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Is this you? Do you find that the pressures of day-to-day work and home responsibilities keep you from doing what you need to do to get a good job fast in the future?
I think that would describe the vast majority of us. It's human nature to pay attention to what is front of us rather than what's down the road. It's also human to choose pleasures in the present (completing current projects) over pleasures down the road (getting a job fast when you want to leave your company or you get laid off).
This phenomenon is experienced by everyone who has ever tried to diet, eat more healthily, get in shape, buy less, save money for retirement, build job skills for the future, complete a degree etc.
I have no silver bullet to help us overcome this bias towards short term thinking and immediate rewards over long term planning and future benefits. What I do have is one way to approach working for rewards in the future that seems to help.
So let's shift our goal. We have to let go of expecting perfection in switching to long term thinking. A "good enough" outcome would be to make the changes you can and not to be discouraged if you don't make all the ones you know you should.
For example, let's list the "ideal" activities that will position you optimally to get your next job fast and the next one after that:
1. Build your network, always keeping your personal brand in mind.
- Grow your LinkedIn connections to 750+
- Post frequent status updates on your LIP (LinkedIn profile) with news, useful content, and positive comments on your connections' changes
- Regularly make comments or start discussions on the most active LI groups you belong to
- Get started on Twitter and tweet valuable content
- Automate your tweets to post to LI and Facebook to help with SEO (search engine optimization) when your name is Googled or searched for
- Start a blog on Wordpress.com to exercise and establish your thought leadership and add one post a week
- Expand your blog into a personal website
- Connect with alumni events and online forums
- Make connections with people in any group you are a member of: religious organization, sports organization, clubs, networking groups, professional associations etc.
- For every person you meet, consider it your goal to give back: find out what matters to them and how you can help them with a referral or a piece of content that might be helpful
- Regularly communicate up, down, and across your organization about what you've been working on to promote your personal brand with future networking contacts; do this with vendors and clients and other contacts as well
- Have frequent coffees or lunches with contacts
- Use a contact management system that will cue you when you're due to reach out to an important contact; reach out on a regular basis, even if only by email, asking them how they're doing and perhaps including a helpful content link
2. Grow your professional capabilites in the direction of future job markets, to the extent you can discern it
- Get the new hot certifications in your space
- Work towards in-demand new degree
- Volunteer to work on projects at work that will expand your skill set and knowledge base
- Keep on top of trends and what's going on in your field by following the best blogs and following thought leaders on Twitter
3. Sharpen your marketing communications and keep them up to date: resume, LIP, cover letter, bio, etc.
- Keep track of your achievements and projects on an ongoing basis for incorporation into your resume
- Keep your resume and LI profile udated
- Make sure you know what your personal brand is and have incorporated it into all your marketing communications
It certainly would be awesome to do all these things for your career! Doing them would without a doubt help you get a better job faster when the time comes. But sometimes looking at lists like these can seem so daunting that you end up doing nothing at all.
So is there a middle ground? Something between perfection and stagnation? Only you can define where that space is. It would go along with the concept of "good enough." You've probably heard it. It's a phrase that allows us be imperfect but still good. Statements like, "I'm a good enough worker, father, runner, golfer, person etc." takes away the perfectionism that can be paralyzing.
So, imagine with me what a "good enough" forward-looking career manager might look like:
- Every week or so he goes onto his top social media sites and does one thing on each: an update on LI, a tweet on Twitter, a comment on Facebook, a comment in a LI group etc.
- Every quarter he sends out an update with an offer to talk on the phone or help with referrals to the top people on his contact list
- He takes a rainy Sunday afternoon soon to go to wordpress.com, set up a basic blog, and post his resume on one of the other pages
- Then he picks up his personal website/blogsite project in a few weeks and adds another page, maybe a list of project highlights with quantified results
- Once a month he reaches out to three people he remembers from college or from a certification course; maybe he calls a colleague that left the company awhile back, all with an eye to the idea of "givers gain"
Granted, these activities are not as broad-ranging and rich as the suggestions on the lists above. But they protect you from the despair that can happen when you fall short of perfectionistic expectations. And, doing some things, if not all of them, gives you the good feeling that you are moving ahead, not just staying in the present dreading the moment when the layoff is announced or when you get too fed-up to stay.
So start today in some small way to be a "good enough long term career planner," and give yourself credit and a reward! Food? Dinner out? Clothes? Night at a B&B? Good luck!