Job security is fading fast. In a constantly changing world it can feel almost impossible to keep up with the latest trends and digital expectations. So how do you manage your career – and your online reputation – when the goalposts are constantly moving? By investing a little time now in your career, you’ll be able to boost your employability for a long-term pay off.
To help get you started, I’d like to share five ideas with you. If you add at least one to your to-do list it’s a great way to get the ball rolling!
1. Improve Your Self-awareness: Reflection
Take time to reflect. Get away from doing and focus on thinking. Look back and meditate on your past career experiences:
- What skills have you developed throughout your career?
- What positions have you held?
- And how have you contributed to your employers and fellow employees?
By answering these questions, you’ll raise your self-awareness, identify what you’re capable of, and perceive where you get your professional satisfaction (or dissatisfaction) from. You’ll also see what areas you’d like to work on. And where you can make the biggest contribution.
Let me give you a hint: Ask your colleagues, peers and friends for an outside perspective. Not for a recommendation: but for a reflection. They will help you gain a clearer picture.
This step is about defining your professional identity. Who are you? What makes you different from the others? What makes you belong? Define who you are. You might be an engineer, but that does not define you. What you have learnt, developed, contributed over the years in projects – that’s what defines you. That makes you unique. What makes you belong? If you’re an engineer then you need to identify what makes you be part of the in-group. Maybe you’re a process thinker – or a problem solver. You might be serious, responsible, and precise. And your online profile should reflect this.
2. Experiment: Take Baby Steps
Don’t be shy, give new experiences a try. Volunteering, offering your services to associations, contributing to new projects in your current company and new hobbies are all ways to expand your possibilities and social network.
One easy, yet underused, option: Do informational interviews. Though not common in every country, they are another way to explore different sectors or businesses. They can also show you how to position yourself to (potentially) transition into a new area. However, don’t misinterpret the purpose of the interview and never take your CV with you. These sessions are purely informative and are not recruiting opportunities. Read how to prepare for informational interviews for some useful tips.
You can also experiment by sharing content that shows what you know. And that invites others to interact with you. Are you good at project management? Write a blog that adds content (Hey! you are already reading mine!). Make a series of short videos and upload them to YouTube. Remember: you are your own brand ambassador. Put your money where your mouth is: show the world what you know.
3. Be Flexible
You have to be flexible to survive in today’s fast-paced world. New jobs crop up on a daily basis – and the established ones need new skills. If your self-awareness exercise yielded evidence of inflexibility, never fear.
Flexibility can – and should – be learned and developed . Leave your comfort zone behind and use the countless resources – many of them free (like Coursera and Lynda, now part of LinkedIn, offer free online courses in a variety of subjects) – which can help you develop new knowledge and skills.
If you end up looking for a job they will need you to show you are flexible. Your résumés should show that you are willing to embrace change, to learn, and to engage in a dialogue. Please read this interview to find out more about age discrimination – starting at 35!!!! And how to counteract it. Not surprisingly research shows that people over 35 need to show they are flexible . The worse way is by explicitly mentioning such adaptability in the résumé. The best way? Do things that show it. One of them is being present in social media. Another way is trying out things that push you out of your comfort zone: either in your leisure time, in your job, in your social engagement.
4. Improve Your Social Capital: Build Your Developmental Relationships
Sometimes it’s the “weakest link” that helps you find your dream job. That friend of a friend or colleague you met in passing. That’s why it’s crucial to make a conscious effort to maintain a solid and diverse web of contacts and relationships – even if you’re not a networking guru.
Strive to build developmental relationships with potential peer-mentors; or those who can help you develop the competencies to boost your employability.
There might be alternative ways of keeping up with people you really care about. Think about what you want to learn from others. What you can offer them. Learn what others are up to in the long term. What the relevant trends are in your field. And in other fields. And do not forget that among those you should engage in a conversation Millennials are key. They know things you do not and you can learn from them. They can learn many things from you. They have preferences and needs different from yours. And, they will be managing in the future! So you better get along with them. The sooner the better.
5. Manage Your Online Presence
Like it or not, we all have an online presence. And everyone has access – recruiters sift the Internet to see candidates’ digital footprints. Make sure you’re in control of yours.
- Is your LinkedIn profile up-to-date?
- What’s Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other social media sites got on you?
- Do you, for instance, have a Branded.me CV?
They all need to highlight what you’re good at, what you can do. And what you’ve accomplished. Since at step one you already clarified you identity, now is time to think:
- Who do I want to engage with?
- How will I do it?
- What resources will I put into it?
This way, having a clear identity and knowing who you want to engage with, you are ready to communicate.
Your on-line presence will help you with step 2 (experimenting) since you can get into topics you had not had exposure to before. Your on-line presence can help you with step 3 (be flexible) since you will need to learn how to manage your social networks. And, it will also help you with step 4, since it will help you build social capital by engaging with your audience.
Hope this helps to manage your career as an essential element (but probably not the most important one) of your life. Good luck, and most important: enjoy the journey! Want more on careers, work family and Social media? Follow me at @mireialasheras