If you’re not in the market for a new job, chances are you haven’t updated your CV or thought about your key talents for a while. Many people see career tools like CVs and LinkedIn profiles as assets that need investing in only sporadically, often triggered by a job search. However, this approach of ‘update and stagnate’ can limit your career effectiveness in a number of ways:
- You lack self-awareness and ability to share current skills, achievements and responsibilities.
- You miss opportunities from people scanning profiles for recent projects and popular terms.
- You forget experiences and connections that could be helpful to your development.
The good news though, is that this is the perfect time of year to dust off the cobwebs and invest some time in spring cleaning your career. CVs are just part of the picture, though, and there are a few key areas where your focus will pay dividends.
Utilise your network
Recent North American research from LinkedIn revealed that 40% of people had been referred to their latest job by a connection who already worked there.
Put simply, two in five people’s next jobs will be found through their network. Having a strong network is not just about getting a new job, though; your network can be a great source of learning opportunities. My own network has given rise to the opportunity to attend fantastic events, to be mentored by inspiring leaders and to gain the experience of increasing my impact by speaking at events.
If your network needs a refresh, it can be helpful to think of your actions in terms of ‘seed, feed and weed’.
Start with ‘seeding’: what new relationships do you need to build based on your development plan for the next 12 months? Then think about ‘feeding’: how can you stimulate your network? Perhaps set yourself a target of contacting one person a month or create something of interest that would be valuable to share with your network.
Finally, think about ‘weeding’: are there people who you might stay in touch with personally, but who don’t currently have the same relevance professionally?
Prioritise your networking efforts accordingly. This might sound harsh, but everyone is time-poor and focusing your efforts meaningfully is more respectful of people’s time.
Polish your profile
Don’t think of your CV as just a tool for getting a new job. The act of updating your CV will force you to think about your unique attributes, their value to other people and your most recent achievements.
Taking the time to think this through can be extremely useful for development conversations with your manager and your CV provides a ready-made structure as a starting point.
Start with your introductory statement: does this feel authentic and specific? Rather than writing “I’m a leader with excellent communication skills”, think about evidence points that make it more memorable and individual.
Next, update your current role by stating what you do, why it matters, how you personally create value and what you have achieved. This will help you to articulate this message succinctly to others in conversation.
Finally, update any recent training or personal development you have undertaken as this is something we can often forget or dismiss.
Your LinkedIn profile is an important extension of your CV, so make sure you update this at the same time. Get a friend or colleague to review what you have written and ask them how you come across. Is it the impression you want to convey?
Broadcast your skills
What are you really great at? If you can’t answer that for yourself, it’s unlikely other people will know either.
If you can answer it, ask yourself if you are as good as you could be and whether other people associate you with this talent? If not, there is room to improve and share your expertise with others.
A couple of years ago I would have said that I was good at developing people, but that it wasn’t really known outside of my direct team. Since then, I have invested in training, shared my experiences in blogs and delivered courses for people outside of my teams. This has not only built my skill set, it has also ensured that this is part of my ‘brand’ and what I am known for.
If you believe you have room for improvement in this area, start with thinking about the skills you want to be known for, then score yourself out of 10 with how strong your skill is today and how strong you would like it to be within the next 12 months.
Prioritise the skill with the biggest gap and develop a list of actions that you will commit to in order to develop it.
Enhance your impact
All too often, day-to-day activities consume our attention and we lose our focus on the bigger picture. Not only can this reduce the value of your efforts for your organisation, it can also affect your own development. Research has proven that people with clear goals are more likely to achieve them.
Think about the next 12 months, are you clear about what you want to achieve? If not, think about a day at work 12 months from now. Imagine you have had a great year and you’re preparing for your development review with your manager. What would you be saying you have achieved? How would you be talking about the impact you’ve had? Now, think about the actions you can start to take to bring you closer to that reality. The reality is that you may need to do less, in order to achieve more.
Focusing effort on your network, profile, skills and impact will have a very positive contribution to your career and while spring provides you with the impetus to freshen things up, these actions will have value throughout the year and at any stage of your career.
Helen Tupper is marketing director at Microsoft DX and founder of Amazing If.