By Sandra J. Bishop, President, Executive Solutions
Here is my 10 point plan to help you stay ahead of the game:
1. Take Your Career Temperature
- Have you developed any new skills this year, especially computer skills?
- Are you willing to step outside of your comfort zone, take a lateral move in your company and learn a new part of the business?
- Have you become a real problem solver?
- Have you saved your company any money lately?
- Do you read the current literature from your industry and share it with your team?
- Can you or have you discovered an unmet need in your company and volunteered to fill it?
- Do you know what your colleagues and customers think of you?
- Are you aware of who your major competitors are and how they're doing?
- Are you developing your project management skills?
2. Create a Two-Year Vision for Your Career
Make it fluid enough to adapt to today's economic reality. Write down your goals and objectives to clarify it. The thinking and writing processes will help you feel secure about your future.
3. Devise a Plan B
Have a backup plan in anticipation of a possible job loss. Start saving more money. Three to six months of expenses should be your savings goal.
4. Build Your "Personal Brand"
The personal branding process identifies your strengths, skills, expertise, management style and unique characteristics, and packages them into powerful identity, distinguishing you from your competition. The core of your personal brand is based on authenticity. Your personal brand influences how people perceive you, engenders trust, and encourages your company to promote you or your competitors to hire you. It also serves as a foundation for becoming a successful and effective free agent.
5. Build and Nurture a Strong Effective Network of Friends and Professional Business Colleagues
Make a list of names and keep contact information current. Include former colleagues, friends, classmates, neighbors and acquaintances from church, the gym, etc. Contact each person monthly - one contact a day. Keep it simple. A two sentence email or a quick phone message. As you network, give freely of yourself, especially to those who are in a tough spot. It will come back to you in spades when you're in a similar position.
6. Figure Out the Informal Power Base in Your Company
Make every effort to know and build solid relationships with the people who use their informal power - executive assistants, human resource personnel, finance staff - and those who have been in the company many years.
7. Identify Experts in Your Industry and Try to Get to Know Them
Create ways to meet them. Volunteer to participate in one of their more challenging projects, or write a note commenting on an article or book that this national expert has written. Find out which professional organizations these experts belong to and join if possible.
8. Determine Which Professional Organization Is the Most Prestigious in Your Industry and Join if Possible
Review the admission requirements. If you can't afford to join, go to your boss and make a case for your membership. Explain how it can help the entire team if you participate in the organization and offer to share what you've learned with your teammates.
9. Compose a Two-Minute Commercial About Yourself
Briefly define who you are, what you do, your work history, successes, professional strengths, skills, unique characteristics and what your objective is. Compose it and rehearse it until you are blue in the face, especially if you are looking for a new position or new client. Be prepared to share it with anyone at anytime. It's a great way to market yourself!
10. Construct a Cutting-Edge Resume and Keep It Current
Whenever possible, a) quantify your accomplishments using a number, dollar amount or percentage, b) cite examples of how you saved the company money, and c) stress your problem-solving abilities. Update the resume with your accomplishments every few months.
Sandra J. Bishop is president and founder of Executive Solutions in Chicago. Bishop is an executive coach, career strategist and outplacement counselor working with individuals, corporations, small businesses and entrepreneurs. She appears regularly on WGN Morning News in Chicago giving coaching advice. Email her or call 312-654-8689.