Monday, December 28, 2009

10 gifts to give your career

As the gift-giving season draws to a close, it’s time to remember that you still have one more gift left to bestow: The gift of a better career.

No one can really predict what the several years will bring in the job market, but it’s clear that everyone has to make more of an investment in their future. That means being better prepared for downturns in the economy or your industry, and keeping an active network so that when bad times do hit, you’re ready to get the help you need.

Here are 10 gifts to give your career in the coming year:

1. Stay current. Invest time in reading the latest industry news. Know how national or international events may impact your business, and what you’re doing to prepare. Are you targeting projects so they anticipate market conditions? Those who help the company become more innovative or strategic will make themselves key players – and those are the people a company is more likely to retain and promote.

2. Get more training. Ask your boss for opportunities to train in other departments, or to attend seminars or classes at a local university. If the company won’t fund your efforts, look for free webinars or podcasts online that provide experts to expand your knowledge. Your resume should always be able to reflect that you’ve kept up on the latest training and skills.

3. Be the dumbest person in the room. Attend an event or sign up for an online class that really challenges you. Step outside your comfort zone and into a subject that you know nothing about. Becoming too comfortable in your career and with your skills can set you up for problems if you suddenly find yourself out of work. Always look for ways to expand your horizons and be able to show an employer how you faced a challenge and learned.

4. Embrace social media. You may think Twitter is only for posting what you had for lunch or Facebook is only for showing funny photos for your friends. But social media should be another tool you use to enhance your personal brand and make others see you as a tuned-in, interesting professional in your field. It doesn’t have to be a huge time suck – spend a few minutes a couple of times a day interacting with others in your field, posting interesting links or asking questions of other professionals.

5. Attend one professional event a year. Meeting with others in your field face-to-face is important, and these events often provide access to the latest trends or key movers in your field. Instead of a latte every day, start putting the money into a professional event fund.

6. Find a mentor. Ask someone you respect and feel you really connect with for feedback on what you’re doing with your career or in your job. This can be as simple as having a cup of coffee and saying, “I’d really like to have your opinion on this.” Or, you can ask a professional organization about helping you find a mentor who can help guide you through some career issues. Having someone in your life to add fresh ideas or provide a different prospective can be invaluable for your career.

7. Be consistent. You can’t post drunken photos of yourself on Facebook or have a screen saver at work that is offensive and then expect employers or colleagues to see you professionally. Don’t expect to show up late for work several times a week and then expect the boss to hand over a big project. Decide the message you want to send others and then stick to it.

8. Bring sanity to your schedule. Employees are being asked to do more work with fewer resources during these tough times. That has taken a physical and emotional toll on many people. They may feel they have even less time for a personal life, which compounds the stress. For a week, keep close track of your tasks and the amount of time they take. Then, look for ways to bring a better balance to your life. Enlist the help of family or friends to devise a schedule that makes sense for your well-being in the coming year.

9. Pick up the phone. E-mail and social media provide a great way to communicate with others, but to establish a more personal connection, use the telephone. If you’ve gone more than a week in speaking personally with key colleagues or customers, give them a call. Better yet, meet with them in person. Maintaining these personal connections is critical to creating a strong professional network.

10. Take the high road. Make a commitment to send e-mails that are polite and friendly. Don’t gossip at work. Give a sincere compliment to a co-worker every day. Use your personal cell phone out of earshot of others. Stress has shortened the fuse of many at work, and taking these steps will help make the day better for a lot of colleagues. Fostering goodwill is a gift to yourself and to others.

What are some other ways to help your career this year?



Dan McCarthy said...

Anita -
Thanks, this is perfect! What a good way to start the new year. I love #10.
A couple adds:
1. Update (or build) your resume.
2. Be a mentor - or help someone else with their career.

Anita said...

Thanks for the additions...great ones! Have a Happy New Year!

Kathryn/ said...

What an excellent and timely list, Anita! This should be required reading for all career minded folks! Thank you!

Barbara Safani said...


As always, great advice. I think another thing to consider in the New Year is reconnecting with old friends, colleagues, and clients that you have lost touch with. Social media gives us the "it's never too late" feeling and most invites to reconnect are more than welcome. Happy New Year to you and your family!

Frode H said...

Great list.
Read books and blogs!
Share your knowledge, I have found out that sharing knowledge really drives me forward. Great list.

Anita said...

You're right...I've re-connected with several old school chums and colleagues over the last year. It's been a wonderful experience. A happy new year to you and yours!

Anita said...

Frode H,
As someone who has been in the information biz for a long time, I couldn't agree more. And, you can always say, "What books or blogs do you read?" as a great way to launch a conversation with someone you just met at a networking event. Happy New Year!

David Benjamin said...


Excellent list as always. You've covered all the major areas and I can't stress enough how important networking both online and face to face will yield in 2010.

Most of the positive stories I hear regarding new employment or business opportunity were created because of some form of networking.

Thanks for providing such great insight for 2009. Can't wait to read what you have in store for 2010.

Anita said...

Thanks, David! I feel very fortunate that people like yourself stop by this blog and join the conversation. Happy New Year!

Ian Tang said...

Love that list, especially the idea/reminder of 'Be the dumbest person in the room'. I do sometimes feel too comfortable & found that I'm not growing.
One addition gift (with immediate effect)
- Review accomplishment in the past year:
I just did one yesterday on my blog & it really help me appreciate 2009 & see what I should do in 2010.

After that, I realized finding a mentor is definitely one of my goals for 2010.

Thanks for the post

Anita said...

Great suggestions. I especially love that you've already set specific goals for yourself. Have a great 2010!

Anonymous said...

Very good list, Anita.
I don't think I can add a single thing. Keep helping people in 2010, the job seeker of the future needs more from you.

Minneapolis, MN

Anita said...

Thanks very much for your kind words. I'll keep plugging away if you promise to do the same. The job seeker needs you, as well. :)

Patricia said...

Thanks for the list. The one I have trouble with is Twitter. I just don't get it, but I did sign up and follow a few people. I think I need a course to figure out how to use it.
Happy New Year,

Anita said...

Maybe this guide will help you:

Happy New Year!

Rick Saia, CPRW said...

Excellent list Anita!

The theme I got from the list is that everyone needs to manage his or her own career, because no one else will manage it for you. Everyone needs to be aware of what they want, where they want to go, and how to get the skills they need from their current work.

Happy New Year!
~ Rick

Anita said...

It's clear that information is power, and the more information you have, the better you can empower your own career. I hope everyone has learned in the last year that leaving your future to fate or in someone else's hands is a move they may regret. Happy New Year to you, also!

Practical Nursing said...

Thanks ! Nice Gift for career.