Do you feel stuck in a rut with your career or education? Are you unsure of what to do, or how to do it? The time to take action is now, so here are nine steps to boost your career before the end of this year.
Step 1: Assess Goals
The first step is perhaps the most important: figuring out what it is you really want to do. It helps to dream big and go long. Where would you like to be in five or ten years? Are you looking to make more money, obtain a new job, switch careers, or attain new skills? Answering questions such as these will help provide you with the direction you’re seeking. Be sure to focus on your definition of success rather than that of others. For some this may mean more money, but for others, it may mean a more flexible work schedule to allow more time for family or friends. Finally, take those longer term goals and split them into smaller steps to be achieved on a monthly, weekly, or even daily basis. Mind Tools provides some detailed guidance on how to do this.
Step 2: Audit Existing Credentials
Next, get a reality check by reviewing your existing credentials. What education and training do you already have? What work experience can you draw from? Don’t forget to consider any volunteer jobs you have done or any additional skills you may have obtained outside of your regular job(s). For instance, have you developed any abilities from personal pursuits, such as selling your gently used items online? Then consider which of these credentials apply directly to the goals you’ve set and how you can document them.
Step 3: Consult with Others
After you have assessed your goals and credentials for yourself, it’s helpful to consult with others. Get informal feedback from family and friends who know you well. Often they may see some skills or talents you may have or be able to think of some experience that may count that you have forgotten about or not already considered. Then go to the experts. Look for professional organizations and/or postsecondary institutions that may be able to provide you with additional information and suggestions on your ideas. They may also be able to help review your credentials with you. Take some time to do some research here as you may discover options like mentoring programs or college credit for Prior Learning experience to speed you on your way.
Step 4: Explore Possibilities
Along with exploring advice and support sources from others, look carefully at all the learning and career options available to you. For example, not everyone has the time or money to go to college to pursue a degree full-time. However, there is a variety of online learning options available to you. Similarly, if you’re looking for career advancement or change, there may be more opportunities open to you than you may be aware of currently. For some guidance here, see my posts, “5 E-Learning Options to Quickly Boost Your Career,” 10 September, 2012, and “The 7 Most Helpful Resources for Finding Your Major and Career,” 7
Step 5: Network
As you moved through the above steps, you are already learning what it means to network, to connect with others who have similar goals and interests. Begin to cast a wider net by networking in other ways, too. For example, there are a host of social media sites that may be useful. Set up a professional account in Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and other such websites to get your name out there. Look for both in-person and virtual job fairs, conferences, training sessions, and other events that may help you achieve your goals and document your accomplishments. Alexis Grant of U.S. News recently provided a helpful list of “10 Smart Ways to Use Social Media in Your Job Search,” (2012).
Step 6: Create a Plan
Perhaps the most difficult step is to create a concrete action plan. Consider this a map to success that you can refer to as you move forward. Life tends to throw distractions at us, so having something in writing, perhaps even with helps like electronic calendar reminders can keep you on track. Your plan should include deadlines for applying to education and/or training programs, completing these programs, applying to jobs, and attaining your short and long-term goals. Career Development Help offers an easy to use template to help guide you in creating your plan. Once completed, post this list where you can see it on a daily basis to help you stay focused.
Step 7: Take Action
Once you have your career-boosting plan in place, focus on action. Try to do something each day to keep the forward momentum. Make this a priority. In fact, try to accomplish at least one step first each day before you do anything else. A small step forward is better than stagnation. It also makes it easier to increase the momentum as a body at rest tends to stay at rest. The video below from John Carlton’s Action Seminar on Prioritizing Goals provides some helpful guidance and motivation.
Step 8: Progress Checks
It helps to create a checklist of things to do; then mark off each item as you accomplish it. This will not only help you stay on track, it will also help to keep you moving forward. Ask a few others in your life to help you stay on track or even to hold you accountable. Similar to the supervisors, clients, and others who hold you accountable for meeting deadlines on your job, ask a friend, family member, or colleague to check in with you on achieving your goals. These individuals will provide a nice support system while holding you accountable so that you don’t fall into making excuses for yourself about why you aren’t working toward your goals. It may also be helpful to serve in this role for your own goal coach.
Step 9: Keep Moving
The above steps are arranged in a logical order; however, they should not be seen as linear. Rather, to achieve long-term career growth over your lifetime, continue to reflect on where you are in terms of what you want personally and professionally. Regularly reassess your credentials and what steps you can take to continue to further your ambitions.
Although taking these nine steps to boost your career before the end of 2012 may seem like a lot of work—maybe even too much to achieve—know that even beginning the process will help set you on your way to further success in 2013.
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