The New Year is traditionally the time of year when we look at ways to reinvent ourselves - especially our careers. In our latest careers article, WBS Alumni Careers Manager, Caroline Egan offers six strategies to help you clarify your goals and increase your motivation to make the changes you need.
How are you feeling about the work year ahead? Energised and reinvigorated after a break? Or do you have a nagging sense that you should be doing something more exciting (or even completely different) with your career?
Here are six ways to take control of your career development in 2019:
1. Review and Set Your Career Goals
How far is your current job supporting your long-term career goals? Do you even know what those goals are? When was the last time you reviewed them? Most of us spend our careers reacting to organisational requirements and ad hoc job opportunities. Sometimes we need to make a conscious effort to get back on track or to re-evaluate whether our original goals have now changed.
Start by reflecting on what you want from your career now, including your values, motivations and ideal work environment. Review your skills and personal strengths and consider what career paths best use these.
If you want to make lasting changes to your professional fortunes in 2019, start by committing to a set of (attainable) goals. If you set out your goals and write down the steps you’ll need to take to get there, you’re more likely to stick to them. Setting small goals along the way and having the satisfaction of ticking them off makes distant year-long goals seem more attainable and can keep you on the right path.
2. Grow Your Job
You may have a target job in mind but lack a crucial element of experience, or maybe you would like more challenge at work
First, identify an activity you would love to take on which uses your strengths or which would fill a gap in your CV. Look at which projects are happening in your organisation and which staff are leading on this work. Set up an informal chat with those involved to find out more.
Second, think about how you could get involved and where your experience could be useful– for example joining that project team, helping out with at times of peak workloads, or providing a fresh perspective from another department.
Then talk to your manager to express an interest, explaining how it can help your performance in your existing job and ask for help in securing opportunities.
Resolve to take the next step in your career, even if you’re not ready to leave the one you’re in.
Your careers review may have uncovered some skills or knowledge which you either need to acquire, or would like to develop further. Do your research (e.g. on LinkedIn) to see what skills are needed in your target job or sector, and find out how people have typically developed that expertise.
A formal qualification such as an MBA, DBA or Executive Open Programme may be an option. Courses may be available internally, through a Business School, professional body or other training provider. Equally, the skill could be developed through growing your role, taking an internal secondment, work shadowing or mentoring.
Think about what support you will need from your organisation in terms of time off work, adjusting your work responsibilities or help with fees. You may need to put together a business case to gain the support of your line manager.
4. Resolve to Expand Your Network
Your professional network is one of the best career assets you have so growing your professional network (concentrating even more on face to face networking than on social media) is essential to gain fresh insights and open up new career opportunities. It’s crucial (as the saying goes) to ‘dig the well before you’re thirsty’ and build your network before you need it.
Start by reviewing the network you already have. Are there any key individuals whom you would like to re-engage? Suggest a quick coffee or a call to seek their advice on a work issue or to catch up with what is happening in their sector.
Set a goal of adding ‘X’ number of new contacts per month—maybe find friends of friends who work in industries or at companies you’re interested in, or join professional meetups or other communities.
Could you get more involved in professional groups of which you’re already a member? Think about joining a subcommittee or helping to organise an event. This will raise your profile and help you build new relationships with other organisations.
Take every opportunity to network within your industry (or the one you’re seeking to enter) but don’t limit yourself to this. Consider joining regional Warwick networks or local business networks to widen your horizons. You never know where – or whom -your next job could come from.
Volunteering outside work is a great way of building skills, filling gaps in your experience, and extending your network, and can reinvigorate your current role and open doors to new careers.
Unpaid work can also enable you to dip your toe into really interesting areas of work and provides a safe way of exploring a potential career change.
There are also opportunities to volunteer at WBS, including mentoring. If you would like a higher level volunteer role, or can’t find suitable vacancies online, consider contacting target organisations directly to discuss how they could make best use of your skills.
6. Take a Risk
Sometimes you have to be willing to take a leap of faith and force yourself outside your comfort zone. That’s not to say you should leave your job tomorrow and go where the market takes you, but at least be willing to consider making changes outside your routine.
You may spot an intriguing opportunity internally, for example covering a colleague’s maternity leave or taking a short-term contract. Maybe the role isn’t exactly in line with your planned career path. But if it will build new skills and networks – think about going for it and taking a (calculated) risk.
Another option is to consider taking a sideways move to another department or a competitor. This will broaden your experience and can give you an edge when you apply for more senior roles. Alternatively, you may have a business idea you can pursue alongside your full time job, in which you could take on occasional freelance work or start a part time business. What have you got to lose? Your original career will still be there if you decide to return to it, this time with enhanced experience and a broader skillset which will only enhance your employability.
The ‘new year, new you’ enthusiasm may dwindle along with your other new year’s resolutions, however, if you approach them realistically and with commitment, the goals you set for your career early in 2019 can help set you up for a year of development opportunities and success ahead.