In a time when nearly one in three employed professionals are either actively looking for a job or are open to new opportunities, and 48% of employers are unable to fill their job vacancies because of skills gap and high attrition rates, it’s important to assess where you are at in your career, consider where you wish to go, and to plot a course to get there.
When it comes to careers, remember that you have choices. Long past are the days when employees were stuck in one career for life. If you want to branch out in your career—whether a move up the corporate ladder or to a different industry or function all together—make it your goal to acquire the experience and skills that you need. When it comes to learning, consider Massive Open Online Courses, or Moocs, such as Coursera and Udacity that offer courses across all subjects, and are often taught by prestigious scholars at top-notch universities. There’s LinkedIn’s Lynda.com platform which offers courses and training in everything from business to technology to creative skills, and local colleges and universities offer online or evening and weekend classes, certifications, and degree programs. If you are falling asleep in your career, it’s time to wake up, get focused, and invest in yourself. Professionals always need to improve upon skills and experience and continue to evolve to stay relevant.
The key to finding your next role is often about networking. Networking is not sitting on your computer and Linking In with professionals that have jobs or connections that appeal to you. Rather, networking is about being visible and accessible. It means showing up to industry events, office events, events hosted by your college alumni office. It means meeting people in person, online, and connecting in some way, over some common interest, experience, or goal. And remember that networking is a reciprocal relationship in which both parties are invested in helping one another; if someone helps you, be sure to let them know you are glad to return the favor. It is also worth noting that your weak ties, that is, friends of friends or family, may also be a great source of aiding you on your career journey.
Be an active job seeker
It’s always nice when one receives calls from recruiters—take those calls and hear what the recruiter has to say, and remember to always clarify if the recruiter on the line is from a retained search firm, contingency, or in-house recruiter—but remember that a job search is usually a pursuit for which you have to be the driver. If you wait for fate to play its hand, it’s likely that you will be recruited for the same type of roles over and over. That’s fine; however, if you wish to seek a new path, then it is likely going to be up to you to do the research and outreach. The ideal time to do that is when you are settled and excelling in your present role.
Read up on industries/functions that pique your interest. What skills and experience do you have that can be transferred? Where are the skill/experience gaps? What can you do to acquire the experience or skills you need? Create an action plan to close the skill gap. Next, connect with professionals in the career you wish to transition into and share your quest with them. Ask for a before or after work coffee meeting or a phone call. Inquire about the opportunity to job shadow for a day or two at a company. There’s no better way to get an inside look at a company or function than being there.
When we are just starting out on our career path, we tend to be passionate and excited about careers. After we have worked for some time, though, we tend to get worn down by company politics, irrational bosses, and jobs not turning out as we expected, not to mention endless hours at work. So how do you get that excitement and passion back? It starts with taking a time-out to assess what you enjoy doing each day and what you don’t, and then asking yourself what would I love to spend my days doing?
Taking time to explore the abundance of new roles/professions out there is important, too. Check out sites such as The Muse and Roadtrip Nation to see what other professionals do for a living and explore the inner workings of various companies and offices. Is there something that gets you excited in the world of work that you didn’t even know was a possibility?
Finally, self-awareness is key when you are in a transition phase. Gage what matters to you, what you seek in your personal and professional life, and consider how and when you are going to get yourself on the right career track. Create a career road map and commit to follow through. It’s worth noting that every job has its high points, as well as its not so high points. Being realistic goes a long way when it comes to considering your next career move. It takes time to grow into any new role and company; give yourself permission to be a beginner, to fail, to learn, to thrive.
Whether you’re starting your first job or advancing your career, consider these tips:
- Have confidence – You know more than you think you do, and what you don’t know you can learn. We grow every day of our careers and our lives – market the skills you excel at, and develop those that you wish to excel at.
- Brand yourself – Be known for something. Whether it’s being a strong communicator, or the person that always asks intelligent questions. Your brand is what people remember about you; building a solid reputation will follow you throughout your career.
- Stay curious – Learning is not complete when you graduate from college or graduate school. There is always the opportunity to keep learning and evolving. Ask questions, read, and keep exploring in and out of the office.
- Think beyond your discipline – Have a vision of what you want to do, but be open to change. Hard work, curiosity, drive, and a can-do attitude enable you to guide your own career and go beyond the boundaries of what you started out doing. Anything is possible if you’re willing to invest the time, energy, and effort.