Head in the clouds
Today’s employees should always look to improve their hireability
W hy is it that the lives of successful people always seem to be moving toward a goal, whether it’s personal or professional? We’re not talking about the 12-hour-aday desk drones, either. We’re talking about those among us who’ve found a way to balance work and home, yet always keep moving forward.
So what are the rest of us waiting for? Here are seven tips to ensure that you refrain from standing
in place even when it seems like it’s the best course of action. It never is, so get moving:
1. Add a skill
Tired of listening to your coworkers talk about the latest app or newest program? That word-processing program you mastered 20 years ago is no longer a stand-out skill. In fact, it probably never was in the first place. It’s time to bone up on the applications that are driving your company’s infrastructure.
“Most employees would be surprised to learn that their companies are more than willing to pay for training,” says Joan Reynolds, a corporate trainer in Spokane, Wash. “Companies like to increase their in-house knowledge. It ensures they always have people in the building who can do the work.”
2. Improve a skill
We all have areas of our job that could use a little work, whether it’s mastering spreadsheets or writing more effective emails. With so much information online, you can spend a few summer hours sharpening those necessary processes of your job.
“A lot of times, self-guided courses are free and they can really help you understand a program you use every day,” Reynolds says. “Think about how you could improve your efficiency if you actually knew the ins and outs of Excel or PowerPoint. It could make a huge difference.”
3. Revise your resume
Sure, it’s the advice everyone starts with, but they do so for a reason. Your resume should never be a stagnant document. It should continually improve and evolve. Keep your skills and experiences current at all times.
“There’s no excuse for a resume to be even the least bit dated,” says Boston-based career consultant John Mason, who specializes in academic and executive resumes. “It takes five minutes to add a line or two. There’s no reason for any gap at all between what it says about you on your resume and what you’re doing in real life.”
4. Expand your circle
It’s one thing to have a strong network of contacts; it’s another to let that strong network sit in place. With tools from CareerBuilder.com and other careerfocused sites, today’s employees should look to add peers, friends and mentors to their list of contacts. Don’t downplay the importance of friends of friends. Many people have found jobs through their sister’s boyfriend’s brother, or from some other extended relationship.
5. Focus on the key players
Keeping the above advice in mind, it’s important to know that all contacts are equal. Your network will have several movers and shakers who will be of more help to your career than others. Keep those people in your corner.
“Make a list of the core players and find a way to make personal contact with those players at least twice a year,” says Mason. “These are the people who will really help you out in the long run, but they’ll be more likely to help you out if you’ve had contact with them the past few months. It could be as significant as lunch or dinner or as simple as a note about their daughter’s high school graduation. Just keep your most important contacts connected to you in professional and personal ways.”
6. Lead whenever possible
Take the initiative on projects in and out of the workplace. “You learn from leading, whether it’s a committee at work that is coming up with a new website or the local scout troop who is putting together the next pancake breakfast,” says Mason. “You manage people, you manage time, you manage relationships, you manage money and who knows what else. All of it is important to your professional growth, so lead whenever possible.”
7. Stay positive
Do yourself a favor and stay away from the officekitchen gossip sessions and ignore the poison-email threads.
“It’s so easy to be sucked into negative space at work,” says Reynolds. “And nothing good comes of it. You make yourself upset, your attitude changes and there’s nothing you can do to hide it. You become one of ‘those’ people, the kind management pass over when new opportunities come up. And worse, you make yourself and, in most cases, your family miserable.”
Mason agrees. “There is little worse than the disgruntled employee who has a dark cloud over him,” he says. “It’s poison. No one wants to be around it. Eventually, your bosses will take notice and before you know it, you’ll be gone.”
“There is little worse than the disgruntled employee who has a dark cloud over him. It’s poison.
No one wants to be around it. Eventually, your bosses will take notice and before you know it,
you’ll be gone.”