2014 is likely to be as challenging for our careers as the last several years have been. It’s pretty clear that no matter who we may be working for today, in the long run we’re all basically self-employed.
That means that it’s up to you to create an agenda that identifies what else you intend to gain from your current position besides a paycheck.
Your goal is to figure out how to use your current job to position yourself for your next one, whether that’s a year or ten years down the road. And the start of the year is a great time to line out that agenda. What else will you accomplish while you’re in your current role? Focus on actions that enable you to continue to grow professionally and advance in your career, regardless of what’s happening on a day-to-day basis in your workplace.
The 5 highest-impact areas to focus on:
- What do you need to learn, and how will you learn it? Given how quickly existing skills become outdated, it’s important to keep learning just to stay current in your field. Figure out what you need to learn to keep your skills competitive, and how, where, and when you’ll do that. Does your employer offer in-house training, support for conference attendance, tuition reimbursement? Take advantage of all of it.
- How will you build, nurture, and expand your network? Professional relationships are critical to opening up career opportunities. Part of your job agenda will be to find ways to connect: participate in professional associations, contribute to online communities, reach out to help others in your network. Make as many connections as you can both on and off the job (vendors, by the way, can be exceptionally valuable network connections). Then make sure that you have a personal record all of your network contact information, rather than just storing this data on your office computer.
- What actions will you take to grow your professional brand? Today’s online tools make it easy to showcase your strengths to the world. Establishing your professional brand outside of your employer provides an opportunity for others to learn more about the value you could bring to their organization and the contributions you’ve made to others’. Determine what actions you’ll take on a regular basis to position yourself not just as the person who has XYZ job, but as an expert on the relevant topic. At an absolute minimum, make sure you have a robust LinkedIn profile, and are an active participant in relevant groups.
- Can you work with a mentor? A mentor relationship can be formal or casual, but either way your objective is to find someone you respect who can help coach you through career decisions. Many organizations have mentor programs in place; if your employer is one of them, take advantage. If not, see if you can establish an informal mentoring relationship with someone you admire within your organization.
- What portfolio-building activities can you engage in? Volunteer to lead a new initiative, participate in a key team effort, learn a new system and teach other staffers. Part of your agenda will be to keep an eye out for these types of opportunities, and then step up.
Bottom line: You’re in charge of your career agenda for 2014, determining what you intend to accomplish, and how you will do it.