10 Tips for Proactive Career Management

Where is your career path?
Image by Engin Erdogan via Flickr

In yesterday’s post I shared the stories of two professionals laid off form their jobs. Crisis career management is always more challenging than proactive, consistent career management. Many mistakenly believe that the only way to manage your career is by doing good work, navigating office politics and developing effective relationships internally.

Part of career management is planning your next step. Where do you want to be in 1 year, 3 years, and 10 years? Are you taking steps to achieve those goals? What industry changes may impact your personal career choices? What skills are valued in the market? Do you have what is needed or do you need to invest in additional training?

Managing your career does not mean that you’re looking for a job or are unhappy with your current employer it is proactively taking care of your income and career satisfaction.

You have to make deposits before you can make withdrawals. In crisis mode, you frantically reach out to a network you have ignored or worse try to build a network under pressure. You have no idea where your skills would be a fit or even what is in demand in the market. The process can be overwhelming.

Routine career management does not have to be stressful or time consuming. Below are 10 things you can do to keep your career on track.

  1. Keep in touch with your network using tools such as LinkedIn, Facebook or even email. Check in monthly or even quarterly with your network.
  2. Set aside time once a month to actively network – attend an event, organize a meet-up, have lunch with a contact or two or even participate in online chats.
  3. Write down your long term career goals and the steps needed to achieve them. Every quarter, check in to make sure you are on track.
  4. Subscribe to a few industry blogs and make time to comment on posts 1-2 times per week.
  5. Network internally across departments. You can even organize a cross department quarterly lunch to share ideas and discuss collaborative solutions.
  6. Register your domain and use it to build an online branding site. Domain registration is inexpensive and you can build a website presence in less than hour using free platforms such as WordPress or Posterous. You can use the site to share your own knowledge and insight or simply use it as an online portfolio.
  7. Take time once per month to make notes on notable work activities. Did you come up with a creative solution? Did you have a setback? If so, what happened and what did you learn? Keeping a record of your work life will help you to identify patterns and strengths as well as prepare you for review time. You will also be prepared if you need to update your resume.
  8. Identify an area of weakness and work to improve it. Ask someone who has the skill set you need to mentor you for three months. Respect their time by having short conversations and follow-ups. You are never too established in your career for mentors.
  9. Meet with a financial planner. Have a plan in the event that you are laid off. It is much easier to make adjustments while working than to deal with a sudden loss of income.
  10. Get involved in community or industry organizations. This is a great way to meet people outside of your work circle and engage in activities that differ from your day to day work life.

Is your career your primary source of income?  If you answered yes, then it is important enough to make time to protect it.

Two weeks before Donna was laid off, several colleagues were laid off. The signs were there but she kept working. If you sense change don’t ignore it, take action on your own behalf. Waiting and hoping is not a plan. Have a plan, refer to it routinely and if the time comes you will be in charge of your next move.

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