Spring Cleaning: Time to Get Your Career Back on Track
By Andy Denka
March 2010 (SmartPros) Even professionals who have kept their jobs during the economic downturn may not be satisfied with where they are in their careers. With companies commonly taking a wait-and-see approach in recent months and more professionals opting to stay in their current positions rather than retiring or seeking other opportunities, it's not surprising that many people have encountered career inertia.
But with the economy slowly picking up steam, many professionals are renewing their focus on advancing their careers. Whether your goal is be promoted, earn a sizable raise or secure a position with a new employer, here are some ways to rev up your career:
Be an ‘internal auditor’ for a day. Perform an objective review of your expertise and skills to identify your strengths and weaknesses. Consider how you can use your assets to greater advantage and address areas where you need to improve. If you possess polished communication skills, for example, look for ways to raise your profile within your company by volunteering to make a presentation at a staff meeting or lead a project group. This would allow you to highlight one of your standout abilities, potentially placing you top of mind when advancement opportunities begin to open up at your firm.
At the same time, acknowledge your weaknesses and take concrete steps to address them. If you’re behind the curve in understanding an important new accounting regulation, for instance, resolve to make continuing professional education a priority. In particular, seek out learning opportunities that allow you to differentiate yourself. Your goal should be to give your employer every reason to promote you to the next rung on the career ladder.
Take initiative. Especially when advancement opportunities are few and far between, you’re not likely to be tapped for a promotion by only doing what’s asked of you. To move your career forward, you need to seek out challenging, high-visibility projects. But don’t wait for your boss to approach you with an important new assignment. Instead, identify a need that your manager may not have recognized yet or been able to address. Perhaps your company’s financial reporting processes need an overhaul, for instance, but no one has been willing to tackle the problem. By volunteering for and succeeding at an important initiative, you can breathe new vitality into your career.
Grow your network. Savvy professionals know that networking is essential to career advancement. Not only does it help you stay up to speed on what’s happening in the accounting and finance field but having a solid network of contacts also enhances your career options if you need to find a new position. Although most professionals know how crucial networking is, many still neglect this vital activity, especially if they feel comfortably employed at the moment.
If your networking efforts are inconsistent, resolve to improve in this area in the new year. In the online networking world, you might start by upgrading your LinkedIn profile and expanding your group of contacts there. Also, if you’ve let your involvement with industry associations lapse, renew your ties with these organizations and become an active member. Consider setting specific goals for yourself – for example, you might attend a monthly professional event or make a certain number of new contacts per week.
Polish your resume – now. In an improved job market, new opportunities may come along whether you’re looking for them or not. It’s best to be prepared for anything, so take the time to get your resume in order. Rather than simply updating key details, take time to re-evaluate every aspect to ensure the most compelling details about your abilities and experience jump off the page.
Even if you don’t anticipate a job change, updating your resume helps you mentally crystallize what you bring to your current job, especially how you’re helping your firm weather the recession and prepare for growth – good things to have at the tip of your tongue at review time.
Spring is always a good time to boost your career progress and jumpstart your professional goals. Make time for introspection and use the information you uncover to identify areas for improvement. By doing so, you’ll increase your value to your current employer while also positioning yourself to take advantage of any new internal or external opportunities that may arise in an improving economy.
For more advice on management and career issues, listen to The Management Minute, Robert Half’s podcast series, at www.rhi.com/podcasts.
ABOUT ANDY DENKA