career resolutions

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 It definitely can’t help you if it’s outdated or missing information.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.

How to Keep Up the Momentum For Your 2016 Career Resolutions

Just because the "New Year" feeling may be starting to fade, doesn't mean your resolutions need to lose steam.

Here are a few tips to make sure you keep the momentum going for 2016 and finish strong in your career goals.

1) Expand Your Network, But in a Targeted Way.

The internet and mobile economy has made the world much closer. It's never been easier to connect to folks that share your interests, goals, and mission. But with that, it's also been much easier to clutter your network with connections that don't add value or purpose.

This year, be sure to do an audit of your connections. Revisit groups that you subscribe to and focus them in on only the skills and topics that are going to add to your development.

Make sure to do a connection audit, for example if your goal is to get a new job in design work, then you might want to follow a few creative design boards on Pinterest, while cutting out a few of your LinkedIn groups that message you about past interests on which you are no longer spending time.

You may also consider joining a few new Meetups like this new one for DC Careerists. While it's okay to have multiple interests in different spaces, it's best if they are mutually supportive and few, which will help you move into our next step below.



2) Develop Your Specialty.

Companies, especially startups, are more and more looking to hire candidates with multiple skill sets. But this by no means, means that you should not brand yourself as a specialist in a particular field. While a new company might say they are looking for a "jack of all trades", it's actually really hard to identify one. You can set yourself apart by having a specialty with supporting skills.

Set yourself apart by becoming a specialist in one area, with your secondary skills supporting that one.

For example, imagine a great developer with sales and marketing experience that also does PR work and can manage your accounting books. Where do you start this person? What if designing a website is more important to the hiring company than the accounting side? Chances are you've already forgotten one of this person's skills even though it was just a few sentences ago.

Use this time of your 2016 to look at your skill sets and see where you would like to focus and/or bolster your professional skills this year. Organizations like General Assembly are a good resource to take a few training courses that will really define you as a specialist, which is a great segue into our next step.


3) give your Professional Brand a test drive.

After you have identified what your specialty is (or will be), test it out in your network to see if it holds up. Try the following activity: Ask 3 of your friends, 3 of your family members, and 3 people in your professional network what you do for a living. Chances are, if you are like most people, you'll find some pretty humorous material. Oftentimes even your current/former coworkers in other departments may not have a clear definition.This can be for a number of reasons, but ultimately it boils down to how you communicate your value to others. Your elevator pitch of who are and an example of what you do is key.

Create a one or two sentence elevator pitch about who you are as a professional. Also think of one relatable example you can give that will help people remember.

For example, if you are a PR consultant for public policy organizations, you might be able to say something like: "I help organizations educate the public about changes in health policy. Basically I'm the Olivia Pope of the healthcare industry." Sure you can give them a huge, dry, bulleted breakdown of what exactly this means, but chances are if the person you are talking to isn't in that industry then they will soon forget anyway. You want to make it memorable and easily repeatable. This will add much value to you when these people can refer new contacts to you.

Also, this is now the time to start branding yourself as a thought leader. Remember that specialty you picked for yourself? Well that is what you want to build your brand around. Try to connect to organizations that need this expertise (organizations are always looking for speakers for their events). Or if you aren't the public speaking type, publish a few articles on LinkedIn around topics related to your specialty.


4) Don't Do It Alone!

Perhaps the most powerful thing you can do to energize the rest of your path toward your 2016 career goals is to bring others with you. Reach into your close network of friends or colleagues and build a small support team that can help one another reach their goals. These people's goal is to hold one another accountable to whatever your goals are throughout the year. Even if it's just something as simple as calling or emailing to check in to say "Hey, Mike! Hope all is well. Just checking to see if you made that move to London you were trying to make. I came across this job opening there you should check out. They're looking for an Olivia Pope!"

But make sure it’s not one sided. Be sure to add value to others in your network and you can rest assured that your network will remember you when they can help.

Everyone is looking for a mutually beneficial relationship, as you give back, your network will give back to you. Whether it's forwarding a great article you read that you think lays within their interest, or referring them to great new career opportunities, the more value you add to your network, the more you get out in return.

Add these great few tips to your 2016 and you can bet that 2017 will be even more momentous.