12 Strategies for 2012: Actions You Can Begin Right Now to Leverage Your Career In the Year Ahead

This past year has been a tough one, career-wise. Whether it’s trying to find meaningful work, dodging pink slips, doing more with less or finding out that we’re losing a much-loved job – it seems that some sort of career challenge has touched almost everyone recently. You may be looking forward to 2012 with hopes of new career opportunities. Or you may be trying to manage your anxiety as you wonder where and when that next job may surface.

Wherever you find yourself on your career path – whether you’re uncertain, unemployed or unhappy with your current job – you don’t have to stop moving your career ahead. After all, it is your career – so rather than filling your precious time worrying about what’s next, why not create your own strategy in which you decide how to grow. Choosing to grow will keep you positively challenged and move you closer to that next job or promotion. Here are twelve strategies you can use right now – whether or not you have a job at the moment. All twelve strategies are within your control – pick one strategy or pick several – better yet, commit to all twelve and watch the difference they can make.

  1. Increase your visibility. Letting the world know who you are professionally, the projects you’re working on and the causes you’re passionate about gives others a chance to get to know you, trust you and show an interest in you. Skill in using social media and a willingness to share your work with others makes it easier to “get the word out” to your network and potential employers.
  2. Consider the image you want to present to others.Then move toward that image in everything you do. Image means expressing your authenticity. If you want your career to shine, show the world the very best of you. Imagine a picture of you doing work you love, making a difference and contributing your finest qualities. That is the image you want to convey.

    Image is also the way you conduct yourself professionally. Each time you act, you are saying to others “This is who I am.” “This is how I go about my work.” Consider what you would like others to “take away” from their interactions with you. Want to be known as reliable, visionary or insightful? You shape how others view you through the image you convey.

  3. Step outside your comfort zone. If you’ve lost your job recently or you’re worried that staffing cuts will impact your current job, this strategy might seem strange because it’s likely you’re already outside your comfort zone! While you can’t stop all the changes, you can take a different attitude toward them.

    If you’re unemployed, rather than trying to find the same job somewhere else, consider other types of work you can also pursue. Look at job postings for positions that aren’t exactly like the one you just left. If you’re worried that your job may be cut, investigate other types of work in your organization or in others similar to yours. Consider a lateral move, a transfer, even a job sharing arrangement if your job becomes at risk.

  4. Cultivate the art of mindfulness. Are you sometimes amazed at the end of a day by how many different tasks you accomplished? Or how many people you talked with? Or how many emails you managed to answer? We’ve become true masters of multi-tasking. Most times, this skill is useful. Yet it has a downside. Spreading our attention across several tasks at once doesn’t always work. We may become distracted, miss cues or fail to give proper attention to something that demands our highest problem solving abilities. Or we may simply burn out. Recent research confirms what we all know: the ability to focus matters. Working mindfully can help you contribute your best efforts and make you more engaged in your work. Practicing mindfulness gives you clarity to make better decisions, come up with more creative solutions and add more value.
  5. Step up your tech skills. You already have solid technology skills. You wouldn’t have been able to graduate from your program without them or succeed at your current or most recent position.  Why not go further? For hiring managers, the ideal candidates are those who differentiate themselves by offering more value. Want to move up to a higher level within your organization or be chosen for a job over other candidates? Consider the tech skills that will give you an edge.  Think strategically – what new technologies are specific to your area? If you’re moving into administration, what new project management software would make you more effective in getting a key project finished brilliantly?
  6. Find five new job titles. Whether you’re looking for a job or not, scan a wide range of job announcements.  Look at the job titles because they can give you valuable information about what’s in demand. Read the job requirements. Maybe you’re familiar with the requirements but never saw that particular job title before. Maybe the job announcement you’re looking at morphs two or three different skill sets together in ways you hadn’t considered. Research beyond the usual places you’d look for librarian-related job openings. Visit websites of think tanks, research centers, non-profits and international organizations that focus on your area of interest. This information helps you upgrade your resume, CV or portfolio to include key skills that potential employers are looking for.
  7. Create a portfolio. If you already have a portfolio, make it even better. Current and potential employers want to know what you’re up to now, as well as the work and projects you’ve been involved in previously.  You can update your portfolio on a regular basis and be selective about what you want to include. An online portfolio makes it easy for potential employers to link to your work and review it before meeting with you. If you’re not looking for a job right now, portfolios are still a great way to demonstrate your talents to your professional community.
  8. Take your online presence one step farther. If you’re a member of one social media site such as LinkedIn, consider joining Facebook and Twitter. Or leverage your membership on the one site in which you already have a presence. For instance, if you have a LinkedIn account, use all the features to your advantage. Connect with people through LinkedIn groups. Comment in these groups. Notice who else is commenting. Perhaps another group member works at an organization you have targeted as a potential employer. What a great chance to connect with this person!
  9. Identify three trends in your field. Learn everything you can about these trends and it will put you ahead of the game.  If you’ve recently graduated, you probably have a handle on the trends and issues that will shape your field in the near future. But don’t “rest” on your recent course work to keep you informed. Trends, new technologies and emerging needs of users of your services are constantly evolving. If you want others to recognize you as a thought leader, you need to prove that you’re up to the challenge. Look at trends outside your field that are likely to impact your work. What about library design? Demographics and literacy rates? Trends in immigration?
  10. Choose three people you admire inside or outside your field. Consider current or former professors or classmates, leaders in your area of expertise or people in your community who make a difference.  Determine why you admire them. Then, reach out to them. Email or call them or ask for an introduction via your contacts on LinkedIn.  Let them know that you’re building your career and tell them what you admire about them. If you’ve been in the field awhile, let them know that you’re interested in challenging yourself to stay on your cutting edge.

    Connect as a way to dialogue with someone who shares a similar value, mission or passion. Ask if you could follow up with a brief email once a month – share an article, idea or project you’ve been working on. While most of us are overwhelmed with emails and demands, what we often miss is the chance to engage in a conversation about something we care about.

  11. Make the art of self care your own personal mission. Though we know self care is often the first thing to go when we’re stressed, worried or overworked, we seldom act on that information. More important – a long term habit of poor self-care shows. People notice that you’re low on energy and that you have little passion for whatever work you’re doing.  That’s true whether the “work” is your job or your job search. For potential employers to see you as a high energy candidate, self-care must come first.
  12. Practice gratitude. Research shows that when we notice what is going well in our lives – when we appreciate and value someone or something – it changes our view.  By acknowledging what we are grateful for, we tend to see opportunities rather than black clouds. This isn’t Pollyanna thinking. It is simply noticing the upside. If you practice this habit regularly, you may see an option, a possibility, a chance to join a project or a way to connect with a person that you’ve wanted to meet.

The new year is a chance to start anew – a chance to move closer to work that makes a difference, and a chance to develop yourself professionally in ways you may not have considered before. Use these twelve strategies to get you moving in the direction that’s right for you. Happy New Year!

Caitlin Williams, Ph.D. is a career coach, consultant and speaker on professional development and workplace issues. Through ALA, she offers webinars, online chats, podcasts and articles to ALA members. Be sure to stop and visit her at the upcoming ALA Midwinter Meeting in Dallas.