One of the best strategies for advancing your career is to excel in your current position. But once you leave the office each day, there are other steps you can take to make sure your resume is competitive and your skills are up to date. Below are five methods for increasing your worth and widening your skill set in your career path:
1. Take online courses/certifications
Just because you’re out of school doesn’t mean you’re done learning. There are several other outlets for you to advance your skills. If you’re lucky, your company might be willing to pay for classes if they are relevant to your job. If not (or if you want to learn an unrelated skill) you still have many options. Look into local community colleges to see what online classes they offer in design, foreign language, or any other line you want to add to your resume. Personally, I am currently in the process of becoming AdWords certified by Google.
2. Do your research
If you don’t have the time and/or money to take online classes, you can utilize several free tools to make sure you are constantly informed about what’s going on in your industry. Set up Google Alerts for relevant topics, follow thought leaders on Newsle, and follow a handful of industry blogs on Google Reader.
3. Start a blog
Starting a blog is a great way to demonstrate expertise among your industry. Even if you’re killing it in your current job and getting recognition from your boss/colleagues, it helps to start making a name for yourself in your industry at large. That way, when you’re interviewing for a new job, or trying to get a promotion, you have credibility outside of the tasks you’ve performed at work. For example, take a look at Kevin Grubb (the Assistant Director of Career Center Student Services at Villanova University) and his blog Social @ EDU. Or, check out my friend Stephanie Campbell’s fashion blog Glam and Graffiti, which helped developed her personal brand even before she entered the work force.
Network. Network. Network. So often people amp up their networking when they are looking for a new job. But the trick is to network BEFORE you are looking for a job. That way, you have contacts in place who might be able to hook you up with an interview/job prospect at the right time. Networking is something you need to invest in, and not expect immediate returns on. If you are in an industry/city that has a lot of “real life” networking events, take advantage of them. Meetup and Eventbrite are great online resources for finding such events, or you could always tap into your university’s alumni association.
Or, you can network from the comfort of your own home. Twitter is a wonderful way to network your way to a job interview. I got interviews for some of my internships simply based on my Twitter presence. As an example, I interned at Livefyre when I was in graduate school. I found a posting for a Community Management Intern, and was able to message their Director of Strategy to ask about obtaining an interview, who I had developed a relationship with primarily through Twitter.
Sometimes it helps to take things offline, and volunteering is a smart offline move that can help your career. You can volunteer in an area that directly relates to your career to help you gain new skills, or you can volunteer in a passion of yours in order to make your resume more well rounded. Volunteering is also a great way to meet new people, and we all know how important networking is. You never know who you’ll meet while helping other people!