Spring has sprung! Grab your dusters and vacuums and prepare to dig out all the summer stuff from the back of your closet... oh, wait. This article is about spring cleaning your career: re-energizing your career requires a pen, some paper and a computer.
See Also: 4 Career Tips You Haven’t Heard Before
What does it mean to spring clean your career? It’s all about making sure you’re still on track with your career goals, that your resume is modernized and up to date and seeing what you can do to improve yourself, your networking and your online presence. Hopefully you don’t change jobs every year, but having an annual date that you take a look at where you are is a good way to remind yourself that you should never get too complacent.
"I’m spring cleaning my career!" Doesn’t that sound like a great excuse to get out of spring cleaning the house? Well, you should get started on these seven steps then:
1. Where Are You, and Where do You Want to be?
Take some time to sit and reflect on the last 12 months. Is your job title what you always wanted it to be - or at least what you eventually realized was what you truly wanted? Do your accomplishments still excite you? What goals have you reached, and what goals are you still aiming for?
Even if you think you’re completely happy, take another look: is there absolutely no room for any improvement? Are there no promotion opportunities you could try for, or an intern you could mentor? Careers aren’t just about the position you hold, but what you do beyond your daily responsibilities; learn a new skill, prepare for the future of the industry, remember that you should never stop learning or growing.
If you aren’t happy, work out why. Is it because of the goals you haven’t reached? What can you do to make sure the next year is when you finally reach that big milestone you think will change your life? Renew your commitment by breaking your goals into smaller, more manageable goals, and figuring out what needs to change to get you to where you want to be. Break out that classic interview question "Where do you see yourself in five years?", answer it and decide how to get there.
2. Edit Your Resume
When was the last time you looked at your resume? Assuming it wasn’t yesterday, it’s unlikely there’s nothing you can do to make it better, and an updated resume keeps you prepared for any unforeseen circumstances that could make you need it. Here are the things you should take a look at:
- Skills. Remembering all the skills you have can give you a confidence boost, but that doesn’t mean they should all be there. A resume that boasts that you can use Word and the internet is one that can look like you’re trying to make up for not having much else. If you’re looking to make some changes to your work life, why not work on learning a skill you’ve been planning to get to "someday"?
- Buzzwords. If there aren’t any, add some. If there are, consider whether they’re still relevant to your industry or whether you could add new ones that either weren’t around before or better describe your job as it is now.
- Remove or condense internships and entry level positions. At a certain point in your career it no longer makes sense to list them; taking them out saves space, and, like skills that are no longer impressive, proves you’ve done bigger and better things since then.
When your resume is fully updated, open a new document and list all the achievements you’re the most proud of: this is your bragalogue, or catalogue of things you can brag about. Similar to an elevator pitch but without the time restriction, it’s the main things you would talk about if someone was to ask what you do or what you’re the most proud of. Keep this document on your computer to look at when you need the boost or to add to any time you do something and you’ll have a ready-made argument come promotion time.
3. Get Online
If you’re not already on LinkedIn and Twitter, then get on there. LinkedIn is useful for networking and research, Twitter is useful for starting a conversation with people in the industry, and both can - though there’s no guarantee - help you get a job. Go and open your favourite social media services and check three things:
- If they’re for personal use only, are they either totally private or at least partly private? (Facebook especially.)
- Do they show you in a positive light?
- Are your LinkedIn and Twitter links on your resume, as clickable links? While it can be a good idea to make these clickable, however, don’t go too far with making your resume interactive, as printers do still exist.
If you Google how LinkedIn can help with your job search or career, you will find thousands of results. Here are some of the main ideas for you to remember:
- When you change your profile or add a connection, it sends a notification to everyone, and updating it draws attention to you.
- The more connections, the better. Reconnect with some former colleagues or even people you went to school or college with; you never know who might be able to help you.
- Connect with your connections. Why not reconnect with an old colleague, not just to reminisce or ask about a potential job, but to see how their family is doing now? There’s a reason it’s called "social" media, and everyone likes it when people remember them.
- Take advantage of the space you’re given. Unless you happen to have an unusually long name, you should have space to add "BSc", "PhD" and other qualifications after it; when it comes to job titles, remember that they can vary from company to company and keywords can make them more standardized.
4. Use Your Time More Efficiently
While volunteering is great on your resume and great for meeting people, getting out and feeling good about yourself, less can be more. If you’re volunteering to help animals, and children and the elderly, is there just one that you could focus on? Focusing on your one passion can mean dedicating yourself to it more and freeing up time that you could be using to advance your career. Remember, there’s a difference between being truly busy and just seeming busy.
If you’ve ever wished that you could stop time for an hour or so for a chance to catch up, time blocking is about doing just that: scheduling time "off" which no one else is allowed to intrude on. Whether you use it to schedule the next day, get through your emails, or even finally tidy your desk,that time is yours to use however you want.
I know, networking is something you only think about when you’re looking for work. That’s the wrong attitude, as it’s just as important to network while you’re employed. Not only does it mean having contacts you can turn to if you ever find yourself needing help, but people feel more inclined to meet with someone who’s employed as they can feel more confident that they aren’t about to be pestered about job opportunities.
Connect with people both in and out of your field, and make sure it’s active networking that doesn’t end once you’ve exchanged cards and added each other on the various social networks; similarly to how you get the most out of Twitter if you actually tweet; you get the most out of a networking relationship by talking to them as people and not just tools.
6. Take a Class
Is there a local class, or an in-company training session that you could be taking advantage of to enhance your skills? You can never know too much, and if there’s something that you think you would enjoy learning, you should go and learn it. Look to the future and consider if there’s anything you could learn before anyone else to make yourself indispensable to the company and create some level of job security for yourself.
If you’re thinking of a career change, an evening class is the ideal way to learn about the new thing risk-free and without making any changes to your current situation. Alternatively, you might try something new, love it, add it to your LinkedIn skills and then get offered a job doing the thing you never even knew you wanted!
Don’t overlook things like seminars that help with interview skills, either. Sure, you managed to get your current job, but there’s no guarantee that the same techniques would have worked in a different interview, or that they would still work now. Think of it this way: if you were interviewed for your current job tomorrow, are you confident that you could get it back?
Remember, the only person who can improve your situation is you; your situation isn’t going to fix itself and a new job that makes you happier isn’t going to fall into your lap by magic. You need to take steps to face your situation head on, to connect, to improve yourself and make yourself known if you want people to realize you exist and help you with your goals. Go and follow the steps above, and once you’re done spring cleaning your career you can go ahead and get on with spring cleaning your closet; starting with your work wardrobe.
When was the last time you updated your resume? How many positions are missing from your LinkedIn profile? Let us know the steps you take to spring clean your own career in the comments section below.