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11 Essential Career Boosting Tips
11 Essential Career Tips for a Successful Year Ahead.
As we step into a new year, it's the perfect time to give your career a well-deserved boost. Whether you're aiming for professional growth, better networking, or simply looking to enhance your work-life balance, these 11 essential tips are here to guide you. From decluttering your inbox to becoming a thought leader in your field, each piece of advice is designed to empower you in making informed decisions for your career. So, let's dive into these practical strategies and set the stage for a successful year ahead.
Tip #1. Inbox Detox
Everyone is talking about detoxing after the holidays. On the work front, before your inbox gets inundated with 2024 stuff, book off a chunk of time and start processing and deleting. Get rid of the things you told yourself you were going to read, study, refer back to, or do, but haven’t come thought of or revisited in months.
Same goes for email and voice mail. Purge my friend. There is a great trick to get your inbox to zero from the O-Wise one Merlin Mann at 43 Folders. Create a new folder called 2023 and drag EVERYTHING into it. Voila. Zero emails. Yes, you will have to deal with a lot of those moved emails, but this email purge allows you to start the New Year with less a sense of overwhelm.
Feel better as your inbox gets smaller and lighter
Tip #2. Journal
You can feel the momentum and inertia of all of your professional and personal roles building and we aren’t half way through January yet.
There is a natural energy to the New Year. If you haven’t already, Schedule time in your calendar for some planning.
Personally, I write in my Moleskine, but whatever works for you.
Book some uninterrupted time to try and learn from the previous year and shape the new year.
How do you feel about your job and career progress?
What did you learn about yourself?
What do you want more of?
What do you want less of?
What would you like to change, be, do, and make happen?
If you already have a personal plan, how are you progressing?
These aren’t resolutions. What I am suggesting is a few hours of quiet time for a personal check-up to seriously ask yourself, how am I doing?
Tip #3. Mine your Inbox for Contacts
There is no getting around it. Building and nurturing the relationships in your professional network are key career boosting activities.
If you are like me, your email inbox receives a constant flood of emails from all kinds of people. One of the things I find is that I have significant email interactions with some people during the year, but they don’t make it into my contact management system. I have a process for doing so, but it isn’t foolproof. Not only do you not want to lose the details of those contacts, but you might also want to work on building that relationship.
Here are 2 steps:
Step 1. Work through your email inbox and see if there are any people you want to stay in touch with who slipped through the cracks in terms of not making it into your contact management system. Look at the From field and the cc field as well. This might include both internal contacts and external. The external might include…
Vendors. Customers. Consultants. Industry experts. Media contacts. Event organizers. Strong candidates. Headhunters. And interesting people you were introduced to, met or had some interaction with.
And don’t forget that cc field. There is often hidden treasure in being included in email conversations with people you didn’t physically interact with. (For example, if you were dealing with Person X, and X sent email communications to you and Person Y and you responded to X and Y responded to X, there might be an opportunity for you to touch base with Y to solidify the contact.)
(BTW, let’s not forget those things called business cards. If you are sitting on a pile of unprocessed business cards, this might be a good time to work through those as well.)
Make sure the contacts you would like to be part of your network are included in your contact management system of choice. If you go through this step, it will also refresh your memory about who you did interact with during the year. Even if they made it into your contact management system, you may have forgotten about them.
Step 2. Flag the people that you think, suspect and hope might help further your career development plans.
And that’s it for now. (For extra points, you might want to send a Happy New Year message to some of these people just to touch base.)
Tip #4. Do more than dust off the resume
Update your resume. Yes, I know, so obvious. But, I am suggesting more…
First, your resume should be relatively up-to-date. What does that mean? I recommend that anyone who has been in a job for more than 6 months should update their resume to include their current role. You never know who is going to call. Or what internal or external opportunities might come around. (Or, what negative surprise might you one Monday AM.)
More importantly, the process of capturing what you have done and what you are currently working on is an important, ongoing career management imperative.
To do more than dust off your resume, consider…
Focusing on outcomes, the difference you have made rather than solely on duties and responsibilities
Capturing your true professional strengths and putting them on the resume. Don’t be shy.
