A new year beckons. You’re planning to refresh your diet, spending habits, and exercise routine, so why not give your career a once-over, too? January and February are great times to apply for a job, so whether you’re thinking of making a shift or just improving your current situation, now is the time to think about how to move your work life forward.
Here are seven steps towards career heaven (or at least career improvement).
Don’t work too much
By this, we don’t mean you should start reading Proust in the office – when you’re at work, do your work. But it’s crucial to also make time for outside interests. Developing hobbies (safe pastimes, hopefully) and personal interests broadens the scope of the ideas you can bring to your job, and gives you a source of inspiration that your colleagues (read: competitors) probably don’t have. It also gives you something to talk about beyond jobs and family when you network, which makes you better company for people who might be able to point you towards opportunities.
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Go back to school
Further education comes in all shapes and sizes, and one is bound to be right for you. If you live in a major city, there will be night or weekend classes that fit your schedule, and if you don’t, consider one of the many online options, including those from major universities. If you study something related to your field, it will improve your prospects at work (and your employer may even be willing to pay for some of it), and if you’re planning a career change, taking classes will show you’re serious, while also making you more employable.
Get a move on
The percentage of Americans relocating for work has dropped from 22.9% in 2000 to 11.2% last year – a huge decline which might create opportunities. If fewer people want to up sticks to improve their career, there may be more on the table for those who do. Discuss it with your partner, and if you’re both open to change, consider what kinds of roles, salarie, and regions might be appealing. Then you can expand your job search accordingly, and be mentally prepared if an opportunity arises.
Rethink your talents
We all have fantasies about the road not taken, but while there’s probably a good reason your Hollywood career never happened, there may be other things you can do professionally. Be somewhat realistic, but keep an open mind. Also consider that you’ve probably acquired new skills since you last rethought your career, which means there may be possibilities you haven’t thought of. Have you always had a passion for cooking or sports? Now is probably not the time for culinary school or team tryouts, but perhaps you’ve developed management skills and experience that could make you valuable to someone in an industry you truly love.
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Ask for resumé feedback
Refreshing your career often means refreshing your resumé, and it’s best to get honest feedback when you do. Pick a friend whose judgment you trust, and don’t take anything personally. If your resumé includes the post-college summer you spent selling bags in Mexico, it may strike you as a sign of entrepreneurship (and be one of your prouder moments), but others could read it as frivolous. Also, does your resumé make it clear what you actually do? It may seem obvious to you, but make sure it reads clearly to people who are not in your industry. Speaking of which…
Be ready to explain yourself
You’ve probably heard of an elevator pitch — an ultra-concise summary, short enough to be relayed between floors. You should have a similar explanation of what you do and who you are, ready to go at all times. You never know who you’ll meet, so be prepared to take advantage of chance encounters. Also, however complicated you think your job is, chances are you can explain it simply if you try. Just imagine how you’d tell your grandma what you do, or what you’d say to a guy you met in a bar who works in a completely different field. Hone your pitch, run it by friends (or grandma) and deploy it when the time comes.
Review and refresh your social media profiles
Does your Instagram account show your love of firearms, occasional inebriation, or your own body? That is your right, but bear in mind that prospective and current employers will look at your social media accounts, and make judgments based on what they see, whether that’s fair or not. (According to a 2018 CareerBuilder survey of over 1,000 hiring and HR managers, 70% use social networking sites to research candidates when hiring.) You may work in a business where sexy abs are an asset, or you could be interviewing with someone who feels weird hiring someone whose torso they could draw from memory. If you’re doing a career refresh, it’s worth looking at your public profiles and imagining how they look to prospective employers. If you don’t think they’ll like what they see but you still do, you can always go private.
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Michael Davis is a freelance writer and editor who has covered everything from fashion and music to parenting, work, and finance. He has been a chef, restaurateur and record label owner.