With the unemployment rate at one of its all-time lows, people tend to feel pretty secure in their jobs.
However, there is no such thing as job security even in a strong economy. Layoffs, bankruptcies or reorganizations still happen.
Often someone reaches out to me and says “I thought I was going to retire with this company and then I had the rug pulled out from under me.” Or it’s something like “I had a feeling something might be happening, but I thought I would have more time.”
No matter what they said, people like this are unprepared and shocked to find themselves suddenly in job search mode. Essentially it is because they stuck their heads in their own career sand.
The good news is you can prevent the feeling of the rug getting pulled out from under you. It’s actually a very simple solution, but it’s not easy. You can proactively manage your career with your own career development plan – like being your own CEO.
When you proactively manage your career, you won’t be caught off-guard with a reorganization or layoff. In fact, you may even position yourself for a promotion. Or, if you do get laid off you will at least have a soft fall because you’ll have your network to rely on and a vision for where you want to go next.
Keep a Career Journal
Data is key to making wise decisions. Well, keeping data about your career can assist you in getting the raise or promotion you want and provide guidance when going after new opportunities.
There should be two parts to your career journal – one focused on your overall career goals and another documenting details of projects as you complete them.
For your overall career goals, ask yourself questions like these and review your answers on a quarterly basis.
- Where do I see myself in the next step of my career? Be as specific as you can.
- What skills do I need to develop to get there?
- What do I need to improve or create in order to reach my goal?
- What is my #1 priority for the next 12 months?
- What do I want to be doing more of in my career?
- Am I spending time on the things that will take me where I want to go in my career?
- What do I want to be known for?
Then as you complete projects in your current role, jot down what the challenge or situation was, the actions you completed and the results you got. This is what is commonly known as a CAR story (Challenge, Action, Result) or STAR story (Situation, Task, Action, Result). Be sure to include all quantifiable data you can in the results.
Always be in contact with your network
This doesn’t mean you have to contact your network daily, but checking in every few months to say hello, ask how they’re doing, wish them a happy birthday, etc. is a best practice. It helps keep you top of mind.
It’s important to maintain your network even when you are happy in your current position. Be of service to others so when you find yourself in need of help, you’ll have people to reach out to.
Keep your resume and LinkedIn profile updated
It’s nice to be at the ready when a recruiter unexpectedly comes calling.
If you review your resume and LinkedIn profile every quarter, you won’t have to spend hours and hours updating your resume trying to remember everything you’ve done in the last few years. Plus when you are still employed, you have access to the quantifiable data!
Keep in mind you should not just dump your resume in your LinkedIn profile. Your LinkedIn profile should complement your resume. Get rid of all the resume speak and incorporate keywords into your headline.
In case it’s been several years since you last updated your resume, you’ll want to give it a format overhaul so it looks like it belongs in this century. Think of your resume like a newspaper article — incorporate a headline (your target job title) and subhead (your personal branding statement) and follow those up with proof points (your summary). For more tips on resume writing download my complimentary T.R.A.S.H. Your Resume Kit. T.R.A.S.H. stands for Targeted, Riveting, Accomplished, Succinct and Honest.
Volunteer for opportunities out of your comfort zone
If you want to get ahead in your career, ask your boss what you can take off their plate. When you can show you’ve done it, you’ll be more likely to get that promotion. Volunteering for projects shows you take initiative and may also get you exposure to more decision makers in your company.
Volunteering outside of your company has lots of benefits too. It can help expand your skillset and your network. Not only that, but studies have shown it makes you a better employee. A UnitedHealth Group study found that “Employees who volunteer also bring more refined job skills to the workplace which provides a significant benefit to their employer.”
Pursue professional development
Regardless if your employer pays for it or not, you should be taking courses to enhance your skills and keep them current. When you seek out opportunities to expand your skillset it makes you a more valuable asset to your current company and more marketable in general.
It’s not always an MBA you need to pursue either. Certifications like a PMP, CFA or CMP (Certified Meeting Professional) can be valuable to your current or potential employer.
Although business professionals don’t have agents like professional athletes, proactively managing your career is like being your own agent. You can be the MVP of your team when you take charge of your career.