Taking the Reins of Your Career Path: 3 Essential Moves

I never managed my career. I never knew it was a thing. It mattered less when jobs lasted longer, and job searches happened only every 10 years or so. (Can you believe that was a thing, too?)

It’s sure different now. Every day, a different career expert writes, “You’re now a company of one, and need to start thinking with the clarity and vision of an entrepreneur.” The tagline for Careerealism is “Because every job is temporary.” When I first discovered Careerealism, the tagline seemed radical and edgy. Today it seems wise.

Four years ago I realized I was unhappy at my job. The unhappiness was a great wake up call though:  Time to grab the reins of my career, which I did. I tested and learned several new skills—some I liked, some I didn’t. I focused on doing things I enjoyed. Last May, I took the leap, and officially started my own business. I wish I knew the following 3 things at the beginning of my last job, so that I didn’t spend so much time languishing at a job that wasn’t a great fit. Here are 3 steps for getting back on path:penguin on shark

1. Maintain and work your LinkedIn profile

There are so many ways to work your profile, but here’s one I love, yet rarely see. It helps you maintain your excitement and edge, reminding yourself and others–hey, I belong here!, and is just darn juicy.  Besides that, it contributes value (more on that in a minute):

  • List your accomplishments regularly.

If you have  no accomplishments to add to your LinkedIn profile, that might be an indication you’re not growing at your company. Red flag there! Ideally, you regularly complete new projects and contribute to the company’s savings and growth. Figure out how to quantify that, and add it to your profile.

This is important for two reasons: One, it is data for your annual review, to justify your raise. If you are contributing value and savings, and a raise or promotion isn’t offered, it may be time to move on. Either way, listing your accomplishments on LinkedIn will position yourself well to be recruited by other companies and recruiters. Your Summary section will sing your value.

I hear you protest, But I don’t want my company to see my updates. They will think I’m looking for a job! What many companies don’t realize is accomplishments on your profile show both clients and viewers the health of your company. It reflects well on your company for you to have a robust profile. It’s short-sighted of an employer to be threatened by it. Remind them of that. Tell them, “The better I look, the better we look!”

  • Provide status updates daily

Add 1-3 status updates daily. Share a link to your recent blog post, or share an update of a colleague or thought leader; provide an insight about your industry ; a quote that inspires you. And don’t forget to share a professional accomplishment above such as, “Just landed national account after 3 months of conversation. Very excited to begin this engagement!”  According to Victoria Ipri, the ratio should be 4 to 1: Four professional updates for every 1 accomplishment

  • Grow your network

Make 500 connections your goal, before your next job search. Why? That number of connections causes LinkedIn algorithms to shift in your favor. Be careful about being opportunistic though, and clicking the plus sign beside people’s names. Find something in common, and personalize each request to connect. LinkedIn is a relationship building tool first and foremost. Reach out to people who inspire you online or  while standing in line at Qdoba, or after a networking event. If the day ever comes when you are out of a job, you now have a robust referral base to draw from.

2. Practice self-advocacy regularly

Most people squirm at this idea. My favorite rationalization for self-advocacy comes from Karen Kang. Letting people know your accomplishments is not boastful or bad. Instead, you’re educating people, helping people understand your value. This starts to fall in the personal branding arena, and that’s exactly the point of self-advocating. Your boss has many things on her mind, and advocating for you may not be at the top of her list; it’s your job to do that. As Kang says, “In today’s economy, you have to be responsible for your own destiny. . . Don’t be a victim. Be your own brand manager.”

Articulating what you do best isn’t just for others’ education. It’s for you. I met with a client recently who is an account manager, but couldn’t articulate what separates her from the rest. “I’ve no idea. They’ve beat it out of me!” she joked, referring to her employers. She works for a company where praise is frowned upon, where the mentality is, “We pay you. That’s praise enough.”

I suggest you don’t lose sight of your own value to the point where you can no longer articulate it.

3. Meet 15-20 minutes with someone new you respect, several times a year

If this sounds like an informational interview, that’s because it is! In a nutshell, you recession-proof your life by meeting people you respect and admire at interesting companies. It’s best to do it when the stakes are low, so do it while you’re employed. Listen and discern their pain points. Get a feel for their company. Is this the kind of place you might like to work?

It’s best to avoid getting so “head down” that when you do come up for air, (i.e. you got downsized, realize you’re unhappy) all your professional relationships have languished. Continue to grow new relationships and nurture the ones you have, meet new people, become the confident and Trusted Advisor for people outside your company. When you most need them, when you’re vulnerable, you will be the person they will refer to their boss when an opening becomes available.

Many people I know complain about their bad bosses. The kindest, wisest thing you can do in the absence of a good boss, is to be one for yourself.

image: © Depositphotos.com /lightsource

Julie Bondy Roberts, MA, GCDF is a career coach, LinkedIn™ Profile Makeover Specialist, public speaker and blogger. She is the founder and principal at Coming Alive Career Coaching. To learn more about LinkedIn™ Profile Makeover packages, or to receive a complementary Ebook on optimizing your LinkedIn profile, contact Julie at juliebondyroberts@gmail.com.  If you enjoyed this post, or know someone who would, please share it!

 

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