Creating your career isn’t what it used to be. For decades, you could work diligently, pay your dues, learn the ropes, and move up the career ladder. There was a beautiful wedding cake of promotion possibilities – from lead worker to manager, to supervisor, division director, vice-president and beyond.
Then things changed. The career ladder went the way of the flip phone and the slide rule. (Ask your parents about the slide rule.)
Businesses are running lean and mean. You’re hired for a gig or the run of a project, with no promises. You may be assigned to another project, or a pink slip may be on its way.
So how do you go about creating your career, and coming out on top in the gig economy?
Creating Your Career: A Strategic Approach
- Have a vision for your career. This will change, probably dramatically, during your professional lifetime, but at every point along the way, have a vision of where you want to be.
- Maximize learning in your current gig. If you’re working with a new division or serving a new industry, ask questions and learn as much as you can. You never know when there will be the perfect opportunity for someone who has some familiarity with gemology or ethnomusicology. And if nothing else, you can either fascinate or bore your colleagues to death at the local bar.
- Assess your employer. Beyond your current job, what are the opportunities for your career? Are there opportunities for promotion or professional development? Promotion moves your career up the ladder, and opens the way for future promotion. Professional development, including additonal responsibilities and new skills, can position you for future promotion.
- Be open minded about potential opportunities with your current employer. You may never have considered working with numbers, but an opportunity in the accounting department might uncover a hidden talent, or be a great asset later in your career. On the other hand, if you give it a try and hate every minute, at least you’ve learned something about yourself.
- Be attuned to developments in the marketplace and in your field. What skills will be needed in the future? Will there be a need for professionals who can speak French, or who have an advanced degree in economics? Acquiring the right skills now might give you a competitive edge for future opportunties.
- Develop a strong professional network. Your network connections can alert you to new job opportunities as well as changes in the industry, the economy or business. Share your knowledge and expertise, and benefit from the knowledge and expertise of others.
- Be ready for the unexpected. You may think your position is stable, only to find your services are no longer needed. Keep your resume updated and keep a record of your work accomplishments. Tap into your professional network and be ready to move quickly should the unexpected occur.
- Know when to stay and when to go. Consider all factors and make your decision based on both short and long term personal and professional goals and priorities.
Creating your career takes focus and planning. Make the investment in time and effort, and set yourself up for professional success.