Are You Career Savvy? What Career Counselors Advise

crooked train tracksPerhaps you can relate to clients who have reached out to me after a job loss or extended search feeling as if they were caught unawares and with very little in the way of preparation.  Or, if you’re currently employed, how well are you prepared for a sudden merger, department downsizing or an increasingly-aggravating boss who makes you want to get out?

This may have happened to you, somebody you know, or your ‘spidey sense’ tells you a plot twist is coming to your steady job.   It has been said that one of the hallmarks of the new workplace is that everyone has been through one transition or another.  How do you best position yourself for involuntary job change before the crisis hits?

To start, it is helpful to understand that career management is an ongoing process—a constant work in progress.  Take a look at the checklist below and see how you score for career transition readiness.   Coincidentally, most of these items are the initial focus of career counseling, and what clients say they wish they had been doing.  And, a huge bonus of this list is that I had it vetted and ranked with the input of seven professional career counselors and coaches.

How ready are you – checklist.  In counselor’s order of importance, here are eight actions of a career- savvy individual:

  1. Get networking!   At least 1 meeting a month and 100 contacts in your network
  2. Refine your career focus and personal mission
  3. Use online tools like LinkedIn
  4. Volunteer, especially skills-based work
  5. Practice a change-resilient attitude where you remain centered and grounded
  6. Hire a guide do a career check up with a career counselor/coach
  7. Ensure your résumé is up- to-date and compelling
  8. Build your knowledge (continuing education)

Add up your score:  6 – 8, more ready than not; 3 – 5, may have a safety net; 0 – 2, catchup ASAP!  Most new career clients over-emphasize the importance of having a resume first.  Are you surprised by how low it ranks on this list? Of course if you have only two items, career counselors believe the top two from the list clearly outplay the bottom two.

Biggest bang.  Realize that career transitions are going to happen to you, and will include a mix of things you can control and things you can’t.  You may not have much say in the timing or the outcome, but you can initiate the process of self-preparation.  Begin with the top three items on the checklist for the biggest impact:

  • Networking. I understand the bad rap about networking. But it isn’t really about getting up the nerve to attend networking events where you’ll present canned phrases about yourself and hand out your business card to as many people as possible. Rather, it’s about developing sincere, reciprocal relationships with people who are willing, like you, to step outside their own bubble and help others.   Tips and strategies abound, and career counselors can also help you catch on and catch up with networking.
  • Career focus.   Let’s say you’re clear on the type of work you don’t like (probably your current job), but you don’t know what would be a better fit for you.       It takes commitment, and various action steps like the “Self-inventory” in Parachute (chapter 7), and maybe a little help, to get unstuck and gain clarity on best-fit career choices. Then it’s ‘watch out world’ as you enfold your master plan.
  • LinkedIn.  For the uninitiated, LinkedIn is a vast social network centered on careers, and it enables users to connect and share content with other professionals, including colleagues as well as recruiters and potential employers. Whether you already have a profile and need to build your identity, or are about to sign up (hint, hint), all can benefit by referencing LinkedIn’s own Help Center.

Feel readier?   Take action on your plan from the above checklist items every month, if not every week.  We’re talking about taking a proactive rather than a reactive approach to career management.  Behave as if you are an entrepreneur, and you are your own company—know your product, be seen, and deliver value to your network.  If you feel stuck or hesitant, see my previous blog on Getting a Guide, and by all means get going!