As I am in totally envy of my parents as they talk about their impending retirement, and seeing that their full time working days are numbered, I have started reflecting on my own career as I hope I am nearing the midway point of my working days. Granted, most of my retirement savings is tied up in the State of Illinois retirement system, but that’s a blog for a different day…
Throughout the course of my career I have always kept a few things in mind as my golden work rules to live by:
- Make time for professional development opportunities, when/if they arise.
- Maintain open communication with your colleagues and managers.
- Choose a job for the career and not for the money/benefits.
- If you’re unhappy with your work situation, change it.
- Know when the writing is on the wall.
The last point is a little more challenging for some people to see, especially when they are too comfortable at their current company which, in my opinion, one should NEVER be too comfortable. Becoming too comfortable allows people to let their guard down, blinding them to potentially new, challenging opportunities, either within their current company or outside the corporate walls. When you become too complacent and take a blasé attitude towards your work, it shows, and this attitude will not help in finding your next opportunity.
Manage Up: If you’re keeping one of the golden rules of having open communication with your manager, you should be able to have honest conversations about the current status of your career path. You should maintain this through regular meetings and not just at an annual review. Your professional development is most important to you – so you must make it your duty to seek out those conversations with your manager. If you feel you are in need to fulfill a new skill set that you currently don’t have, but see it listed on all similar job postings, see if you can obtain that skill while at your current employer. For example, in my career path, many director-level and above positions in alumni relations required some form of fundraising experience. I was able to have a conversation with my boss stating that I wanted the opportunity to take on a project in higher education fundraising where I could gain those skills, and I was able to accomplish this.
If you have a manager who is a little more standoffish, try to schedule a 30 minute meeting to be a quick professional development check-in with your boss. The agenda for this meeting is set by you – not your manger. This meeting should not be used to discuss your current projects and daily duties but rather your professional growth within the company. Having these regular, open conversations about you and your career path are paramount to making your future opportunities happen, especially if your are investing in the company you’re working for and want to stay there for awhile. Many times we feel like our company takes us for granted; that we are just numbers on the payroll and can be easily replaced. My first post-college job was working at a post-production house in Chicago editing commercials. I was being trained by a not-so-friendly guy who seemed really bitter that he was asked to train me. On my first day of work he told me, “just remember – you’re replaceable”. That statement has always stuck in my head and, while jaded advice for a fresh-faced professional, is sadly true. As I’ve posted before, many companies don’t have the loyalty they once did toward their workforce. While this is much easier said than done, it cannot be overstated: creating the opportunity to have those conversations is your responsibility, not on your manger’s.
When your professional development conversation is halted, then you know the writing is on the wall to gear up your job search.
When you finally have an “ah-ha ” moment at work and recognize that it’s time to start job searching, here are a few things to keep in mind to maintain your professionalism at work and to answer the question, “How do I not let my current boss know that I’m starting to look for new employment?”
Embrace LinkedIn: You have to start believing that you are always the only one who’s in control of your career path – you must decide! Start by beefing up your LinkedIn profile page. Many people are afraid that their current employers will see a LinkedIn page and question why they have one. But that’s not the case anymore! LinkedIn is used for as much job searching and professional development as it is for networking with old colleagues and keep up on latest trends in your profession. In a 2014 Forbes.com article written by Liz Ryan, Ten Ways To Use LinkedIn In Your Job Search, Ryan addresses this very topic.
“Using LinkedIn, you can see who your friends know, where people have been and what they’re interested in, what people are talking about and who’s gone from Company A to Company B. If you’re paying attention, LinkedIn can absorb at least thirty percent of your job-search-related research load. LinkedIn can save you hours that you used to have to spend at the library or on some corporate database, researching who’s who and who’s where. It’s a new day! LinkedIn is a job-seeker’s best friend.”
Be Courageous: Recognizing the position you’re in with your company and having the courage to make changes that will effect your career path is key. Many people stay at a position for a long time (nowadays, that is anywhere between 3-5 years without a title change) complaining about their boss, the company or the lack of opportunity to grow. You have the power to change your situation at any time. You need to start getting your resume and LinkedIn profile in order so you can start letting your network (both personal and professional) know that you’re seriously looking for a new opportunity.
Stay Open Minded: No opportunity is too small to not interview for, especially if you haven’t interviewed in a while – you need to get back on that horse. Also, stay open-minded to all offers. As I said, the ball is in your court as you still have a job and you’re job searching to see what else is out there. Maybe the pay is $10K less, but it’s a part-time position and you can work from home, but depending on your commute, family dynamic and future plans, that might be the best fit for you. You never know what awaits you until you look.