One of the most common mistakes employees make when it comes to career management is only thinking about career growth when they’re ready to make a change. The truth is, career management is a long-term process that begins long before you’re ready for a new opportunity. Here are four simple ways you can start to take control of your career trajectory today:
Think About Your Future
In order to start planning for the future of your career, you first have to know what you want. You don’t have to have it all figured out right away, and remember that your goals and plans might change several times throughout your life. Start small, and pick one or two things you want to achieve in your career, whether it’s a promotion, a relocation to a particular market, or a role with a company you admire. Then make a list of steps you can take to get you to your goal. Do you need to learn a new software, develop your leadership skills, or work on larger or more complex assignments? Having a few smaller goals to work toward can keep you focused on your big-picture plans, even as you stay committed to succeeding in your current role.
Track Your Career Highlights
Even if you have no intention of entering the job market any time soon, it’s still a good idea to keep your resume and a list of career highlights up to date. If you haven’t created one of those documents, put them together with as much detail as you can remember, including significant assignments or projects, budgets, schedules, and noteworthy contributions (such as money saved, money earned, or problems solved). Then, as you continue in your career, add to those documents with each new accomplishment and assignment so that if the time comes when you are ready to look for new opportunities, all the hard work will already be done.
Stay Informed About Your Industry
Keeping yourself informed about industry news, technological advances, market value compensation, and other professional information can help you in several ways. You’ll be able to maximize the value you’re bringing to your current company by knowing how to stay competitive in the market. You’ll also be able to identify key opportunities that might be a fit for your long-term goals as they arise, or find new goals and challenges to take on based on industry trends and changes. Consider subscribing to industry publications or newsletters, reading local newspapers, and communicating with coworkers and other professional connections to keep your pulse on the industry’s growth and changes.
Build Your Professional Network
At every stage of your career, it’s important to develop relationships throughout your industry. From direct reports to prospective mentors to peers in other specialties, the people who work around you are an invaluable resource. You can improve in your current role by learning from people who are exceptional at what they do, develop skills outside your area of expertise by collaborating with specialists, and learn about key market opportunities by engaging with recruiters and hiring managers throughout your market. Make an effort to establish a connection with the people on your team and get to know them. You might also consider attending - or even presenting at - professional networking events or conferences in your region. These types of events can introduce you to a wide range of professionals you can learn from, and who might also benefit from your own areas of expertise.
It’s often said that as an employee, you are the CEO of your own career. It’s up to you to ensure that you’re in control of your career trajectory, not only when you are interested in making a change but throughout your entire career. By thinking about what you want in the future, tracking your career highlights, staying informed about your industry, and continuously building and maintaining your professional network, you can take control of your career and be prepared to pursue great opportunities at the right time.