Are you guilty of managing your career only when you’re in or anticipating an active career search? Unfortunately, the “I’ll wait until I really need it” approach doesn’t work effectively. If you want to minimize your current or future unemployment or protect your work life from long gaps between jobs, you will need these 7 tools:
- 1. A permanent email address with BrandYOU™ signature: To manage your career proactive over time you need to give your network a way to get in touch with you that will work today, tomorrow, and years from now. That translates into a single email account you can use for career-only communications for the remaining decades of your work life.
I suggest a Gmail address as it is widely considered to be the most professional personal email one can have. Plus, Gmail offers a wealth of handy apps, tons of space, and unique Google Labs offerings that make email communications easier (such as email templates you can use to streamline your job search and messages to contacts and recruiters). If you don’t already have a Gmail address, get one that includes some version of your name with minimal numbers (and please never use your age or birth year in such an email address).
2. A professionally written LinkedIn profile: With LinkedIn holding steady as the #1 candidate sourcing tool that recruiters and employers are using to find new potential employees, you not only need a LinkedIn profile, you need a professionally written one. What can a pro bring to your profile that you cannot?
Professional LinkedIn profile writers like yours truly have studied and continue to study how the LI search algorithm works and know how to position your career and your candidacy for that next juicy role. We know where the LI search algorithm sources key words in your profile, which ones to use, and where to place them. We know what recruiters are looking for in LinkedIn profiles and how to give it to them in a way that positions you for maximum career opportunities. We know how to help you use LI to support more than one type of job or industry at the same time. We know how to age-proof your profile, how much experience to include, and which details are relevant or not. This is one investment in your career you cannot afford NOT to make.
3. Mid- and long-term career plans: What’s the most efficient way to travel by car – with or without a map? While it can be fun to leave the map behind, if you want to minimize your travel time you’ll definitely need to use one. The same goes for your career. If you want to minimize employment gaps and maximize your ability to get the kind of jobs you want when you want them, you’ll need both mid-term and long-term plans to map help you navigate the unexpected.
A mid-term career plan covers the next 2 to 5 years, while a long-term plan covers the period beyond that up to the balance of your working life. A career plan isn’t intended to narrow your options or force you to do one thing versus another; rather it helps ensure you get where you want to go when you want to go there. A career plan is a roadmap that guides your journey based on your passions, gifts, values, experience, and skills to help you get the most out of your work life.
4. An annual career check-up:Once you have mid- and long-term career plans in place, you have to review them periodically to see if they are still valid and still reflect your passions, gifts, values, experience, and skills. While it’s ideal to review your plan every quarter, it’s probably more realistic to do so at least once a year. This annual check-up gives you an opportunity to refine your plans organically as needed and incorporate relevant new data such as labor market or industry changes, your employer’s financial health or M&A status, and your evolving career interests.
5. A BrandYOU™ Board of Directors: Who do you turn to for wise career counsel? Most of us need a team of folks, from mentors and current/former bosses to industry influencers, professors, and career coaches. While you don’t necessarily need to get all of these folks together for a true “board meeting” you do need to formalize your relationship with them and ensure you have constant access to insight that can help you to continue to make smart career decisions.
Having different kinds of folks on your Board allows you to solicit advice and input from people with very different perspectives and opinions. This in turn gives you a rich array of suggestions to consider and choose from, which elevates your career decision-making over the long haul.
6. A Success Portfolio: In preparation for future interviews, resumes, and job searches, you also need to maintain a portfolio of your career achievements. This may be a physical folder or digital space in which you save:
- annual performance evaluations
- key kudos
- professional development coursework
- honors and awards
- professional affiliations
- certification details
- degree coursework
- samples of completed work
- CAR (challenge-actions-results) stories that detail your achievements
By all means keep your success portfolio simple. Just keep one!
7. A Career Communications Portfolio: In addition to a portfolio of your achievements you will also need a collection of career communications tools such as resumes, the above-mentioned LinkedIn profile, cover letters, a bio, marketing brief, and so on. Not everyone needs all of these tools, so it’s vital that you figure out which tools are appropriate for your career level. Get the very best resume you can afford, as this tool is the foundation for all of the others. Maintain your career communications tools yearly by adding new achievement and work history data as your career unfolds.
While we’re on the subject of effective career management, how much should you be spending on the above? Most experts suggest investing 1-2% of your annual income each year in your career, whether that’s the MBA you’ve been wanting or that new resume you really need. If you consistently spend your 1-2% each year in ongoing personal and professional development while maintaining a first-class communications portfolio, you’ll be in the enviable position of being ready for anything career-wise.
If you’d like to learn more about proactive career management, take a look at this upcoming complimentary teleclass I’m offering in tandem with Career Coach Erica Loren: Unleash Your Career Warrior: 3 Secret Weapons To Overcome Any Career Challenge.