How to get ahead in your career in today's job market

Be quick off the mark!

Anticipate and identify issuess so that you can start planning and making necessary changes. Don't be tempted into waiting and sitting it out to see what happens. You can't afford to be lazy in today's job market - be proactive and take action immediately.

Develop a career strategy

Successful companies develop strategies in order to plan for the future and ensure they keep on track. You need to have a career strategy so that you do the same. Identify a goal, put achievable action plans in place and set yourself deadlines for each action plan. Be persistent and always focus on your action plans and what comes next.Keep track of your progress, make changes to your strategy as you move on and always keep your end goal in sight.

The information below will help you to consider all opportunities when developing your career strategy:

Make improvements at your current company

Work on relationships with colleagues and key decision makers. Use informal settings to have meaningful conversations and take an interest in projects your colleagues are working on. Identify successful role models within your company and learn from them. Compliment them on things they do well and ask them for advice when appropriate.

Keep learning and expanding your skills even if your employer won't financially sponsor formal training. Take on new projects, learn from your mentors, share your knowledge in order to facilitate positive changes and learn in your own time. If you take on any training in your own capacity that might be relevant to your role, make sure you let your company know how this adds value to your role.

Look for ways of how to improve your work environment and your role. Don't complain to your line manager or colleagues, first identify solutions and present these to your line manager instead.

Identify growth areas within your company. If you are currently not working within a growth area, consider possibilities of how you could move into a growth unit, add value to it or facilitate joint projects to gain exposure.

Make yourself an invaluable employee

Identify new ways of making or saving money for the company, no matter how small. Any solutions you can come up with in this regard would certainly evoke interest when budgets are tight. Have a look at what you are doing to directly or indirectly make or save the company money. Document the details of every project or task which you feel has added real value to the company and ensure that these don't go unnoticed. Bring them up in your performance review and use them as leverage if you need to.

Make yourself visible. You need to get ahead by going the extra mile and attracting attention, for example, by taking on projects which will do your career justice and get you recognition by your employer. Excel at your job! Increase your contribution within the company. Help your colleagues and volunteer for tasks. Set an example.

Stay positive

It's easy to become negative if you're frustrated in your role or with your employer. However, negative energy will only hinder your ability to move forward. Negativity will also be picked up on by your colleagues (including your line manager). If your colleagues or team are feeling insecure or frustrated too, negativity will be compounded and start affecting overall productivity and morale. Stay focused on your career strategy, take immediate action to make positive changes and emit positive energy and support to your team and peers.

Network, network, network!

Networking is vital, irrespective of whether you are job hunting or not. You need to build a valuable career network and establish and maintain relationships with existing contacts, clients, former colleagues, friends and acquaintances. Let them know you're looking for opportunities. These could be opportunities for partnerships or new business for your current employer or new job opportunities for yourself.

Join online professional networking sites such as LinkedIn if you haven't already, start making connections and ask existing connections for introductions to people they know in relevant industries or occupations.

Attend relevant trade shows with the intention of meeting potential contacts and gathering contact names.

Utilise any environment bringing a group of people together, whether it be a social gathering, club meeting or charity event. Make an effort to speak with people and "talk shop". You never know who you may meet or who they could put you in contact with.

Keep up to date with movements in the industry

Ensure that you continuously keep abreast of what's going on in the industry. Read the relevant trade press, business news and competitor websites and speak to suppliers, clients and other contacts in your network. Look out for changes and identify potential issues and of course, opportunities.

Be proactive in your approach to job hunting

Invest time in identifying potential employers that really interest you and where you feel you could add real value. Approach them directly, whether they're currently recruiting or not. To find out more about how to approach companies directly, you can refer to our article: "How to market your CV and approach prospective employers directly"

Expand your vision and widen your search opportunities in other industries showing growth where your skills could be transferrable and sought after. Seek opportunities in other geographical areas. More and more companies are offering the option to work from home, be partly home based or work flexitime, enabling you to widen your search. Depending on your personal circumstances, it might be worth considering the pros and cons of relocation to a geographical area with greater career opportunities.

Consider freelance, temporary or contract positions. These will widen your professional network and could turn into longer term or permanent appointments.

Author: Nike Wadds, Stand Tall Consulting

Copyright 2012 Stand Tall Consulting