Proactive Career Management: Five Essential Steps to Take Today

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Do the right things today to set yourself up for career success tomorrow explains Chrissy Scivicque

As a career coach, I often end up working with people when they experience a major career disruption, such as a layoff. Sometimes, people come to me when they’ve reached breaking point and they need to make an immediate change, like finding a new job or an entirely new career.

This isn’t surprising. Most people don’t actively manage their career until they have a reason to. They’re happy to go with the flow as long as things are relatively easy and pain-free. But, as soon as trouble arises, they spring into action.

I am an advocate for proactive career management. Instead of waiting for a situation to force you into action, take steps to create the path you want for yourself now. In other words: Do the right things today to set yourself up for career success tomorrow.

When you’re proactive about your career, you’re able to be more intentional and make better decisions. Because you’re not working under immense time pressure, stress and anxiety, you’re able to be thoughtful and patient. Ultimately, being proactive creates better results.

If you’re committed to the idea of proactively managing your career, here are five things you need to do right now. Don’t put them off. If you wait until you’re in the midst of a career disruption, you’ll already be two steps behind. And trust me: At that point, you’ll have enough to worry about. If you already have these five things done, you’ll be much more capable of handling whatever unexpected career issues happen to come your way.

1. Keep Your Resume Up-To-Date

 Your resume is the most important career document you have. Yet, very few people give it any attention when they’re happily employed. They simply let it collect dust. I can’t tell you how many people I’ve worked with who were unable to even locate their resume. They were eager to jump into a job search or seize an exciting career opportunity, but they were starting from scratch with this crucial document.

I recommend reviewing and updating your resume with your most recent career accomplishments at least once a year. In the meantime, keep a comprehensive accomplishment list, which you update on a quarterly basis. This helps ensure you don’t forget important details or overlook impressive achievements.

Tracking career accomplishments means writing down four key elements, as defined below.

  • Situation: What were you trying to achieve and why?
  • Obstacle: What challenges were you facing?
  • Action: What did you do to overcome the challenge and achieve what was needed?
  • Result: What was the outcome?

With this information in hand, you’ll be able to update your resume quickly and easily. You’ll also be better prepared for job interviews, performance reviews and other career conversations, even if they happen spur-of-the-moment.

2. Maintain an Active LinkedIn Profile

 LinkedIn is an essential tool for job seekers and anyone who is interested in promoting a strong personal brand. However, it takes some time to get comfortable with the platform. It has a lot of bells and whistles and, when you’re just getting started, it can feel a bit overwhelming. You don’t want to be building your profile and figuring things out while also trying to get a new job or position yourself for a big career opportunity. At that point, you want an already established profile that demonstrates a consistent pattern of positive engagement.

Plus, with a strong LinkedIn profile, career opportunities may come to you. More and more, recruiters and hiring managers are using LinkedIn to source candidates. That means, you may be contacted out of the blue if your skillset matches their needs.

If you don’t already have a LinkedIn profile, get started now. The basic account is free, so there’s no excuse to delay. Take some time to learn the best practices and create a profile that truly represents your personal brand in the best possible light. Connect with people in your existing network and look for ways to meet new contacts by engaging in groups, for example.

In today’s market, a LinkedIn profile is second only to a resume—and one day soon, it may be even more important. If and when that day comes, you want to be ready.

3. Expand and Deepen Your Network

The people in your network play a critical role in your career success. They can share information, advice, referrals or introductions. Your network can give you access to a world of wisdom, experience and opportunity.

However, in order to effectively leverage your professional contacts, these people must first know, like, and trust you. It takes time to develop relationships like that; it’s not an overnight proposition.

If you ignore your network until you need to start asking for favors, you’ll come off as desperate, pushy, aggressive and selfish. However, if you take the time to build and nurture your network now—and do favors for others—you’ll create a lot of good will. When the day finally comes that you need some help, these same people will jump at the opportunity.

To stay engaged with your network, regularly share resources via email and/or LinkedIn. When you read a valuable article, for example, send it to a few people whom you think it would benefit. Also, consider scheduling occasional coffee dates with your professional contacts. A little face-to-face time can go a long way in deepening relationships. Ask others what they’ve been up to and how you can help support their career goals.

These simple activities will keep you top of mind and help ensure that your network remains warm and receptive to you.

4. Create a Compelling Career Portfolio

A professional portfolio is an extraordinarily helpful career tool that demonstrates your value in the professional world. Simply put, a portfolio highlights your contributions and provides tangible evidence of what you’ve achieved in the past. It’s can be a hugely influential complement to job interviews and performance reviews.

Of course, building a compelling career portfolio takes a big investment of time. You can’t do it in a day—believe me, I’ve seen people try. When you’re rushing, the finished product comes off looking like a haphazard crafting project.

A polished professional portfolio requires clean and organized documentation. It takes some thoughtful consideration about what to include. For most people, this project is a labor of love—but one that can really pay off in your career.

Just like your resume, your portfolio is something you’ll want to keep up-to-date throughout your career. You never know when you’ll want to reference it.

5. Practice Self-Care

Finally, it’s worthwhile discussing the topic of self-care. In my experience, “burnout” is far too common these days. This term refers to a state of mental, physical and emotional exhaustion and it’s typically associated with work.

I’ve seen so many professionals fall victim to this. They work too many hours, refuse to take vacation, fail to set limits with others, and neglect their own physical wellbeing for prolonged periods of time. Only when they reach complete burnout do these people take the time to pause and focus on self-care. At that point, they have no choice.

When you’re burned out, you’re of no use to anyone. You might work yourself to the bone because you don’t want to let others down, but you won’t be able to keep that up forever. As flight attendants say, put on your own oxygen mask before helping others with theirs. If you neglect yourself long enough, eventually, you’ll have nothing left to give.

It may be hard and uncomfortable to take time to care for yourself now, but doing so will prevent the much harder, much more uncomfortable experience of burnout. Even small things—like consistently taking breaks and enjoying a few vacation days from time to time—can have a big impact. Don’t sacrifice these things because you think no one can manage without you. Believe me, they’ll find a way.

Your career is important; but it’s not everything. Don’t wait until you’re at a breaking point to make positive changes for yourself.

In conclusion, I hope this article has inspired you to get proactive with your career. I believe that professional success is not something that simply happens; it’s something you create. Each day, make smart choices about where to put your attention.

By focusing on career management before there’s an issue you have to deal with, you have the power to carve your own path. You can make any career problems more manageable and, in some cases, you can prevent them from becoming problems at all. You can truly set yourself up for success, no matter what comes your way.

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About Author

Chrissy Scivicque

Chrissy Scivicque believes that work can be a delicious, nourishing life experience—and she loves helping professionals discover exactly what that means for them and how to achieve it. Her popular website, EatYourCareer.com, is devoted to this mission. As an award-winning writer, certified career coach and experienced corporate trainer, Chrissy brings a unique perspective to the world of professional development. She is also the author of The Proactive Professional: How to Stop Playing Catch Up and Start Getting Ahead at Work (and In Life) available on Amazon. If you are interested in Chrissy training your assistants or speaking at your event, either virtually or in person, please email [email protected]

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