Developing a summary pitch about what you offer and where you fit. You can’t and shouldn’t be all things to all employers, so don’t try. Figure out what you do and do very well, and capture that.
Of course, we would be delighted to assist you with Bold Career’s resume writing services. However, you can do it yourself as well. It takes an investment of your time, but one that will pay off. Make it part of your to-do list to boost your career this year.
Tip #5. Develop your Top 20 Relationships
In tip #3 we talked about working through your email archives to keep track of your contacts. Well, here is the follow-on. It applies, of course, to your universe of contacts, not just those people hanging out in your Inbox.
1. Make a list of your best relationships
These aren’t necessarily your best friends mind you. I am talking about professional relationships. Those people who know you and who have the power to help your career along. Like who? Well, if you know The Donald, great, but in the real world, think about.
Individuals within your organization who are 1 or 2 levels above you, within your department and outside of it. You need to have some kind of exposure, or relationship, or at least the very real possibility of creating one over time.
Peers within your organization who are on the move and in a non-competitive area.
People who fit the above description but who are external to your organization. Again, you need some kind of contact or relationship with them.
People whose opinion, input, coaching, and advice you really value.
2. Prioritize your list
If you have more than 20 names, focus in on the Top 20. The people who might be in a position to refer you to new opportunities, assign/hire you to career expanding work, go to bat for you, introduce you to someone interesting, etc.
3. How can you be useful to these people
For in-company relationships, it is often about doing great work, delivering on what you promised, and communicating and interacting at their level. Perhaps you can now or in the future refer quality people and companies to your contact. You might be a conduit of information. Get creative. Even if nothing occurs to you, the idea is to reciprocate.
I know. You may be thinking that this all sounds a bit mechanical. Here’s the bottom line. Your whole career can be made by just a few key relationships. Those key relationships may be within your grasp right now. Even if they aren’t, building your networking / relationship building muscle is an important skill.
Tip #6. Networking Advice: Be interesting
Whether you are job search networking or business networking, one sure fire way to slow yourself down is to be boring. Boring isn’t memorable. Boring doesn’t entice someone to want to follow-up. Which is not to say that you should be obnoxious, or outrageous.
Some ways to Increase Interest
What is it about job search and networking? So many people try and morph themselves into what they think they are supposed to be - and that is transparent.
Be Your Best Self
Not only am I suggesting to be yourself, but go one step further, and be your best self. Turn that light on. Be alive. Be energized and enthusiastic. Increase your wattage and people will notice.
Have an Opinion
If you have an opinion, share it.
Be Plugged In
Usually, your networking is done in context…industry, interest groups, community organizations. Know what is going on. Demonstrate that you aren’t just floating by.
If you do nothing else, remember that networking is about relationship building, and the best way to start a relationship is to take a genuine interest in someone, and ultimately, help them get what they want. Be an active listener. Ask genuine questions and remember the answers.
Useful people are interesting. Are you a hub of information? A source of other contacts? Is your finger on the pulse of the industry? Can you open doors? Provide expertise? Slam dunk any of the above and you will be interesting.
You get the picture.
Tip #7. Be a Thought Leader
This doesn’t apply to everyone, but be open-minded for a moment, and consider this:
Can you show some thought leadership this year?
Thought leadership is the act of contributing to the intellectual evolution of your professional area or industry.
And being a thought leader is a powerful means of boosting your personal brand, profile and success.
Case in point 1
Take the professional services industry for a second. Consultants. Lawyers. B2B and B2C service providers. And so on. Lots of people competing for the same dollars.
One way of standing out from the crowd and building credibility with your potential and current customers is to offer extra value, before, during and after the sale. Delivering thought pieces is one way to do that.
Case in point 2
Let’s say you work in a company and you are in IT, or finance, or business development, or well, pretty much anywhere. Developing expertise in a relevant, up and coming area and then demonstrating that expertise and knowledge in a tangible way (with finesse of course), can get you profile and open doors into project assignments or job opportunities.
Here are some ideas:
Write a white paper
Do a survey and publish the results
Conduct and write-up an analysis
Blog on your industry
Do a podcast
Pose provocative, future-based questions
Present to small or large audiences
Study, research, investigate so that you have the expertise
Brainstorm or mind map how you could show some thought leadership this year.
