You know you are good dealing with people, but you are not sure what that means for your career. You love analyzing data, but you don’t know how to build a career on it. You are an entry-level employee at a big company and job opportunities keep passing you by. Even if you were to get one of them, you are not sure how it would fit into your long-term goals, or even if you have long-term goals. What’s your career plan?
So many people go about looking for “jobs” without considering that they are letting opportunities for a satisfying career pass them by. Often, they don’t know what they really want to do, and if they do, they don’t know how to get there.
If you need to build a career for yourself, no matter your age or situation, consider the following tips:
1. Know Yourself
The first step is to know who you are. If you don’t like dealing with strangers, don’t go into sales. If you are energized by people, look for a collaborative work environment. If you are not comfortable directing others, don’t aspire to be a manager. So often, we allow our preconceptions about which jobs are desirable (or lucrative) to dictate our decisions. People who do this find themselves very uncomfortable in their employment. Know your strengths, know what you bring to the table, and seek opportunities to showcase those skills.
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2. Build Your Brand
This advice has been given so often that it almost has lost its meaning. However, brand-building is important especially now, because employers can discover information about applicants much more easily than in years past. Consider how you come across in person and online. In person, be amiable, professional, well-dressed, non-judgmental, and hardworking. Every time you deal with a colleague or potential employer, or anyone really, be your best self. You want employers to see you as someone who consistently delivers. And, don’t allow your online persona to detract from your brand. In fact, it should strengthen it. Make sure your LinkedIn profile is up to date. Make sure the information you send out into the world via Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat, and so on, is appropriate. Employers can and do research their potential employees online, so make sure your online presence represents your brand.
3. Consider the Lattice Instead of the Ladder
Your goal position may not be something you reach by ladder. These days, you may instead need to try out different areas via the “corporate lattice.” Be willing to try different things. Consider how your strengths may translate into different roles. As your career moves forward, you may be surprised to discover various career paths that you were not aware of when you started down the path.
4. Instead of Networking, Build Relationships
Networking is the buzz term that often translates into quick conversations and meaningless handshakes. Networking is not something that you do a few hours a week to build your career. Instead, you should be building relationships with people on a daily basis, with people who seem important now, and people who don’t. Being an authentic person with a genuine interest in others will get you much farther then attending networking events where you never actually get to know anyone. The people who know you, your brand, and your skills, are more likely to assist you in your career than someone you tossed a resume to at a networking event.
5. Make yourself indispensable
Even if you are in a role you dislike, make yourself the best employee your manager has ever seen. You are far more likely to earn your way to a better role by exceeding at the one you have than by underperforming out of disappointment for your current situations. And, don’t forget the importance of building those relationships. A co-worker now may be a manager somewhere else later who is hiring for a job you desire.
6. Be bold
If your dream job is on the other side of the country – move. If you aren’t qualified for a role now because you don’t have the education – go back to school. If a bad working relationship with someone is holding you back – fix the relationship. This is your career and your life, and sometimes getting what you want may require a bold move.
You can have a satisfying career, but your success is up to you.