Monday, March 28, 2016

Taking steps toward career advancement

One of my goals for 2016 was to advance in my career. I love my work. Toward the end of 2015, I was feeling a bit stagnated in my role as I have been in the same level of position for just over 3 years. Over the past few months I've been taking definite steps toward advancement and while I don't have a new job or a promotion, just taking steps toward advancing my career by looking for ways to grow in my current role, taking advantage of professional development opportunities, networking, keeping my eye on opportunities in my field of work, and improving my work wardrobe has made a huge difference in my outlook. Here are some of the details on things I've done since Christmas:

Look for ways to grow in my current role
I've been trying to focus on the benefits of my current position. Seeing different tasks as opportunities to gain new experience, skills, and as opportunities to prove my capabilities to my manager and employer. I've been asking for and taking on new projects. I've also been taking advantage of all the opportunities I'm offered to attend workshops, meetings, and conferences.

Professional development
Earlier this month I wrote my professional exam! I likely won't hear back until June whether or not I passed but I'm feeling pretty optimistic. My manager also approached me about taking a one-day course this Spring which I'm looking forward to. I'm also interested in attending the annual conference put on by our association later this year. My employer only pays for a limited number of staff to attend this conference. I was fortunate to be able to attend for one day last year because others who committed weren't able to go. However, I've decided to pay my own way this year if that comes up as a barrier as I found it to be a valuable development and networking opportunity last year. I also volunteer in a capacity related to my field of work. I will have served the maximum volunteer term at the end of this year so I'm also trying to take advantage of all opportunities for development and to make connections through this avenue as well.

The biggest tool I've been using for networking has been LinkedIn. I've had a LinkedIn profile for a number of years but wasn't really using it until recently. I took advantage of the free premium membership for a month and grew my contacts from around 100 to over 400. I've been connecting with many people from previous jobs and those who I've met at workshops or conferences through work. I try to send personal messages thanking people for connecting me and in some cases, reminding them how I know them if it has been a while.  I receive connection requests somewhat frequently from people I don't know. If they are in my industry, I check out their profiles and our shared connections in deciding whether or not to accept the request. I've also been endorsing my connections for the skills I know they have. In turn, I have also been getting endorsements (win!).  At some point I'd like to get a professional head shot taken.

Keeping my eye out for job opportunities
Once or twice a week I check a couple of job boards for current opportunities. I've saved postings for jobs which sound appealing but that I am not yet qualified for. I do this for a couple of reasons.. 1) to identify experience gaps and try to find ways of developing those skills in my current role; and 2) to refer to when I'm preparing my resume in the future so I can use similar language to frame and highlight my experience and skills. While I'd prefer to stay and grow with my current employer, this may not be possible so I'm still keeping an eye out for other local opportunities. There seem to be a fair amount of opportunities, however, most of them would be a much farther commute than my current 15 minute commute. There are so many benefits to being close to home like reduced travel costs, time, opportunity to go to medical appointments on my lunch hour or pick up groceries, and to be close to the boys school to help out on occasion.  The limited increase in pay to move up to the next level wouldn't be worth the difference economically or convenience-wise, however, I may have to consider this option at least for a couple of years in order to advance.

Boosting my work wardrobe
I find I do my best work when I feel good about my appearance. Over the last year I've been growing my work wardrobe by shopping sales and consignment. A few times a year I've been evaluating my closet and taking clothing to the consignment store to sell at the same time as I look for a few new pieces of clothing to boost my work wardrobe. I was reading an article somewhere about business fashion which mentioned having clothing tailored for a perfect fit. After my first pregnancy, I took a bunch of clothing to a local seamstress to have them taken in. I had lost a fair amount of weight post-pregnancy. I spent about $50 and had several pieces of clothing done. I still wear a few of them! Post-babies it has been really difficult to find articles of clothing in the stores that fit nicely. There are some things in my wardrobe that I really like but that don't fit me quite the way I'd like. This Spring I'm planning on making a trip to have a few pieces tailored and a broken zipper fixed.

I'd love to hear any tips/experiences/resources on career advancement that others would be willing to share :)

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