One mistake that many young professionals make is thinking that once you’ve entered the job market, that’s it – you’re employable for life.
In reality, you have to work at staying marketable so that you will always be valuable to current and potential employers.
Here are six ways that you can stay competitive in the “real (read: working) world.”
In addition to making you more desirable as an employee, these steps should also give you the satisfaction of knowing that you’re doing everything you can to set yourself up for success in your career.
1. Professional development
This term might have sounded vague and slightly ominous when you were in school, but there’s a reason it gets tossed around so much. It’s incredibly important to continuously learn about your profession and what makes someone good at it.
There are always new technologies, strategies and work methods emerging in any given field. Professional development – in the form of workshops, courses, training programs or online webinars, for examples – will help you to stay on top of best practices and give you a chance to learn from the pros.
Building up a professional network is great, whether you’re thinking about future job prospects, wanting to learn from those who have gone before you or if you just enjoy meeting new people.
If there aren’t any networking events in your area that you can attend, try reaching out to people who have worked at your company for a while to see if you can buy them lunch or a coffee and ask them about their careers. Or, contact people who are around your age or who are working in similar positions at other companies to see if they’re interested in getting together to chat about any work-related challenges you’re all facing.
Together, you could brainstorm some great potential solutions.
Volunteering is beneficial at any stage of your life or career. Signing up to volunteer at an organization you’re interested in is an excellent way to give back to your community, learn new skills and meet some amazing people.
You may discover an interest you didn’t know you had or learn that you don’t actually like a particular line of work as much as you thought you might.
And of course, volunteer positions look great on a CV.
4. Take initiative
Practice saying “yes”.
The more you are open to trying new things and taking on roles or responsibilities that are outside of your usual duties, the more opportunities you are giving yourself to learn, grow and shine.
If your boss wants someone to take over a new project or portfolio, don’t wait until it’s assigned to you.
Instead, offer to take the lead on it (as long as it won’t make your workload unmanageable). This will show your employer that you’re a go-getter and it could end up being a really positive experience.
Unless your job actually involves research, this is probably something you thought you could avoid upon leaving school. This isn’t like the painstaking research you did before writing an essay – it’s about staying up-to-date with what’s going on in your industry.
In today’s market, there is fierce competition for every job and industries change much more rapidly than they did in the past. Try subscribing to a blog that relates to your field, reading relevant journals or magazines or signing up to get email alerts every time something newsworthy happens in your industry.
Whatever you need to do, make an effort to be aware of current trends and new developments that could impact your work.
6. Find a mentor
Finding a mentor doesn’t have to require a huge commitment or be a formal and demanding relationship.
It’s mainly about having someone you can talk to – whether it’s a boss, colleague or friend – who has more experience than you and who is willing to share their tricks of the trade.
Everyone needs a bit of guidance sometimes and thankfully there are many people out there who are willing to pass on what they’ve learned to those who are just starting out.
Use these strategies to show the world that you’re serious about your career and that you’re willing to do whatever it takes to rise above and beyond.
You’ll open up all kinds of doors for yourself and your resume will look great to boot!