Article originally posted on SharpHeels
You sleep eight hours each night, work out regularly, and eat right to be healthy. You’re conscious about improving yourself and establishing good habits, so keep up that great routine! But what have you done lately to boost your career? This isn’t about simply doing a good job at work. Certainly that’s important for your professional reputation, but what steps have you taken to bring your career to the next level?
You might be in a slump at work or maybe – if you’re lucky — your boss can’t stop giving you praise. Either way, there’s never not a great time to add a boost to your career, and you can easily do this in just five days.
Day 1: Capitalize on Strengths
Everyone has been asked about strengths and weaknesses, but not everyone uses this self-awareness to their advantage. Knowing your strengths and capitalizing on them helps boost your confidence in the workplace, which in turn helps boost your career. When you lead with your strengths, people take notice. You want to be remembered by what you’re good at, not by your shortcomings.
Identify your strengths, then incorporate them into your workday. Are you more productive in the mornings? Use that time to tackle your difficult tasks. Are you a natural leader? Talk with your manager about taking point on a new project. Make a conscious effort to exhibit your strengths at work; even if you only focus on one, it still makes a difference.
Day 2: Set Goals
If you haven’t already, determine what goals you want to accomplish in your career, both short- and long-term. Is it a promotion? Do you want to work for a specific company? Or be your own boss? Regardless of what it is or the timeline to get there, goals are vital for your professional success. Without something to work towards, you fall into the trap of career monotony. It’s as if you’re a corporate sleepwalker drifting through each day doing what’s expected and never progressing. Don’t let that happen!
Don’t be afraid to be ambitious. Write out the ultimate goal you want to achieve, and then write out the steps it’s going to take to get there (essentially, mini-goals). Focusing solely on the big goal can make accomplishing it seem daunting, so concentrate on the smaller ones first. Set deadlines for the small goals, and reward yourself along the way. Also, tell someone about what you’re working towards so you have a support system to help keep you on track.
Day 3: Know Your Industry
To help you get ahead, you need to become an expert in your industry. You should know any major developments or changes that are happening, be familiar with what industry leaders are doing, and stay up to date with current trends. By establishing yourself as an expert, people will have higher regard for your business acumen.
Get in the habit of checking industry news every day- all you need are a spare twenty minutes to get caught up on what’s happening. Search for any news outlets that cater to your industry and subscribe to their daily alerts/emails, or bookmark a section from a news website pertinent to you.
If you prefer mobile news, use apps like Flipboard or SmartNews that can filter articles based on industry topics.
Day 4: Network Effectively
You’ve heard it before: “It’s not what you know, but who you know.” Not only that, but whothose people know. Having a widespread professional network pays off. Don’t believe it? Studies show that 40% of new jobs come from referrals, and upwards of 80% of jobs aren’t publicly advertised. Don’t let those statistics scare you, though. Thanks to technology and social media, building a network has never been easier.
Career-Boost Challenge 1:
Find someone successful in your industry or someone in a position you would (ideally) want in the future and reach out to them for an “informational interview.” Ask if they are available (and willing) to discuss their current position, the steps it took to get there, and any other advice for you. Remember: your goal should be to build a relationship with this person, not to talk about possible job opportunities.
People are busy, so a quick chat over a cup of coffee might be all you get. Make the most of it! Have questions prepared, take some notes, and don’t forget to be mindful of their time. Always follow up with a thank you note. Showing your gratitude goes a long way when establishing a professional connection.
Career-Boost Challenge 2:
Find another person next week and reach out to them, and then another person the following week and so on. You should never stop trying to grow your network!
Day 5: Reflect
Reflection should be a part of your weekly (or even daily) work routine. Life gets so busy, and people rarely take the time to reflect, despite how beneficial it is for your career development.
Set aside 20 uninterrupted minutes to think about your week:
- Did you accomplish everything you wanted to?
- What did you do well?
- What can you improve on next week?
- How did you work towards your goals?
- What did you learn?
Think about these things, and then write them all down. Seeing it all on paper helps you remember your thoughts, and also holds you accountable the next week when you do this exercise again.
Reading might have been a chore in school, but it’s a habit you should get back into now. This shouldn’t be just any reading; rather, make it something substantial. Besides the obvious benefit that you’ll learn something, reading on a regular basis can increase focus, help your memory, broaden your vocabulary, and improve your writing skills.
Instead of scrolling through your news feed or reading about Kim Kardashian’s latest appearance, read an article about strong women leaders or even a topic you know nothing about. Or pick a book from Mark Zuckerberg’s must-read list. Whatever it is, make it worth your while.
It doesn’t matter where you are in your career, there’s no downside for improving yourself professionally. Believe in yourself enough to invest in yourself. The advantages start coming to fruition relatively quickly, and they’ll continue to benefit you in the future.