The How-To Guide for Meeting Your Career-Focused Goals
By Laura Labovich
We’re nearing that time of the year where many people start packing up their beach towels, buying new backpacks for the kids, and are already thinking about the next holiday. For many people, their career goals are on hiatus until life slows down a little, or until the next New Year’s resolution puts the issue in front of them again. However, as we head into pumpkin-spice season, it’s important to take charge sooner than later to make your job search, or career change, as productive as it can be.
According to Dan Sullivan, founder and CEO of Strategic Coach, in order to be profoundly successful you always need to increase your confidence, something long-term job seekers often find waning. It was once believed that confidence was innate—you were either born with it or you were not—but Sullivan adamantly denies that assertion. In order to be more confident, he says, you must continuously improve your knowledge, attitude, skills and habits, or your KASH.
And who doesn’t want more KASH in the New Year? Here’s how to get some:
To improve your Knowledge, resolve to become a lifelong learner.
Just because you’re no longer in school doesn’t mean you should stop learning. Increasingly viewed as a burgeoning way to share information, online courses are quickly becoming the “knowledgemobile” of the future. Taking a new course, or earning a certification can be an essential first step for career changers and those returning to the workforce. Certifications, in particular, enable you to quickly amass both industry and function-specific knowledge that can fill a gap left by a previous exit from the workforce, an employment history that no longer supports your goals, or a blind spot in a four-year degree program.
According to Matt Sigelman, CEO of Burning Glass, “In an increasingly competitive labor market, employers want new hires to come to the job with the skills to be successful from day one. Job seekers are well served to target the specific skills for which employers are looking, and use certification programs, online courses and other training programs to develop, refine, and demonstrate those skills to prospective employers.”
Premier online education companies such as Coursera, Udacity, Lynda, and Pearson offer a whole slew of options, from songwriting to chemistry to sustainable agriculture land management, and pretty much everything in between. You might not get a free degree out of the deal, but these courses can offer insight into a new field or refine skills that may be a bit rusty. And committing to one shows potential employers that you have the wherewithal to not just seek out online courses but to actually finish them. (And, when you complete them, don’t forget to add them to your LinkedIn profile.)
To improve your Attitude, resolve to try on the world from a new vantage point.
Boasting 19K+ members, the LinkedIn Positive Thinkers Group is for “optimistic people who believe in the power of positive thinking and concentrate on the good rather than the bad.” According to Peter Guber, “When the chips are down, and they often are, attitude is the secret sauce.” But when you’re smack dab in the middle of a frustrating job search, generating a positive attitude isn’t as easy as it looks.
Zig Ziglar once said: “You can have anything you want in this life if you help enough other people get what they want,” and experts agree: being generous is a powerful strategy for success. In his book Give and Take, LinkedIn Influencer Adam Grant shares why some people “rise to the top while others sink to the bottom.” His answer, not surprisingly, is striking a healthy balance between being giving and taking.
To generate a positive mindset, start by generating generosity (which, by the way, is easier to do than it is to say.) Look inward at what you have to offer to others, separate and apart from your professional skills, and practice shifting your mindset from “what can I get out of this conversation?” to “what am I going to give?” If you come up short, borrow some of our ideas until you can think of something! Offer to mentor an industry newbie, refer a friend to a job for which you are not a fit, or inquire about the career goals of others—then find an article of interest and share it. They will remember—and thank—you for it!
To improve your Skills, resolve to learn (or master) something new
Turns out, your mother was right: practice does in fact make perfect. If you find yourself with time on your hands, skills-based volunteering is a fantastic way to keep your skills fresh and remain on the cutting edge of your profession. And, let’s not forget: when done correctly, volunteering gets you into the same room with your target decision-makers. And, with Michigan State University’ 365 day Service Project portal, and Linkedin’s “Volunteer Marketplace,” finding right-fit opportunities could not be easier.
It worked like a charm for Sophia, a passionate environmentalist and eager return-to-work mom in Washington D.C., who offered her marketing expertise to EcoWomen, a local women’s environmental association practically in her backyard. In less than two months, she was offered a marketing manager job by a fellow member and touted: “volunteering was better than getting a college degree.”
To improve your Habits, resolve to get organized (thereby killing two resolutions with one stone!)
Q: How can you tell if you are employing a productive job search strategy if you haven’t yet landed a new job? (No, it’s not a trick question.)
A: You’ve been diligently tracking your search (think journaling your food when you’re on a diet).
Tracking your search activities enables you to witness ongoing progress, increase your momentum, and stay motivated during those moments when hope is in short supply. Below are just a few activities you could track to show you that you are, in fact, getting somewhere.
- Number of hours per week you’re spending on your search (35-40 for full time search, 15-20 for a part time is just about right)
- Target companies and contacts within target companies
- Jobs (you could track applications, salary information, and submission status)
- Interviews (using a grid is recommended so you can see the interview by job title, company, date, time and type of interview)
- To-dos and Action items (if you’ve given yourself a goal of attending two networking events one week, you can track that here)
- Status (who you met with, when and who owns next steps)
Bottom line: don’t wait to make a New Year’s Resolution to make the changes you desire. Start right now, this year, by focusing on increasing your knowledge, attitude, skills and habits, you will improve your KASH and your job search along with it.
LAURA M. LABOVICH, MLRHR, CMRW, CPBS, JCTC, Guild Certified Five O’Clock Club Coach. Laura is a national job search expert and best-selling author with a proven methodology for helping job seekers get unstuck & land a job faster! For more about Laura, including her contact information, click here.