Instead of waiting for opportunity to knock, why not get out there today and create it yourself?
To configure your own personal professional development plan – a custom fit for where you want to be at work – the key is developing a laser sharp focus.
Deciding what you want to be doing, where you want to be doing it, and pin-pointing exactly what it’s going to take to get there, requires considerable inspiration, reflection, and research.
But let’s face it, unless you have the budget to hire a career or life coach, it’s up to you to create your career and set yourself up for the opportunities you most want.
Here are four DIY opportunities that allow you to take the initiative and open doors for yourself.
Get insider industry intelligence
The challenge: line up an informational interview with a VIP in your field, to be conducted by phone or in-person (the latter preferred).
Getting the inside scoop on what it takes to succeed in the field can help you decide if it’s a good fit. “The more knowledge you have, the better decisions you can make about your career,” advises university career services professional Katharine Brooks, plus “you’ll be better prepared for the real job interview.”
Finding the career opportunity you want may have more to do with ‘who’ than ‘how.’
The prerequisites: you’re persistent, well-prepped with smart questions and have above-average communication skills – including active listening. Remember, busy people may be more inclined to meet if you have a mutual acquaintance.
Expand your referral network
The challenge: once weekly, line up a lunch date with someone in your extended professional network – including your loose ties online.
People get jobs because of whom they know. Networking doesn’t end once you’ve made a connection: it’s an active and ongoing process.
The prerequisites: you’re into reciprocity, are genuinely interested in other people, have already memorized a soft-sell version of your elevator pitch and because eating with someone in a professional context can be tricky, you have above-average dining etiquette – including negotiating multiple forks.
Develop your skills portfolio
The challenge: add another line to your resume by mastering a unique and in-demand job skill.
The ability to wear many hats and deliver results beyond your job title and description sets you apart and positions you on the promotion fast track. “Your job title should never act as a limit to what you want to achieve,” advises Dharmesh Shah, founder at HubSpot.
Many career-boosting skills can be self-taught. Have you found yours?
The prerequisites: you are curious, self-motivated and disciplined when you need to be and you genuinely enjoy learning – including via free or paid online courses, post-grad certificate programs, YouTube videos, webinars or workshops. To determine exactly what you need to know, ask successful people working in your target sector which skills they wish they had right now.
Become more discoverable
The challenge: stake your claim to the web with a personal profile that is public-facing and professional. But don’t forget to humanize it with evidence of your unique personality.
When someone searches for you (or someone like you) online, help him or her to find and select your profile over your competitors’. “What I do care about?” asks Cindi Leave, Editor-in-Chief at Glamour Magazine, “that you have passions, professional and otherwise, that make you a real, 3-D human.”
The prerequisites: your resume is up to date and ready to be posted online, you have a great headshot, and you can link to or upload digital evidence of your accomplishments and interests – including something creative, because today every employer wants innovators.
Whether you’re currently employed or not, practice self-direction and get ahead in your career with these do-it-yourself opportunities, and generate a bit of self-manufactured luck in the process.