Tip #8: Develop your Job Search Reference List
If there is ANY chance that you might intentionally, or unintentionally be on the job market in the next year (and even if you think not), do yourself a big favour and invest some time developing and updating your professional and personal reference list.
You have heard that business is about people and relationships. This is doubly important when it comes to your references. Sure, you can email a boss from 7 years ago out of the blue and he/she might help you out, but wouldn’t it have been better to have maintained that relationship over time? Would the results be a bit better perhaps?
Retrieve your reference list. If you don’t have one, open a new document and start creating it.
Touch base with your references.
Contact people who you think you would like to ask to be a reference.
Show some interest in their life. The simple act of touching base, or pinging your references can go along way. “How are things? Can I help?”
Update their current contact info while you are it.
This is not only a smart move in terms of being prepared, but it will also highlight potential gaps in your reference list in advance of the critical moment.
Watch this space for news on my upcoming solution. I will teach you the art of managing and leveraging your references. Coming in September.
Tip #9: Show Leadership during Crisis
There are times in your career when your employer, business unit, team or boss will experience a crisis of some sort.
Save the day!
These crisis moments represent opportunity for you.
I strongly believe that striding into the breach during crisis, change, turmoil and situations where workload exceeds capacity is a smart career move. Like anywhere else in life, when you stick your nose out, it can get burned. How does the old adage go? If you want to be more successful, increase your rate of failures.
And like everything else in life, “how” you do it is an important component in increasing the probability of success of the “what” you do. Sometimes it takes finesse not to step on toes. However, showing this kind of leadership in a difficult time will likely:
Earn the appreciation of the higher ups
Get you noticed
Demonstrate your leadership traits
Show you as a team player
Step-up and stretch yourself.
Tip #10: Resign / Quit your Job with Style
If you do find yourself in a situation where you are resigning from your post, be classy. How you quit your job can actually be a career booster. And conversely, resignations that are ill-timed, angry or emotional or clumsily handled can be career limiters. Here are some obvious reasons why resigning in a classy way will help your career:
You might get hired back in the same or bigger job
Every single person you worked with is a potential formal or informal reference
Every single person you worked with has the ability to think of and recommend you for opportunities their networks serve up. Or not.
It is a really small world, and bad business behaviour does get around.
It is the right thing to do, and ultimately, you will feel better about it.
As I reported on a previous post, developing a strong set of references is high on the list of challenges people face in their job search. Well guess what. A lot of that problem begins right here with how you leave your workplace. No matter how aggrieved or justified you feel, avoid the impulse to screw your current employer. You want them to miss you and regret your loss, not celebrate your departure.
Give proper notice. Consider your timing when possible
Break the news appropriately - to the right people, in the right order
Tie up loose ends
Help train your replacement
Speak with your colleagues and collect their contact information (don’t leave without establishing those connections)
There, that wasn’t so hard.
Tip #11: Yes vs. No on Career Decisions
Next time a significant career-related decision comes up, pause and give some careful thought to your decision-making criteria.
When I am interviewed by the media and the topic comes up, I share what is in my opinion one of the largest problems or mistakes in career management.
When it comes to making decisions about job offers and other career opportunities, saying “yes” when you should say “no” ranks right up there as a key factor in career management problems.
Saying “yes”, when you should say “no” is a major cause of career derailment, frustration, shattered self-confidence, unemployment, or even worse, just plain misery in terms of how you spend your Monday - Friday working hours.
Your Yes vs No analysis applies when:
You decide which opportunities to spend your time on
Job content and task orientation turn out to be focused on areas that aren’t interesting or configured to allow you to be successful in this job
You gather information about the organizational environment in which you will be working. Lack of fit here can really lead to problems for you
After interviews or gathering information, you sum up how well you can work with your potential new boss. Trust your gut. If something doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t
Most importantly, feeling that you have the freedom to say No means that you have created a situation where you know you are going to have choice and don’t have to settle on the first thing that comes along.
If you can’t be successful (in broad terms) in the role you are being considered for, don’t say yes.
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