Is your career the best it could be? Are you aware of what’s going on in your industry, what your counterparts are making, and what the next step is toward reaching your goals? If not, it’s time to step up your game and get your career on track. After several years of decline, budgets are leveling off, and thanks to a twenty percent reduction in the size of the cleared workforce, the value of an active clearance is high.
You may not be actively searching for a job, but you should always be managing your career. One of the biggest mistakes professionals make is getting ‘comfortable’ in a position. You stop updating your online profiles, you don’t take the time to network and you leave your boss to manage your career. But you need to be at the helm – whether you’re happily employed or actively looking.
Here are five tips for taking your career to the next level in 2015.
1. Get fresh.
If you haven’t logged in and updated your online profiles since you joined the site, now is the time. This includes social accounts such as Facebook and Twitter – are your bios still a good reflection of who you are? Your entire digital footprint is now a critical element of your work persona – make sure each one is an accurate reflection.
You don’t have to update every account daily, or even monthly. But you should log in frequently, and update data points as applicable. This may mean updating your resume and bio data once a year if you’re happily employed, and much more often if you’re an active job seeker.
2. Stop Doing Things You Stink at doing.
One of the biggest career mistakes you can make is to over-promise and under deliver. Sometimes you legitimately bite off more than you can chew without knowing it. Own up as early as possible and ask your peers for help. If you’re in a healthy work environment, your colleagues and even your superiors will be happy to support you, especially if this is an infrequent request.
Something I learned along the way is that as much as I want to be good at everything, there are things I really suck at. I can spend days banging my head on my desk trying to get those projects done, or I can outsource them to someone who knows what they’re doing. Outsourcing is generally always the better option, and much less likely to produce migraines. There may be times you genuinely need to build a new skill to succeed in your industry. There are other times you’re trying to be a jack of all trades and neglecting what you’re truly good at.
3. Start preparing for your annual review now.
Many companies do a New Year review process. That means you will have just had your review and discussed your performance with your boss. Don’t wait until January 1 of next year to start prepping for your next review. Do it today.
The best way to prep for your review is to create a single location to aggregate all of your great work accolades. It could be a folder in Outlook where you drop all of your positive notes from supervisors and peers. Maybe it’s a folder or tag in Google Drive or Evernote. Whatever it is, create a process for tracking your projects. And at the end of each month, spend 30 minutes outlining your biggest accomplishments of the month – major projects completed, accounts landed, etc. That way when annual review time comes around again, you’re not wracking your brain trying to figure out what you did to earn that raise you’re asking for.
4. Get a battle buddy.
Veterans know the concept of a battle buddy. It’s not quite a mentor, but someone who’s in the trenches with you and will help you out. Whether you call yours a friend, a battle buddy or a mentor, find someone at your workplace who will take a genuine interest in your performance. It can be your boss, but sometimes it’s easier to have a give-and-take of feedback from someone who’s not a direct supervisor.
The key job of this person? Tell you when you’re doing a crappy job. We like to think we know ourselves, but most of us don’t have a clear picture of how we’re doing. We might flub a presentation, misrepresent an idea or make a technical gaffe we weren’t aware of. Accept constructive criticism from your peers. It will be one of the best ways you can improve your job performance. If you don’t take constructive criticism well, 2015 is the year to start.
We all start with great expectations. We’re going to update our online profiles once a week. We’re finally going to find a mentor and get coffee once a month. We’re going to start that professional development course we’ve been thinking about for five months. The key is to establish relatively easy goals that can form habits, and then maintain them.
Put an ongoing meeting on your calendar (maybe once a week or bi-weekly). Use that thirty minutes to review your goals, set up a meeting with a peer, update your resume, and do other things that relate to your overall career – not just the ten things on that day’s to-do list.
Your boss may be amazing, but it’s not his or her job to manage your career. They are managing you in that specific role. If you want to reach your full career potential, you need to take the long-view to your career advancement. Focus on skills you can build, never stop networking, and keep pursuing success. It won’t find you unless you go after it.