How to Take the Career Leap in 2016

It’s a month into the new year, but it’s not too late to start something new, keep moving towards your dream or shift your focus to a new opportunity. You’ve got ideas, dreams, passions and experiences you want to share, now is the time.

Here are some tips to help you prepare your mind and get your ducks in a row to make that next big move:

1. Start With Your Career Branding

Personal branding is how you connect the dots between who you are and what you do.  What messages are you sending? Are you saying you want to work in tech without technical skills? Are you wishing for a company culture that doesn’t exist in your industry? Are you eliminating potential opportunities because you are tailoring your search to meet popular buzzwords?

Double-check your LinkedIn and other social media accounts and make sure you’re not sending mixed messages. Don’t forget to share what you’re looking for, the network you’re trying to cultivate and the opportunities you would like to get involved in.

2. Touch Up Your Professional Documentation

Your professional portfolio communicates what your skills are, what valuable experience you have and what diversity you bring to the table. It definitely can’t help you if it’s outdated or missing information. It’s time to touch-up your resume and other documents.

You need to make sure to keep a short bio, long bio, headshot, resume or CV, cover letter, business cards or contact cards in your back pocket. If you’re looking for a new job, invest in some contact cards that describe what you’re looking for instead of the job or career you’re in now. If you’re looking to start a new business or start consulting, start with a business canvas to build a foundation.



3. Join some motivating and compelling groups

Preparation and materials without action will get you nowhere. Now that you have the materials it’s time to build the network and potential team for your new journey. Your network and personal board of advisors (mentors, sponsors & champions) will help motivate you when you can’t do it yourself.

Like-minded people may give you the feedback you need to validate those ideas, applications and projects that you’ve been sitting on. Join some meetups, attend some free or low-cost events at organizations you like and have some meals with new people that inspire you. DC Tech Meetup, DC Careerists and Women Who Code are some great ones in DC.

4. Invest in Professional/Personal Development

You are key to every idea, plan and project you’re thinking about. If you’re looking to change industries or careers, focus on an immersive experience. Don’t be afraid to dive in. You’re not the first person and won’t be the last to learn a new skill. 

Take a free class, attend a workshop at your local university, join a study group or book club exploring the content around your new industry or career. You’re likely to realize you love it or hate it, without wasting time in a “dead-end” job. Classes at General Assembly and The Iron Yard are always a wealth of information. Hackathons and hack nights are great places to learn and test new technical skills. 



5. Be Ready and Open to Leap

Chances are if you’ve told yourself it’s time and you done the prep work, the time is now. Whether it’s an idea you want to pitch, a solution to a common problem, a skill you’ve always had but never used or a compelling passion. If you don’t jump, you’ll never know where you’ll land.

If you see a job you feel matches your qualifications, apply. If you hear about a project you can volunteer for, do it. When you hear about a hackathon or opportunity to pitch your idea, do it. Leap and don’t look back.

It can be intimidating, but remember you are your own worst critic. Start moving beyond the limits you put on yourself and if you get stuck, Generation-Next is always here to help.