There are a few standard career management tips I recommend to every professional regardless of position, industry, experience level, or future ambitions. These things are super easy to do and they help ensure you’re taking at least a minimally active role in your professional development. No matter how busy you are, there’s just no excuse to ignore these tips. Get started NOW.
1. Keep your resume up-to-date.
You never know when opportunity will knock. Even if you aren’t actively job searching, your resume should always be ready to go so you don’t get stuck making last minute updates.
Your resume is one of the most important documents you have to offer so you don’t want to rush it or ignore it for years on end. If you haven’t looked at it since starting your current job, pull it out, brush off the dust, and add the relevant information. If you’re not extremely proud of it, keep working. Your resume is no place to slack off. Now—while you’re not in a panic searching for a new job—is a great time to work on it.
You never know when the perfect position will open up and you’ll want to jump on it immediately. If you’ve been proactive about keeping your resume updated, you’ll be ready to pounce.
2. Join a professional association for your vocation and/or industry.
Associations are one of the most powerful career tools available and yet, too many people disregard them. Find out what’s available for professionals who share your role or work in your same industry. Join the group and attend the meetings regularly. Most offer valuable continuing education opportunities as well as the chance to meet and mingle with some of the top professionals in your field.
I also suggest volunteering to serve on the leadership board if your schedule allows it. Through active participation you’ll get to know your fellow members and make a name for yourself. Remember that these are your people. Together you can share experiences, establish best practices and even explore new opportunities. Associations look great on your resume and are helpful networks to tap when job searching, but don’t wait until you need the support. Get involved right away and start building those relationships.
3. Get a mentor.
A professional mentor can help guide you through your career by sharing his or her experiences and offering practical advice. Find a professional in your field whose career you’d like to emulate. It doesn’t have to be someone who does the exact job you’d like to do in the future. Instead, focus on finding a person who demonstrates the character traits you’d like to hone in yourself. It should be someone you respect and want to learn from.
Ask the person if he or she would be willing to engage in a professional mentorship relationship with you. Define exactly what the means to you and how you’d like the relationship to work. For example, you could suggest doing a lunchtime meeting once a month to discuss specific issues you’re dealing with or goals you’re working on. Additionally, you might want to make time for two phone calls during the month for quick check-ins and progress updates.
Keep in mind that everyone wants to know “what’s in it for me” and, for most mentors, this is an opportunity to share their hard-earned wisdom. Make it clear why you chose this person and that you’re very eager to listen and learn.
If the person is unable or unwilling to commit to helping you, move on. A mentorship relationship is a two-way street. You need someone who sees your value and wants to help you grow and succeed.
4. Become a mentor.
Regardless of where you are in your career, there is someone who can benefit from your knowledge. Find that person and take him or her under your wing. Being a mentor is a wonderful opportunity to learn while you teach. You can share your advice and help someone else grow while, at the same time, expanding your own leadership capabilities. Plus, it feels good.
Approach the mentorship relationship in the same way described above. Make your proposal clear and be upfront about what is involved. Let the person know what you see in them and what you have to offer. It’s important to find the right person who really understands the benefits of mentorship and wants to learn from you. But once you start looking, you’ll probably find several potential candidates.
5. Keep a win list.
As you progress through your career, keep a running list of your professional accomplishments. These can be any size at all so don’t be stingy. Even small victories should be recorded. If possible, keep back-up evidence in a file as well. For example, if you receive a nice letter from a client complimenting your service, make a copy for your records. This is the kind of thing that can help keep you motivated in the future when you’re feeling down.
This list is also a great tool to pull out during performance reviews and job interviews. You can reference specific endeavors and projects you successfully completed, and you can offer details on how your work impacted the business. Plus, while you’re updating your resume, you can look at the list to get inspiration for the accomplishments you want to highlight. This helps make your resume more powerful and demonstrative of your capabilities.