What are you doing to manage your career while you are working?

If I had to take a poll of people who have lost a job, there would be a clear winner in the regret department. Most job seekers are really frustrated with themselves for not managing their career while they were still employed. When they most need help, they have to spend precious time reconstructing their network and getting the word out. The same story is true for people who are in a job they find exasperating, draining or frustrating. They have let things lapse and it take that much more energy to get to a better place.

Many people are loyal employees who spend 100% of their workday focused on the needs of the employer. Their own needs take a backseat. It used to be that this loyalty and hard work was all one needed to do to move ahead in his or her career. We certainly know that things have changed. Now, employees need to carve out time during their workday to invest in themselves and their career future,

So, how can you stay in the driver’s seat of your career and be fully capable of finding work when you need or want to?

The truth is the people who can find jobs most easily have two things in common – they are talented and well-networked.

So, the easy answer is to keep your career alive, you need to pay attention to trends so that you can stay on top of and build needed, marketable skill sets. You also need cultivate a strong, connected network. If you do these two things, your ability to find work quickly is greatly enhanced.

This all sounds well and good, but we are so busy these days that adding one more things seems almost impossible. So, what are some EASY ways to nurture your career on a daily basis?

Duh, network:

Oh how often we hear the word “network” and think of conferences, professional association meetings or reaching out to strangers? Well, those are definitely types of networking activities. Setting some goals to attend a quarterly event is a good idea, but there are very easy ways to network with less effort.

Nurture the network you already have. Just like it is easier to retain customers than get new ones, it is easier to nurture the relationships you already have than it is to keep building new connections. Here are some ideas:

  1. Pay attention to the notifications on LinkedIn – when someone in your network gets a new job, has a birthday, or celebrates a work anniversary, write them a note. Honor their accomplishments and pay attention. People appreciate that you are thinking of them when it is important to them, not just when you need something.

  2. Make a list of the top 10 people in your network – Make sure you have a game plan for the top networking connections you have. Are you planning to try to get a phone call or a coffee scheduled to catch up on a quarterly basis? Think about each of those precious connections and your strategy for staying connected.

  3. Go out of your way to acknowledge and honor others – If someone helps you or makes a difference, tell them. Write a quick note to his or her boss. Or go the extra mile and write an unsolicited LinkedIn recommendation. Kindness and gratitude are very important builders of relationships.

  4. Share relevant content – If you see a particularly good article or see some great information about your profession or function and you think others in your network would benefit, share it. You can send it via email to connect individually with a contact, or you can share it via LinkedIn. If you are selective about what you share, people see you as a resource, plus there is an added benefit. You are staying on top of important topics relevant to your career.

Staying talented and marketable:

When people think of retooling and staying marketable, they often think of time consuming options like getting another degree or a certification. Again, these are good options, but not the only choices. Here are a few easier ways to keep your skill sets current:

  1. Identify the top performers in your profession - be on the lookout for people in your profession who are getting ahead or are considered thought leaders. Get to know them. Follow them on LinkedIn. What are they sharing, what skills are they touting?

  2. Get a mentor – There are formal mentoring programs in place at many companies. If your company has one, participate. We can all learn from individuals who are stronger in an area than we are. If there is no formal mentoring program, seek your own mentors. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that someone who is a mentor needs to be older or more experienced. If you need to update your technical capabilities, a younger or less experienced colleague might be just the ticket.

  3. Find an accountability partner – find someone in your network to keep you in check. Set goals and commit to someone that will help you get there.

  4. Capitalize on the educational resources available through your employer – Many companies pay for online training programs like SkillSoft or Lynda.com, but most employees don’t take advantage. Check out those resources. If they are not available, make the case for your employer to pay for a conference, professional association membership or a professional development course.

Our careers are the only source of income most of us have. Investing in ourselves is not only prudent, it is essential. Do yourself a favor and invest now. You will be so very glad you did!

Below I would love to hear other ideas around career management. What are you doing to be intentional about career management?

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