Do you ever feel like your cleared career is stagnating? Like you’re a rocket preparing for a 5-day mission, but you never get off of the launch pad? You’ve heard of failure to launch – it applies to your career as well. It’s not uncommon to find your career at a standstill. What you do while you’re waiting makes a critical difference in whether your career takes off, or stays put.
1. You stop networking.
This one is for you, happily employed cleared professionals – you already have a good job, so you don’t see the point of participating on a career site or attending networking events. But the moment you stop networking is the moment you put your career on hold. Don’t make the mistake of letting your career contacts stagnate just because you’re not currently looking for a new position. Even if you plan to stay at your current company for the rest of your life (which is statistically unlikely, but hey, I’m willing to buy it), you still need to have a career network. You’re a bigger resource for your current employer if you’re staying informed on industry trends. And you’ll also guarantee yourself better earnings potential if you know what’s going on in the job market.
2. You think your resume will land you a job.
This is for you, active job seeker. I hear way too often from job seekers who have submitted resumes – sometimes to hundreds of job postings – but have yet to obtain a position. The days when simply applying for a job was all you needed are long over. Hiring today is based on relationships. You should work to build relationships with companies in your industry as much as you should work at applying for positions. Networking and actively applying for positions go hand-in-hand. The best candidates will try to connect every opportunity to a point-of-contact within the company. This can be a recruiter you connect with online, or an employee you met at a networking event.
3. You’re a jerk.
Perspective is good for us all to have – I had amazing job savvy the first few years of my professional career…not the best respect for authority. (I blame punk rock). Fortunately, over the course of my 10+ years in the working world I’ve evaluated my weaknesses, developed my strengths, and am more attuned to the importance of deference and learning from others. Some people are less inclined to do this. For candidates, it often shows up as bitterness or a bad attitude toward the application process. You may hate a company’s application process or have had a terrible experience with a recruiter – don’t let it affect your professionalism. It’s said so often it’s trite, but it’s true – a good attitude is one of the best advantages you bring toward your career. That optimism will keep you striving for the next milestone, make you fun to be around, and a joy for your boss to manage. It’s the kind of demeanor that helps launch your career. Being a jerk just sends it straight to the toilet.
4. You’re not going the extra mile.
Anyone can be the kind of professional who does their job. But today’s job market isn’t about punching in and out – it’s about really making a difference. Employers want to build a workforce of brand ambassadors – individuals who represent them well to a watching, social media driven world. You need to be the guy or girl who adds the flourish to each project, whether it’s by applying your unique skills, leveraging your amazing network, or having an unstoppable attitude. Note – this doesn’t mean being the first-in and the last-out. Work-life balance is appreciated today, perhaps more than ever. Going the extra mile doesn’t have to mean working the longest, but it does mean giving more than due diligence.
5. You’re not being yourself.
You may think you’re doing your best to fit in, but if fitting in flies in the face of being yourself – whether that’s expressing yourself at meetings or just enjoying the work you do – people will notice. For most people, not being themselves on the job manifests in bitterness toward the work or disdain for your employer or coworkers. You may think you’re hiding it, but it’s a mask no one falls for. You don’t have to love every minute of your job. You don’t even necessarily have to pursue your passion at the office (you can save your best passion for a hobby or your spouse), but you should bring a unique energy to the position, driven by your unique personality. If you think you can succeed in your cleared career by just doing the basics of the job description, you are significantly short-changing your career potential.
If you want your career to hover at ‘just good enough,’ feel free to ignore the points on this list. But if you strive for more – whether it’s a bigger paycheck, a management position, or some other milestone, you’ll need to focus beyond your skills. It’s often soft skills and extra effort that launch a career to new heights.