Tips for Successful Career Management
Have you ever missed an opportunity because you were not prepared? I have – one of those times nearly cost me my entire career. My lack of preparation did set my career back 10 years – a very, very painful experience. I spent a great deal of time looking at what I had done right and especially what I had done wrong. I talked with friends and professional associates at length – my final conclusion was that I had neglected some very basic steps. I began to correct the things most often noted and determined I would not let this happen to me again. Little did I know then that the lessons learned would become the basis for a comprehensive career management platform.
Tip 1: Document Storage and Retrieval. Working on your home computer, look at all career-related documents you have stored. Are they all in one area where you can retrieve them instantly? If not, take care of this first. Are there any documents residing on the office computer which you should forward to your home computer or paper files? I mention this first, as I have had friends and associates laid off and walked to their cars without any opportunity to retrieve documents or personal files, electronic or paper.
Tip 2: Vital Documents to have on Hand. No matter where you fit, whether labor, clerical, administrative, management, or executive, prepare a one page biographical sketch with a professional picture. This document should include something about what you are doing now and some family or leisure time activities. You may have an opportunity to serve on a committee, join a group, or have this available to submit with a resume to a prospective employer. You may either prepare the biographical sketch yourself or have someone assist you in the preparation. Also prepare a current resume, listing current employment, significant accomplishments, any awards or commendations, education and other employment information.
Do you have copies of your employment reviews? Many people do not know it is their right to ask Human Resources for a copy of these documents. Hint: If your employer does not actually perform reviews, you should prepare one annually yourself and if possible discuss it with your supervisor. Alternatively you may want to prepare an accomplishments document. Commendations, both from your employer and others, should always be in your files at home. If you have participated in or personally given presentations, these should also be retained and properly filed. The same goes for articles you have authored, co-authored, or edited. You should track and keep a copy of any programs where you are a featured speaker. Any continuing education information should be a part of this platform. If you are a member of a professional organization, you should file all related documents, along with any honors or awards.
Tip 3: Organize the information. Speed of retrieval is critical here. You should have a major folder and sub folders to store materials. Hint: if someone else uses the same computer at home you are using, use a USB flash drive to update and keep an extra copy of the information in case of accidental file deletion – it happens! As with any other important document, one or more backup copies are essential as hard drives do fail.
Tip 4: Effective Communication. It has been proven time after time that effective communicators get the gold – with many others eating their dust! Think before you open your mouth, especially when irritated. Written communication takes many forms today – from the most casual to the very formal document. Hint: use caution when putting words into electronic print or on paper. Think about your audience and about how the words you say today may be looked at five or ten years from now.
Tip 5: Social Media/Texting. I separate this from all other forms of communication because it is the most commonly used and misused today. The absolute rule here is to play nice, period! These conversations have been, and will continue to be, used in legal proceedings, in employer evaluations for possible hiring, and in performance reviews. If you have input something while angry and it is posted, as soon as possible give an apology. It costs you nothing and frankly could save your job today or the dream job you are working toward!
Tip 6 Community Service. Any projects you participate in routinely, as well as one-time events should be identified. This could be something as simple as a bake sale to raise money for a child with cancer, or perhaps working, through a volunteer organization, to help your community or others. Pictures, articles, etc. should be placed in the file. What this can mean to a prospective employer is that you are well-rounded and believe in sharing your talents with others.
Tip 7: Financial Planning. Through your personal budget, you know what the associated costs of employment look like, from gasoline to meals to clothing, etc. If you have not reviewed this recently, this would be a good time to do so. Professional development and training programs are rarely covered by employers today. This means you need to think about what you need to budget to gain the skills you need to advance. If you do not currently budget for career progression, I strongly recommend that you begin to do so. Employers want to see that you are remaining current in your field and where possible, adding to your overall knowledge base. There are many free resources available and you should record these in your files, if the content is substantive. So many opportunities abound via the internet that training has become very inexpensive. Also, many organizations offer payment plans which may make an otherwise negative decision something you can embrace and accept.
Once you have completed the action items described in these seven tips, make a calendar notation for every ninety days to quickly review and update your information. Then reward yourself for completing this project with focus, patience, and determination. When the next opportunity comes your way, instead of cold, blind panic, you can smile to yourself, hit a few keys and know that you are prepared to embrace success!