Summer’s waning (for us north of the equator folks,) and days are getting shorter. I’ve already heard the Canadian geese as they head south seeking warmer climes. Children are preparing to start school — Haircuts? Check! Backpacks ready? Check!
For working parents specifically, and any career-minded professional generally, September is often a time of new beginnings. It’s an opportune time to assess the health of your career and determine where you want your career to be by September 2014.
Here’s my September career checklist…
- When was the last time I updated my resume? Within the last 6 months? The last year? The last job search long, long ago? Can you even find it? Don’t let your resume gather dust. In our new economy, average job tenures are about 4.6 years, but there is wide variability between younger and older workers and by industry. One certainty? Careers will more often than not be a collage of experiences rather than straight line progression. Make sure your resume is up to date with your most recent accomplishments and responsibilities.
- How long has it been since I reached out to an old colleague, just to catch up? If it is more than 6 months, that’s too long. The substance of your network will wither if you don’t periodically invest some time in developing/sustaining it. You want to be sure you have a short list of contacts who will take your spur of the moment request for a face to face or a call when you reach out — whether its for urgently needed career advice or just to catch up.
- When was the last time I refreshed my Ivy Exec and LinkedIn profiles? Within the last month? The last 3 months? Too long to remember? Just like your career, your Ivy Exec and LinkedIn profiles are “living” things that need care and feeding. Don’t let too much time pass before you refresh your profiles with a new skill or a new professional accomplishment. And for your LinkedIn profile, make sure you have included a custom URL, so you are easily “found” by recruiters and contacts.
- What skills do I need to strengthen/refresh? Your public speaking skills? Your business writing skills? Your technical skills? I had a wake up call recently when listening to taped webinars I recently conducted. I must have said “Ummmmmm” a dozen times as I searched for just the right words to express myself (“ummmmmm” not good!) Seriously, though, seeking some presentation skill/public speaking coaching is high on my list of self improvement to do’s as I look ahead. If you don’t work for a company with a “continuous improvement” culture, make sure you allocate time each year to attend at least one conference or seminar to develop your targeted skills. Or, raise you hand for a work-related opportunity that will force you to practice those nascent (non-existent?) or rusty skills.
- Have I read something recently that’s relevant to my career? Unfortunately Dan Brown’s “Inferno” doesn’t qualify (yes I admit it. I am a total “escapist” when it comes to my summer reading selections. It was a gripping read!) That being said, though, it’s important to be well read and conversant about developments in your industry and management thinking. Expand your repertoire of knowledge based topics that you can tap when opportunity knocks on your door. Les McKeown’s “Predictable Success” and Daniel Pink’s “To Sell Is Human” are high on my personal target list.
- Have I been there for my teammates? Do I need to do anything differently? Life often comes full circle and doing a team mate or colleague a good turn is always time well spent — in the moment, and often in the future. When it comes to relationships with colleagues go out of your way to make sure they are not only positive, but reciprocal. Be the first one to volunteer, even if an assignment is outside the scope of your present role, or means extra hours on the back end of your day or over the weekend. Being a team player is a “star quality.”
- Have I taken time to develop my mentoring relationships? Everyone needs a career go to person, whether their career is in overdrive or they’re having a hard time shifting out of low gear. Mentoring relationships are invaluable regardless of how they’re established — either through formal work-sponsored programs or informal networks. Seeking mentorship is high on my list of to do’s over the next 12 months.
- Have I permitted myself to put “me” first? Now is as good a time as any to make one, small, change in your life — think of it as a baby step in the right direction — whether its on the health front, the family front, the spiritual front, OR the career front. There is great satisfaction and a sense of accomplishment that comes from making a commitment to change and following through on that commitment. Don’t wait for the New Year to make a long list of well intentioned resolutions you’ll probably break before February. Make a small change — e.g., hitting the gym before work once a week, instead of hitting the snooze button; leaving work 15 minutes earlier so you can make the early train and have dinner with your kids — and follow through. Consistently.
Before your summer tan fades…before the leaves turn and you’re rummaging for jackets and gloves…assess where you are career wise, clarify where you want to be in your mind, and define small, discrete steps for moving forward. One step at a time…