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Your Three-Phase Plan to a Better Career

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January is the time for reflecting on what you've accomplished and what you want to accomplish. It’s the perfect month to conceive and execute a methodical plan to give yourself a career boost. Whether you plan on reapplying yourself and getting energized about your existing job, or on moving on to something new, now is the time to plot out a course that will take your career to where you want it to go.

Phase I: Self-Assessment
The key to job and career satisfaction is matching your own unique talents, skills, interests and personality to those job-related tasks and activities you find most enjoyable, engaging, and challenging to do. By performing an honest and constructive self-analysis, you open yourself to being more realistic in determining what next steps to take. It might be to begin a new career, look for a new job, seek the same position in a different organization or even staying where you are now – whichever path you decide to take, having a clear understanding of why you want to change the situation you are in now and what resources you possess to do so are crucial to ensuring worthwhile results. Some questions you can ask yourself include:

  • What are my strengths and weaknesses as a professional/employee?
  • What activities/challenges do I enjoy and consider my forte?
  • What am I looking for in a job and an employer?
  • What workplace values are important to me?
  • What aspects of my current job do I like the most? What do I like the least?
  • Does my job offer opportunities for growth, and if yes, is it in the direction I want to go?
  • Do I derive satisfaction or a sense of achievement from my work?
  • Do I feel sufficiently compensated and recognized for my efforts?
  • Do I have a solid track record of accomplishments?
  • Am I bored with my work, or is it my work environment that I have lost interest in?

Phase II: Self-Determination

Once you have a better understanding of why and how you want to move forward, it’s time to determine how you are going to proceed. Self-determination is often described as knowing what you want and how to get it. You are now at Point A – where and what is Point B and how do you get there? Maybe you want to shift from being indifferent about your job to becoming engaged and stimulated by what you do 40 hours a week. Or, maybe you finally want to take that leap and pursue what you feel is your true calling. It’s not unusual for people to switch careers midstream, even if it can mean going back to school.

There are many questions you can ask yourself to determine where you would like to go from here. Understandably, there is no simple answer – in fact, when it comes to this kind of introspection, answering one question often leads to another. It’s not easy and it can be time-consuming, but investing the time to reflect on yourself and your aspirations can help you drill down to what you really want and what you are ready to do to reach your goal. Below are some questions to help you get started:

  • What do I want my career to look like a year from now?
  • What do I want to do for a living?
  • What do I need to learn/strengthen/change to move to the career I want?
  • How much am I willing to sacrifice and risk to pursue my goal?
  • What short-term goals can I set toward the pursuit of my dream job?

Phase III: Self-Promotion

When you have successfully determined where you would like to go career-wise, it’s time to take the next step: go out and market yourself! Experts say 2006 is shaping up to be a very promising year for career seekers. “I've been tracking a recent trend, one in which more employed people are looking around and moving on to a better job rather quickly,” says renowned career coach Robin Ryan in her article, ‘Hiring is Sizzling so Job Hunt is Now!’  “This is great news, especially for those who HAD to accept something less than ideal a few years back when so few jobs were available. If you have been contemplating a change; if you have a job but are unappreciated or aren't quite satisfied; or if you are employed but know you are underpaid in your current position, this is the time to initiate a new job search. I'm feeling very optimistic about marketplace opportunities right now.” Of course, for opportunity to knock, it must first know where you are. Below are tips on how to effectively market yourself in a way that makes it easy for employers to find you and find you irresistible.

Revise your resume and/or Web site.
“Even if you love your job, your resume will remind you how far you’ve come and help you establish a Plan B,” says career and relocation expert Cathy Goodwin, PhD. “And Web sites grow stale if left alone too long.” Keeping your resume, Web site, and on-line information with career sites like up-to-date lets employers know you’re in the market for better opportunities, if they have them. Helpful resume writing information can be found here.

Create an elevator speech about yourself.
Think of it as your professional mission statement that very concisely describes what you want to do. Develop a concise “30-second infomercial” about yourself when you are networking. This quick pitch promotes you without being overbearing. It should describe your specific accomplishments in an interesting and intriguing way. After you have perfected your story, you can lengthen or alter it slightly to fit different situations. Practice it and always be prepared to deliver it whether you are attending a business function or sitting next to someone on a plane.

Network, Network, Network
“It's the name of the game now. And it's easy,” says corporate trainer and instructional designer Rukmini Iyer in her article,Jumpstart Your Career in 2006’. “While good performance and hard work definitely count, networking goes a long way in presenting you with opportunities to enhance your career growth.” The ultimate goal of networking is learning how to develop contacts with the right people who can advance your career, or refer you to the hiring manager who has the job you really want. The number of ways you can network is limited only by your imagination. You can attend tradeshows, conferences and workshops. If you want something more community-oriented, you can go to mixers hosted by your Chamber of Commerce or local chapters of organizations that share your field or area of interest. Joining groups like these has many benefits: it lets you keep up with the latest business and industry trends. More importantly, it gives you the opportunity to interact with others who can give you insights, tips and, perhaps even references or referrals.

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