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Career or Job: Making the Most of Your Future

Posted by Patra Frame

3 tips for making the most of your futureMuch of the time we seek career options and growth. Sometimes, perhaps due to care for aging parents or an ill spouse, you just need a place-holder job that pays the bills but allows you to leave it at the door. Either way, you can improve your future with these basics.

Tip 1. Networking

You keep hearing that term and know you should be more active. But somehow you have not made the time. Networking is a game of quality over quantity. Focus on a few actions that make sense for your interests and growth. LinkedIn is one of the simple ways to reconnect with people you have worked with in the past as well as add new people when you meet them. It allows you, through careful updates and a periodic note to contacts, to keep your network working for you. When you go to a professional meeting, talk with others there. Many will be as uneasy as you are in starting conversation with a stranger. So say hello and ask what brings them to the event. Follow-up with questions about their interests. Once you make a connection you can build on it via social media, at future events, or over coffee.

In a place-holder job? Maintain your existing network. Put in 15-30 minutes once a week to check on other people’s social media updates or read relevant articles or comment on a question in one of your groups. This keeps you in people’s minds and makes you look more active than you may be professionally. When your circumstances change, your network will still be useful and ready to help you move back onto a growth option.

Tip 2. Skills-Building

So many government contractors show up at job fairs or in job search mode after a contract loss with fewer in-demand skills than needed. Sure, your job is busy and you have other demands in your life. But the way to a successful future at any stage is to keep upgrading your skills and adding new ones. Take classes or attend seminars. Fit in webinars, volunteer for a company task force, and attend professional events. Active roles in professional groups’ chapters are also valuable. Your company may or may not invest in you, but it is your future and you must do so.

If you are in a field with fewer jobs than people, pay attention to what the jobs are like now in your field. Sit down with a blank page and list all the aspects of your job which you love. How current are your skills in each of those areas? How well-regarded is your work in those areas? Look at other jobs in similar work which might be a good match too. Learn which have real opportunity and what you would need to do or learn to move into that field. If you love your work and want to stay in it, then concentrate on what is changing about your field and how you can learn new skills that will keep you employed. Read about your field regularly. Get active in online professional groups and contribute. Make connections to more senior people in it and learn from them. Consider blogging, tweeting, volunteering for company events or task forces as ways to be seen for your strengths. Don’t wait to do this till you lose a job – that is common and leads to longer unemployment periods.

If you are in a ‘hot’ field, keep your skills up. In many such fields, the level of change is quite high. Make sure you are attending professional events where you can learn. Consider writing or speaking on your field if you want a senior role in the next few years. Reach out to help others – word gets around if you are the person people rely on for the tough questions and difficult problems. Learn who the best organizations are for your work and seek connections in those so you can move into places with the best future options. Don’t jump at every recruiter who contacts you but do research and connect with those who are well-known for being the best in your business.

If you are in a place-holder job, fit in short reads in professional journals or online publications. Subscribe to one of the top newsletters in your field. This allows you to track changing concepts and new technologies so you sound current and appear committed. That can be vital to retaining your current job as well as being able to jump back into career mode as soon as your personal situation changes.

Tip 3. Career Development

Talk with your boss, program manager, or another senior person in your field about your career goals. Ask for suggestions on your next steps. If interested, ask what it will take to be promoted to the job you want next – be specific about the role and the preferred timing. Many people never take this step. Even companies with well-regarded career development programs do not know what you want to do unless you tell them. Obviously, this means you need to be productive in your current role. Better yet, you will have done some self-analysis of your skills and interests so you have good ideas of what you could contribute to a new role. And once you learn what it takes, make an active plan to get the skills, training, or experiences needed. Enlisting a mentor in your plan is a smart way to grow too.

In a place-holder job, you still want your bosses to see you as a contributor. Keep them advised of steps you are taking to grow your skills. Look for a mentor to help you make the most of your current situation.

In the 21st century, change is a constant. And only you are truly responsible for your future. A small weekly time investment, a little planning, and you can maintain your career options successfully. Why wouldn’t you?

Patra FramePatra Frame is ClearedJobs.Net’s HR Consultant. She is an experienced human resources executive and founder of Strategies for Human Resources. Patra is an Air Force veteran and charter member of the Women in Military Service for America Memorial. Follow Patra on Twitter @2Patra.

 

This entry was posted on Wednesday, March 02, 2016 7:57 am

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