help accelerate your learning.
24. Career coaching – “Coaching is to performance what leadership is to an organization”.
Are you fully satisfied with where you are in your work and career? Do you feel that something is not completely right and find your present career uninspiring? Maybe it’s time for a coach, an ally who can help you sort through where you are and where you want to go. A coach helps you succeed and you could reach your peak performance or land your dream career with some guidance and help.
25. Create a personal career growth plan.
Create short-term and long-term plans for your career path. Use this plan as a tool to discuss with your manager during or before the performance planning or as a benchmark for your own reference. Periodically check on your achievements and update on new goals to achieve for the short-term or the long-term. Be realistic and consult with others if you feel the goals to be too daunting to be achieved or have not accomplished what you feel you should have.