I was speaking at a personal branding event a couple of months ago and was speaking to a great group of young professionals who were looking for ways to ignite their career. One of the main messages I wanted to relay to the group was the following:
Do not leave your destiny into the hands of your employer. Take a pro-active approach to your career and create opportunities for yourself.
The reason I feel strongly about this is because I have seen too many times, hard-working millennials who give their all to their work, only to be laid off due to downsizing or other unfortunate circumstances. When this happens, the individual is left dumb founded, shocked and sometimes desperate. It takes something awful like this for that young professional to say, “Well, I better start updating my resume” or “I better start updating my LinkedIn profile”. My question to someone who says this is, why did it have to take you losing your job for you to start thinking about your career?
You should not be updating your LinkedIn profile or resume only when you lose your job. This should be a re-occurring exercise for you and if it isn’t, you aren’t doing the necessary pro-active things to manage your career. The #1 thing you can do for your career is to give 110% to your job. That is imperative so please don’t misunderstand the message I am trying to convey. BUT, if that is all you’re doing, you are missing out on a huge piece of career management. There are 4 more things you should be doing in conjunction with working hard in your current job:
- Keep Educating Yourself
- Constantly Be Managing Your Off-Line and Online Profiles
- Volunteer in Industry Groups/Events
Allow me dive deeper into each of these:
Keep Educating Yourself
The world keeps evolving and if you don’t evolve with it, you will be left behind. Educating yourself on new trends, innovations and technology in your field will allow you to keep current and it doesn’t mean you have to go back to school either. You can keep learning by picking up great books related to your field, listening to podcasts, digesting blog posts or taking online courses. Hubspot Academy offers great courses to teach you about inbound marketing and Hootsuite University has a great program to teach you about social media. The main thing you need to embed in your mind is to always keep learning. Build your skill-set to be competitive in your field and for you to be attractive to your current employer and future ones as well.
Constantly Be Managing Your Off-Line and Online Profiles
You need to always document your successes immediately. The reason this needs immediate action is because you will forget 3, 6 and even 9 months from now. Whenever you accomplish something fantastic at work worth telling others about, add it to your LinkedIn profile and your paper resume. Do not wait and let it go. It must be immediate. If this means you are constantly updating your resume and LinkedIn monthly or every other month, then so be it but taking this approach means you will always be ready when opportunity comes knocking on your door.
If you really want to take it up a notch and have something else online other than your LinkedIn profile to showcase who you are and what you got, consider building yourself a website where you can display your work and experience or consider starting a blog. In today’s digital world, you are what Google says about you. Why not create some great online content that will show-up in search engines for future employers to see. Establish yourself as a thought leader in your industry; someone people flock to for help and advice.
Networking is crucial to your career and you need to be meeting new people in your industry constantly. A majority of jobs are now found by referrals. If no one knows you and what you offer, how can you expect to be considered for great opportunities? There are tons of industry events that happen year round. All you have to do is Google them and you will find some that will peak your interest. Another way to network is by joining a mentorship program. See if you can find one in your area through either an industry association.
Volunteer in Industry Groups/Events
Volunteering is another key way of networking. There are tons of organizations and associations looking for passionate motivated volunteers willing to lend a hand. A lot of industry associations and events need helping hands so make sure you are participating. It’s a great way to work side-by-side with a potential Director, VP or even CMO in your industry. You never know; if you impress them you may end up getting a new job.
Some of the things in this post may be controversial and rub you the wrong way but I can’t tell you how many millennials I meet who start their career hungry only to lose their jobs and then look at me with tears in their eyes saying, I wish I would have been more pro-active in my career from the beginning. Don’t forget that your career is yours and yours alone.
The minute you begin feeling comfortable in that chair at work and expect things to happen for you if you just ride the wave of time, that is the moment where you begin taking a reactive approach to your career. You need to create opportunities for yourself at work and outside of it.
Fear does not always have to be a bad thing. Fear of losing my job and fear of not performing my best is what pushes me to work hard. Fear of getting laid off is what causes me to have a back-up plan. My back-up plan is building my skillset, meeting great people and always being ready for opportunities. This is the proactive career management approach. Take a moment to really assess where you are at right now and ask yourself, what am I currently doing right now to make myself attractive to my current employer and potential outside employers?
If your answer is nothing, it’s time to roll-up your sleeves and get to work.