It’s human nature to enjoy the feeling of being in your comfort zone, especially if you have worked somewhere for a long time. You may be performing well and feeling comfortable with your job and those around you, but in a market that is continually evolving and facing political and economic uncertainty, it is more important than ever to focus on refreshing your skills and strengthening your network in order to remain relevant. Retaining a competitive advantage in your career is about more than hard work and long hours, it’s having a plan and affording the time to build and maintain a career plan.
Here are our top 5 tips to help you build and retain that competitive advantage and position yourself well as you head into the new year.
In whatever field you work, continued professional development is critical. Start by assessing your strengths and current skill set and work with your manager to identify any gaps based on how you want to progress to in your career. When you know the gaps, you can plan to develop in these areas. Having a plan and owning it is the first step to truly advancing your career.
Opportunities which may arise to further develop your professional skills could include;
In line with professional development, a focus on personal development is equally important. Where you are going in your career can be based on how well you build your personal brand. Just as a strong brand can influence the purchase of a product, in the workplace it can lead to interviews, promotions and new doors being opened. Elements to building a brand might include;
In most industries, there will be professional associations available for you to join. Popular websites like LinkedIn, Meetup and Eventbrite will provide access to relevant events in your area and attending them can be a great way to add you’re your professional credentials, create visibility of your ‘brand’ and meet like-minded individuals.
Remember, networking works best when you invest time proactively in relationship building not just when you are job hunting. Some of the best contacts will be people that you meet when you least expect it and who could help support you (perhaps even become part of your board of directors) at different stages in your career. If you find the idea of networking daunting, go along with a friend to your first even to break the ice!
Often when challenges are thrown our way at work, it can be tempting to shy away from them or hope that someone else will take the lead. However, when obstacles appear, these can be a great way to demonstrate character, problem solving and help you stand out from the crowd. Perhaps you have identified a process which you think can be improved or see an opportunity to put yourself forward to manage particularly challenging client or stakeholder. The more you can lean in to and deal with challenges, the more skilled and resilient you’ll become.
Feedback can be both positive and an opportunity for improvement and it’s important that to seek out both. It is often said in business that ‘perception is reality’ and while we all like to have a positive view of ourselves, the reality is, that the next promotion isn’t coming if others don’t agree. It can be uncomfortable to ask someone for their honest opinion, but if you work at building great relationships with those around you then this task will eventually become second nature.
Soliciting feedback regularly will provide you with visibility on your performance and perception of you through the eyes of your colleagues and positive feedback can be used as testimonial to propel you when you are looking for a promotion or role change.
There is no time like the present to take a step back and find an opportunity to pause and reflect on your own career journey. Where are you at in your career? Where do you want to be? And how can you apply some of these tips to help you advance and gain a competitive advantage as you move through forward on your career journey?