Spring cleaning, New Year’s resolutions, summer vacations, back to school—these days, everything has a season. But what about career management? One would think that something we spend more than half our waking hours investing in, which sustains our families and lifestyle, and which for many is an integral part of our identities, would get more regular attention. Other than when we need a new job, that is.
There’s a well-publicized notion that professionals spend more time planning a vacation than planning for their careers. That’s an unfortunate truth for many of us, even though a successful career is much more important to our happiness—a research-backed fact. Towers Watson’s global talent survey found that career advancement opportunities ranked higher than base salary on a list of top reasons employees join their companies, yet less than 50 percent of these same employers said they effectively provide these advancement opportunities.
It’s no secret that today’s professionals need to take charge of their own growth and development. However, many haven’t stepped up to take the reins. We often dedicate time to challenges requiring immediate attention—we wait until a layoff, merger, or burnout before we dust off the resume, only to find that the market and required skills have shifted since we last interviewed.
Don’t let this be you. Whether time, know-how, or some other excuse has gotten in your way, NOW is the time to be proactive. The best way to remain marketable and achieve your professional goals is to practice consistency and discipline in managing your career.
Here are nine simple strategies to actively manage your career in less than ten minutes a day:
- Stay active on LinkedIn. As technology advances, social media is becoming increasingly critical to careers across all industries. In minutes each day, you can stay in touch with your contacts and build new ones by posting (or sharing) insightful articles, joining online discussions, inviting people to connect, or endorsing others. Maintaining a consistent online brand will ensure you stay top of mind with your network and keep you “in the know” about what’s happening in your field.
- Subscribe to an industry blog. New information and ideas are constantly generated and shared in all professions. These bite-size articles take only a few minutes to read on the train or over lunch and will sustain your marketability, which is critical to both your present role and potential future positions.
- Walk the halls. With a packed work calendar, it’s tempting to interact with the same few people, eat lunch at your desk, and skip the monthly birthday celebrations. But small interactions with colleagues go a long way in building trust and deepening relationships, which will ultimately facilitate future interactions. If you work in a large organization, strive to meet colleagues outside your department, to learn what they do. If you’re remote, travel to the main office for town halls, special events, or occasional staff meetings.
- Ask for feedback. Plain and simple, feedback is a gift. Welcome it with open arms. Since many shy away from providing constructive criticism, proactively seek it out and be specific as to how others can assist you. For example, before your next presentation, ask a colleague to note at least one thing you can improve, such as a bad habit (e.g., swaying, reading slides verbatim, talking too softly).
- Meet people outside the office. We’re typically drawn to familiar faces at networking events, children’s team practices, and/or weekly worship services. Going forward, introduce yourself to at least one person you don’t know. Be curious, and aim to find commonalities. You’ll instantly broaden your contacts, and you never know who you might meet. Everyone has something to teach you. Everyone.
- Read your local biz journal or daily newspaper. Okay, print media has gone the way of the fax machine. However, spending a few minutes each weekday familiarizing yourself with current events expands your perspective and makes you more conversant and interesting. If it’s more convenient, subscribe to an online news channel to receive a daily roundup of the latest headlines. For many, the hardest part of networking is finding something to talk about, so the more you know, the more topics you’ll have to choose from.
- Peruse job openings. Even if you aren’t currently searching, remaining informed about what skills, experiences, and knowledge employers are looking for in your role/industry. Periodically evaluate how you measure up to current job requirements, and update your resume and LinkedIn profile to reflect your latest accomplishments at least once a year (or more often). Sometimes the best opportunities in life come along when we’re not looking. Make sure you can be found.
- Help others. Building goodwill with your network will be invaluable in your career, and these opportunities are everywhere. Assisting someone could be as simple as providing an introduction, offering a word of advice, or sharing a resource. Take a few minutes to slow down and notice When you can serve someone else.
- Pay attention. In most cases, it’s rare to be completely blindsided. Usually, red flags precede a layoff, major leadership change, merger/acquisition, or other career upset. When we keep our heads down, we miss the signs. Tune in to watercooler talk, recognize any increase in closed-door meetings, understand potential implications of a hiring freeze or budget decreases, and pay attention to project delays. While none of these may indicate a major shake-up on the horizon, taken together, these signs may indicate you need to start sharpening your interviewing skills.
For better or worse, career management is your responsibility. Make the time to invest in yourself.