January is the perfect time to take a look at your career and your professional goals to determine whether or not you’re on the right track to success. Maybe you’re thinking about changing jobs or switching companies or changing industries entirely. Or perhaps you just want to learn new skills and freshen up your professional image in the New Year.
We recommend doing a “career audit” each year, by asking yourself a few questions to help you re-evaluate your goals. Start by thinking about…
- Where are you now? Take stock of your current role—what things are you responsible for in your current role? Which things do you enjoy doing, and which do you dread doing? Are you generally happy in your job? Do you have all the skills you need—or are there things you’d like to do that require new skills, certifications, or trainings?
- Where do you want to be in the future? In one year, five years, ten years? Do you want to be doing the same thing? What do you want more of and less of in your career? What things do you wish you could change? What areas do you want to grow in? After taking stock of where you are now—and where you want to be, ask yourself if you want to stay in your current job, move up in your organization, or move on entirely.
- Create a plan! Determine your course of action and make a plan to get there. Hopefully, asking yourself these questions will help you determine if you’re happy in your current role and organization, and if not, what needs to change. Read on for our tips for whether you want to change jobs, change careers, or just want to freshen up your professional persona…
If you’ve determined that you’re happy working in your organization and industry but want to move up or across the corporate ladder, you have to be willing to take on new challenges. Here are a few tips:
- Establish yourself as a trustworthy and valuable employee. Start volunteering for extra responsibilities and special projects. Taking on extra assignments will not only show you are a go-getter but will also allow you to expand your network and showcase your talents to different departments within your organization.
- Seek out a mentor in your organization. Whether it’s your supervisor or another respected colleague, find a mentor who can serve as a sounding board, advisor, and champion for your career. They can give you advice on applying to new positions within your company and can serve as a reference if needed. Schedule regular conversations with your boss regarding your career trajectory so that when opportunities arise, you will both be ready.
- Research and understand the protocol for moving up in your organization. Find out whether your company posts new jobs online, whether you need to talk to HR, or whether it’s a more informal process.
- If you find a role that interests you, be proactive about it. Do your research, talk to people about the job, the team, and what will be expected of you. Consider many different factors (the team you’ll be working with, the role itself, the hours, etc.) to determine it’s a good fit for you, and if you decide it is, don’t be afraid to apply!
Changing industries and careers entirely requires additional effort. If you’re unhappy in your career, determine if it’s because you truly hate your profession, the industry, or if it’s just the company, or if there’s something else causing your discontent. For example, maybe the hours are too long, you dislike your boss or coworkers, the commute is stressful, etc. When you’re certain you want to change careers, follow these steps to get started:
- If you hate your current job, you need to figure out what new industry or role interests you. Try taking a personality/career assessment, or talking to a professional career coach to help you figure it out.
- Once you’ve determined what you’re well suited for (and what you enjoy doing), make a list of those careers and do your research. Find out everything you can about the industry, the companies who play a big role, the salary ranges for jobs you’re interested in, the skills or education you’ll need for those specific roles, and so on. Some jobs will require special degrees or certification, but you may already have skills that can be leveraged and transferred to your new field. That’s why your research and networking is so important while changing your career.
- Research some local companies and start talking to people in that field. You might already have contacts in the field—reach out to them and set up informational interviews if you can. Find out how they got started, and how to get your foot in the door. Can you do an internship there? Volunteer work? Find a mentor in the field?
- Don’t quit your current job too soon! Try to get your feet wet in the new industry (and confirm that it’s something you really want to do), before making any drastic changes. Especially if your career change requires a new degree, as you need to decide if you can practically and financially make it work. Consider if you’ll be able to work in your new field concurrent to your current job (either in an after-hours internship, or part-time job).
- Use your current job and network to catapult you into a new career. Learn new skills that you’ll need for your new career in your current role, if possible. Take advantage of educational opportunities there while you can. And leverage your professional and social networks to help find your new dream job.
And whether you’re looking for a new job or not, take the time to clean up your professional persona this January.
- Make it one of your New Year’s goals to take advantage of the professional development opportunities that your company provides. Learn a new skill, attend a training, or get certified in something new this year.
- Make sure your resume is up to date. Add projects you worked on, awards you won, and skills you learned in the past year to your resume. Edit your resume so the language is active, and avoid including these cringe-worthy phrases. And incorporate this simple resume formula (from an Executive at Google) to help yours stand out among others. You may want to consider getting professional help with your resume and business writing skills—find out more information here.
- Refresh your LinkedIn profile with these 3 easy tips. Any company considering you for a new job will most definitely review your LinkedIn profile; triple check your profile for grammar and spelling mistakes. Add your new skills, certifications, volunteer work, or courses to your profile. Make sure a new opportunity doesn’t pass you by!
Whatever your career goals are, be clear about what steps you need to take, make a plan of action, and then take the right steps every day. If you stay focused and dedicated, you’ll get there. Good luck!