You must take responsibility for your own career future since it's not your boss's job to look out for you. Many people are blindsided by lay-offs and downsizings that are economy driven and don't have anything to do with work performance. We are all expendable so it's imperative to have a short-term and long-term plan and be in charge of your own career destiny so it never happens by default.
Here are some great tips to help you become more pro-active as you develop and implement your personal career action plan.
Network Before You Need It -- you should always be growing your professional community even when you are not job searching. Think of it as building relationships, an opportunity to stay on top of current trends, and a chance to share your strengths story and abilities with others. The hidden job market is alive and well since approximately 80 percent of jobs are still never posted. People hire who they know and trust so you must not be a well-kept secret. Get out there and meet people face-to-face so you are ready when opportunity knocks, or when you need to rally your troops for advice and counsel. Remember to be a good networker and pay-it-forward to others in need.
Have an Exit Strategy -- with mergers & acquisitions in the corporate and non-profit arena part of the new normal, you must be ready to leave on your own terms before the pink slips are distributed along with the new company letterhead. Consider where you want to go when things are going well on the job so you have the luxury of thinking clearly, without stress and can plan your next steps well in advance.
Always Tell Your Strengths Story -- men have been talking about what they do well with confidence for decades and women lag far behind in promoting themselves. You must be your own best self advocate and learn to talk about what you do well so you can articulate your unique special sauce and professional worth. Consider the humble confidence mindset so you can brag comfortably in your own skin about the accolades you have earned. Remember nobody gave you these success stories -- you worked your tail off to earn them.
Keep Your Resume/Portfolio Current -- things change fast so you need to have your resume/CV or professional portfolio polished and ready when opportunity knocks or when you find yourself in job search mode. Share your documents with trusted advisors to get their feedback on what your professional persona is on paper and how effective your materials are at showcasing you at your best. Seek out the services of a professional resume writer if you need expert assistance.
Don't Rely on Your Boss to Grow Your Career -- no matter how great you think your boss may be, and many are not, he/she is not in charge of your next career move. You alone have accountability for where you want to go. If your current boss is not star material, giving you opportunities to grow within an organization that you love, it may be time to look for one that is.
Re-evaluate Your Goals -- life changes (a lot!) so you must evaluate your goals and your plan of action on a regular basis and adjust accordingly. If you find yourself pursuing an advanced degree, for example, you need to build that time into your long-term plan. Be flexible knowing that the only thing constant is change but keep your eye on the prize.
Check-in with Your Accountability Master -- someone on your personal Board of Directors needs to be charged with keeping you on task with your professional goals. It's easy to get side-tracked, overwhelmed, and just plain stressed-out so your accountability master will give you a swift kick and the vote of confidence you need to do what you really need to do in order to move forward.
Seek Out Professional Development Opportunities -- in order to stand out from the pack you must be a lifelong learner. Don't wait for your organization to invest in your future. Seek out conferences, credentials, workshops, and other opportunities to sharpen your skills and enhance your value-add in the workplace. This is an investment in your future and it's tax-deductible.
Whether you are an official leader in your workplace or not, you must embrace the mindset of a leader when it comes to your personal career management. Stay current in your field, or investigate new ways to play to your strengths. Have the courage and confidence to talk about what you do well and map out a short-term and long-term plan with action steps so you can achieve the goals you so well deserve.
You need not do this all alone. Tap the expertise of your personal Board of Directors, especially your accountability master to keep you on track and be in control of your career destiny. You deserve to be in charge of your own career -- so assume that leadership role now!
Caroline Dowd-Higgins authored the book "This Is Not the Career I Ordered" and maintains the career reinvention blog of the same name (www.carolinedowdhiggins.com) She is also the Director of Career & Professional Development and an Adjunct Faculty member at Indiana University Maurer School of Law.