Every January we all make New Years resolutions with the best of intentions. By February, those resolutions are usually long forgotten and the bad habits firmly back in place. Rather than set yourself up for failure with grandiose ideals, perhaps it’s best to stick to the basics and give yourself small opportunities to shine. Nowhere is this more true than in your career. Creating an action plan for improving your professional prospects through incremental changes can be wildly successful. Certainly more so than vowing to lose that last ten pounds by Valentine’s Day! To get you started, here are 10 Things To Do For Your Career In 2014:
1. Join LinkedIn: If you haven’t jumped on this bandwagon, now is the time to do so. With over 250 million users, LinkedIn is an incredible career resource for networking, learning about job opportunities, and staying ahead of industry changes. Make sure your profile stands out and demonstrates your professional accomplishments. Always keep an eye on how others in your field describe their work so that your profile stays fresh and inviting.
2. Dust Off Your Resume: Even if you’re not currently in the market for a new position, it is always a good idea to have a working version of your resume just in case. Most companies employ recruiters or software programs to weed out irrelevant applications so have yours speak directly to the needs of the position by including key terms, the proper context for those buzz words, and the names of high-profile competitors.
3. Revamp Your Brand: Keep track of your online reputation and make sure it conveys the information you want out there. In addition to updating your physical and online marketing materials, think about where you are really lacking expertise and then go create opportunities to build those skills. Make sure you ask for projects that will advance the experience you need to take your career to the next level. Also consider attending classes and workshops to further reinvent yourself.
4. Grow Your Network: It is easier than ever to stay in touch with people and retain the professional connection. Remember that someone is much more likely to help you if there is something in it for her as well, so try to create partnerships wherever possible–make introductions, pass along industry knowledge, etc. Be sure to follow up with panelists, and speakers from networking events to bring them into your network.
5. Use Social Media: Beyond making personal connections, social media is also helpful on a macro level to learn more about the companies and industries that interest you. Follow the companies on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter and join relevant professional groups to receive constant updates about their work and learn about events. This is a great way to hear about networking opportunities and job openings.
6. Take Note Of Your Achievements: Take stock at least once per month of your major accomplishments. It’s so easy to forget what you have done over the course of a year so creating a reminder to keep track is a great solution. Having this list at your disposal will be vital during performance reviews, when looking for new work, or if planning to ask for a raise or promotion.
7. Ask For A Raise/Promotion: Set yourself up for success by speaking with your supervisor in advance about what it would take to achieve your goal. Knowing your value is imperative for you and your employer. Using this as motivation during the year will encourage you to work harder and smarter. Make your career advancement a priority this year.
8. Do Freelance or Volunteer Projects: Those of you who are looking for new work, get out there and start doing it. Just because no one has offered you a permanent position doesn’t mean that you cannot find opportunities to learn and build experience. For instance, if you want a job in marketing, offer to help a small, local non-profit with a new campaign. Check out odesk.com to learn about freelance opportunities.
9. Keep Up With Openings: Create a reminder for once every other month to review job listings and touch base with recruiters to take the pulse of hiring trends. This can also help you ensure that you are developing your career path to gain the necessary experience. Listing aggregators tend to be fairly specialized now so be sure you’re looking in the right places. For instance, individuals seeking family-friendly opportunities should stay on top of maybrooks.com or momcorps.com.
10. Pay It Forward: Given the importance of personal connections and networking in your career, building up some good karma can only benefit you in the long run. Appreciate being viewed as an expert and be sure to help anyone who asks with contacts, informational interviews, resume reviews, etc. Remember that what goes around, comes around.
Elana Konstant, Esq. is a former lawyer who now works as a career coach/consultant with professionals going through a career transition. The majority of Elana’s clients are mothers who are returning to work after a break or women trying to strike a balance between the demands of their careers and families. For more information, visit her web site, www.konstantchangecoaching.com, on Facebook at facebook.com/konstantchangecoaching, or on Twitter @konstantcoach.