10 ways to boost your career

Have you given some thought lately to the next steps in your career or looked back on this part year’s accomplishments? Career management is a step we often overlook, say experts — but one which can help us get ahead.

Looking to set some new goals for the year ahead? Here are some good places to start.

Document your accomplishments

Pop quiz: what did you do accomplish in the past year to make yourself an indispensible employee? What projects did you work on? What successes did you earn — like reducing costs, bringing in new customers or improving sales? What new responsibilities did you take on, and what skills did you upgrade or acquire?

It will take some time and effort to get started, but experts note employees should keep a record of their successes — including evidence whenever possible. You’ll have plenty of back up when performance reviews roll around, especially if you’re vying for a raise or promotion — and it will help you target areas for improvement.

Update your resume and portfolio

Many people revisit their professional documents only when there’s an urgent reason — like applying for a job or meeting with a client or partner. However, it’s easier to polish up your portfolio, resume or CV before you need it — and when you aren’t under pressure or facing a tight deadline. When an opportunity comes up, all you’ll need to do is customize the information.

If you’re building a portfolio, make it an ongoing effort. Collect samples of your work and keep copies of online and digital copy too.

Craft your online presence

Not using social media for your career, or not keeping it up to date? Experts say we should be paying more attention because employers are watching. Surveys show more employers are using sites like LinkedIn and Facebook to check out potential employees — and check up on current ones.

Social media can also further your career or business. Use it to highlight your skills, experience and accomplishments and connect with colleagues, potential employers and clients.

If you aren’t using social media, consider starting with LinkedIn, a professional networking site that’s strictly business. (We’ve got a beginner’s guide here.)

If you’re already using social media, now’s the time to double-check those privacy settings and make sure your content is clean and current. Employers have eliminated potential candidates and even fired workers based on what they’ve seen online. (See 10 career-damaging online mistakes for more tips.)

Find a new way to network

Experts can’t emphasize enough the importance of networking. After all, making new connections leads to new opportunities — and it lets you help others as well.

So how can you get it done? Some tried-and-true methods include joining a professional organization or group, attending workshops or conferences, and volunteering. However, don’t be afraid to try something outside your comfort zone like speed networking. (See A shortcut to networking?)

While you’re reaching out, consider reconnecting too. Look up a former colleague or friend and go for a coffee, for example.

Upgrade your skills

Who said your student days were over? We never stop learning, and acquiring new skills can make you an asset to your company — not to mention boost your resume. Employers look for a willingness and ability to learn as well as the talent you bring you to the table.

Not sure where to start? Talk to your boss and coworkers. Find out what training opportunities are available within the company, and what outside options are available. For instance, learning a new piece of software or tackling project management would add value to your team as well as your resume. Some employers will even cover training costs. (For more information, see 6 steps to upgrade your skills.)

Building your skills can also apply to your career. For instance, learn the latest strategies for job hunting or work on your public speaking skills.

Update your image

Like it or not, appearances matter and an outdated look could suggest that your skills and experience are outdated too. According to a recent article from AARP, refreshing their look is a concern for many older job seekers — even to the point of Botox treatments and plastic surgery.

However, a polished, well-groomed look doesn’t necessarily mean going to drastic lengths. Replace old make-up and donate any clothes that don’t fit properly. Try a fresh haircut or a new pair of glasses, and don a trendy accessory with a classic outfit. Even things like properly fitted undergarments and standing up straight can make a difference. (See Upgrade your image for more tips.)

Expand your job description

Stuck in a rut? Tackling a new project or addressing a need within your department makes a good impression on both current and future employers. When you work with new teams and departments, you’re also forging new bonds that could matter later on.

How to get started? Look for gaps or areas where you can make a noticeable impact. Consider: what could your department or company be doing to improve business? What needs aren’t being met? For instance, you could spearhead social media initiatives or start a company blog.

Plan your next step

Whether it’s a promotion, new business venture, new career path or retirement, experts warn you can’t think too far in advance. Career planning will not only provide motivation, it can help you make more effective goals and plan the steps to achieve them.

Need a little help? Talk to your employer about your career path, look to career planning resources and talk to someone who has “been there”. (Hint: you can meet such people through networking.)

Get up and move

You’ve read the news: too much sitting can be deadly. In addition to meeting our weekly requirements for exercise, health experts also advise to get moving during the work day. Take a short walk, stand for meetings or phone calls or get up and stretch. Getting out from behind that desk is good for your heart, gives your muscles a break and will help reduce eyestrain.

Don’t worry about losing time at work. Past studies have shown that people who take breaks throughout the day are more productive and focussed than people who don’t. Like our bodies, our minds need a few minutes to refresh.

Reward yourself

It can be hard to stay motivated when you don’t see immediate results or your goals go unnoticed (like keeping that resume updated). Rewarding yourself can help keep you on track. It could be something as simple as a glass of wine and dessert to celebrate, or some much needed downtime with loved ones.

For the best effect, set the reward ahead of time — add it to your budget if necessary — and post a reminder like a picture or note nearby.

So what will the next 12 months hold for your career? That’s up to you. Try some of these ideas to keep you moving forward.

Sources: AARP.com, Careerbuilder.ca, Monster.ca, Working.com, university career services websites.

Photo ©iStockphoto.com/ Alex Slobodkin

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