Far too many of us become complacent when it comes to our careers. We settle into the routine of office life and are subsumed into the tedium of menial tasks and meetings, losing our forward and upward momentum. If you are looking to reclaim that fire and ambition that once drove you to excel, stop being passive and use these six easy ways to take charge of your career:
1. Keep the resume in shape – After being employed by a company for two or three years, most people feel safe and thus stop updating their resume, assuming they either won’t need it or can throw something together last minute. However, imagine how much you forget each day– if you’re not tracking your accomplishments as they happen, you’ll forget the details. And you should also be adding and removing references from time to time, reflecting your growth in the company.
2. Build a network – Your network should be far more than just the people you eat lunch with at the office or the people you went to school with. Seek out people working in the same field as you on LinkedIn. Connect with industry experts over Twitter. Uncover groups and professional organizations that cater to the needs of your industry. Create a network that can provide you with leads and job offers when it’s time for you to take the next step in your career.
3. Search for better opportunities – An essential part of being a career-minded professional is striving to learn more about your discipline, including new technology and industry trends. If your job requires no growth, no development, and no net increase in knowledge week after week, month after month, then you are in danger of stagnation. Keep an eye out for opportunities that can help you expand your skill set. Even if you can’t change jobs, take courses at your local university or look into training opportunities at your company.
4. Develop leadership qualities – Being a team player is a wonderful skill to have in the office, but it should not be the only skill you have developed over the years. Take every opportunity, especially if you are fairly low in the hierarchy, to take the lead on projects. Offer to assume new responsibilities. At the very least, it will help you get noticed by your boss.
5. Build your confidence – Do a spot check on various job boards to see how well you measure up to your peers. Have you achieved less or more in the time you’ve been working? If you have done better, you should have the confidence to ask management to consider a promotion, or a raise, or a different career path. Alternatively, if you’ve done significantly less, or find that you frequently have bosses younger than you, then raise yourself up by setting realistic goals with deadlines for achievement. Consider hiring a career coach.
6. Choose a career path – You need to know where you are going and how to get there– in life as well as in your career. Analyze your current work environment and methodology: are you tending towards specialization or do you still take on every project you are offered? Do you have an ideal destination, a job or level of seniority you want to achieve? Set long-term and short-term careers goals and every few months ensure that you are making progress. If you’re not, and your job is getting in the way, then that’s probably an indication that you need to move on.