We’re more than halfway done with 2016. (Can this even be possible?) How’s your career humming along? Did you vow to make this the year you make a change, snag a promotion, or gain new skills or credentials?
Are you there yet? If no, fear not. You’ve still got plenty of time before the holiday season, when companies typically start winding down on interviewing and hiring for the year. Now the hard question: Are you ready to set aside a bit of your summer sun time and get going?
I’ll assume you said yes: That’s excellent. Here are five things you can still accomplish career-wise in 2016, instead of putting things off until next year:
1. Better Your Position at Your Current Employer
So many people, when feeling unhappy in their current jobs, assume that they need to go find another job, at another company. But, what if there’s a way to make your career situation happier, more lucrative, or more fulfilling—without leaving? Is there another department you’ve got your eye on? Or, a position you’d die to have? Or, maybe a special project you want to work on?
Or, are you feeling like it’s well past time for a raise?
If so, don’t just sit there. Put together a proposal or a plan. Approach people of influence—whether that’s your boss or leaders within other groups, or even peers—and sleuth out internal possibilities. Ask questions. Take thoughtful risks. Make a case.
There’s truly something to the adage, “The squeaky wheel gets the oil.” The trick is to squeak in productive, compelling ways, not in ways that make you look like a whiner. Always keep in mind that businesses exist to make money (or, in the case of nonprofits, raise money). So, in everything you do, figure out how whatever it is you’re asking for will help the organization make money, improve productivity, add value, solve problems, or innovate. Present what you want in the form of “What’s in it for you guys,” rather than, “What I want out of the deal,” and see where it takes you.
2. Map Out a Career Pivot Plan
Or, maybe you don’t want to stay at your current employer. Maybe you want to shake things up in a big way. Can you make progress toward this before 2016 comes to a close? Of course you can. And, depending on the nature of the pivot, you can probably make considerable progress.
Where should you start? Your very first move should be to define the “ideal” scenario. You’re not likely to leave a job that doesn’t suit you, and move into a great career that does, if you don’t define—with specificity—what “better” looks like. What skills do you want to put to use? What tasks energize you? What do you do really well? Write this stuff down, as well as the stuff you truly don’t want to do or be around in your next role.
And then play around with some of these terms and variables when you’re searching—see what jobs come up. What are they called? Who are they with? What skills and experience do they require?
Once you have a handle on what that position you want to pivot into looks like, you can then start building a transition plan.
Who do you need to know? What organizations should you research? Are you lacking any credentials or skills that will be either required or super advantageous in this next role? How can you go about obtaining them? What’s a realistic timeframe for this transition?
Build some big picture framework around this bad boy, and then develop action items for yourself—specific tasks that you can knock off one by one every week. Endlessly pondering a pivot isn’t going to get you anywhere in 2016; devising and tackling action items will.
3. Gain (or Shore Up) a New, Valuable Skill
Speaking of credentials, are you someone who maybe isn’t feeling a strong pull toward a completely different field, but realizing that you’re at a disadvantage because you lack a certain skill that’s in demand in your field?
How can you obtain that skill or credential, or at least start the process yet this year? Consider online learning. There’s an endless array of online classes available to professionals today, many of which are either free or quite reasonable in cost. It’s easier than ever to learn new skills—whether that’s a popular tech tool, or a business practice, or a language, or even leadership training.
Bemoaning what you don’t have is a waste of time. Investigating how to make yourself more valuable (and then mobilizing) may provide you with a critical advantage—and you’ve still got plenty of time to knock this off in 2016.
4. Build (or Establish) Thought Leadership
I cannot overstate the value of building thought leadership within your field of expertise. Can’t. And you know exactly what I’m talking about because I will bet that, right this minute, you could name at least one or two people in your field who are absolutely killing it, in no small part because they’ve done a bang-up job of establishing themselves as the thought leaders in your industry.
Do you think that they’re just lucky? Probably not. These people (that you probably admire, or maybe secretly envy a little bit) have very likely deployed deliberate strategies to market their knowledge, their talents, and their personalities in the right places, at the right times.
Social media makes building thought leadership accessible to the masses. If you’re not using LinkedIn, Twitter, or other appropriate-to-your-field platforms to showcase your passion for and expertise within your chosen field (along with your winning personality), start now.
Dip a toe in: Begin posting relevant articles on LinkedIn once a week or launch a professional Twitter page. Follow other industry leaders. Study what they’re doing on social media. What works? What doesn’t? And then build your own strategy from there.
You don’t have to be prolific, certainly not at first. But you’re wasting an incredible opportunity if you’re not leveraging the power of the internet to build or establish yourself as an influencer.
5. Stay Top-of-Mind With Your Professional Network
In addition to its power as a tool for building thought leadership, social media provides every professional means to stay top-of-mind with your network. And that, my friends, is half the battle. If you can stay on the radar of your professional contacts at all times (OK, most times)—and this means, even when you’re not actively looking for a new job—you’re going to be the one they think of when some cool opportunity opens up at their company that aligns with your background.
They’re also going to be more willing to help you if and when you do need their support, because you’ve not blipped off the grid for multiple years and then popped back up only when you need something.
LinkedIn is, perhaps, your lowest hanging fruit for keeping your network “warm.” Did someone you know just land a new job? Spend two minutes sending a congratulatory note. Did a former colleague just finish her master’s degree? Bam. Another two-minute congratulatory note. Are you heading to an industry event that you’re excited about? Post it as your LinkedIn status update, and see if anyone (who maybe is also attending) sendsyou a note. You catch my drift.
This isn’t rocket science, and it’s also not cumbersome or insanely time consuming. You truly need less than an hour a week to be effective with this. And you’ve got lots of hours left in 2016.
The year is cruising by, without a doubt. But you’ve got four solid months left in 2016 to make a considerable dent before everyone gets “holiday brain” and checks out for the season.
I vote for making these four months count like crazy.