The Best Career Advice of 2017

The end of the year is swiftly approaching. Depending on how your year went, you might be contemplating a move or you might just be focusing on getting through the holidays. No matter how content you are at work, it’s an excellent time to sift through your professional records from the year and figure out what you can tweak. So you don’t have to search the site, here are our 5 top tips for your defense career:

1. Be smart with how you educate.

The opportunities to educate are not necessarily hard to find, but the challenge is figuring out whether it’s worth it for your career. While you can get your employer to contribute towards a degree, always be sure the time and money couldn’t be better spent elsewhere. Check out the difference between a bachelor’s degree and master’s degree on a salary website to see if you will see a salary bump with a diploma. If you decide to take the plunge, plan your work-life-school balance appropriately to set yourself up for success. Don’t be afraid to take your degree online – there are a number of great options.

2. Don’t let yourself get burnt out.

If you hate what you do or you work in a toxic environment, you may be headed for burnout. Or maybe you’re constantly worried that your position is expendable. Whether you’re struggling with a lengthy commute or crazy coworkers, it’s important to identify what you can change. Can you request an office adjustment? Can you work from home one day a week? Can you find ways to get more autonomy with your work? Don’t ignore this component of your life. We spend a lot of time at work, and some years we just need to deal with the less than ideal work circumstances. But over time, it will drain you and decrease your ability to be promoted or hired elsewhere.

3. Keep your resume and networks up-to-date.

You never know when things will go sour at work or a new opportunity will open up. Don’t wait until you need to search for a job to spend time on your resume and networks. Maintain your portfolio and you will always be ready when an opportunity comes your way or it becomes necessary to begin your cleared job search. Even if you’re an introvert, spend time reaching out to your community. There are plenty of ways to clean up your resume and make it stand out.  If you’re former or current military, don’t forget to translate your skills to a civilian resume. You can even spend time over the holiday season building your resume library – cataloging your experience for the different positions you might consider applying for in the future. It takes some work, but it will payoff later when you have your career information regularly available and up-to-date.

4. Watch your communications.

We all know about the importance of soft skills. But the reality is that we get focused on our own tasks that we forget that every conversation, email, text, or chat message says something about us. We all have our own personal brand – whether we realize it or not. You can call yourself dependable and considerate, but when you don’t email your coworkers back in a timely manner about an issue or you crack uncomfortable jokes, your actions and words communicate otherwise. Take a look at your communication over the past year – you can even scroll through your sent messages, and determine steps to be a better communicator in 2018.

5. Nail your performance reviews.

The thing about performance reviews is they shouldn’t be a surprise. The federal government and most defense contractors endeavor to practice what they preach with process improvement, and have instituted regular performance reviews as part of their normal operating practice. That doesn’t mean that the system makes sense or rewards accurately, but most established established contractors plan for at least an annual performance review.

If you’re in federal government, just keep working more years. For the rest of us, getting promoted at work doesn’t require knowing someone to override the system or read the fine print. Sometimes, just working a bajillion hours will be your ticket to getting a promotion or pay increase. Some might find that enjoyable, but most of us would prefer to simply work smarter. As you prepare for your review, keep a running tab of how you challenge problems and solve them, how you contribute to the goals of the organization or industry, and how you complete tasks above your position.

Here’s to continuing on in a great cleared job or finding a new cleared position in 2018!