We’re deep in the throes of 2018, which means it’s time to get real about a few things. Of course weight loss, travel and seriously considering forgoing rent to see Beyoncé take top priority, but so should our professional livelihood. With each year comes an opportunity to assess, reboot and reenergize not only our lives, but our career. Are you happy at your current job? If not, what would it take to bring you contentment? Is it time for a career move or a change in industries? Oh, and how’s your salary looking?
With adulting comes finally answering the phone when Sally Mae calls, and also asking yourselves the tough questions and taking the necessary steps to improve your life on all fronts. So to jumpstart your journey to becoming your own #CareerGoals, here’s a list of major moves every young professional should strive to make in their career.
Get a Professional Head Shot
A picture is worth a thousand words, and that cropped club picture on your LinkedIn profile is speaking volumes. FYI, we can see the DJ in the background. Yes, your iPhone 8 Plus birthday selfie is cool and all, but let’s invest in something a little more corporate appropriate that doesn’t involve a halter top. Many large companies make it a point to take professional head shots of their employees, so make sure to take advantage of this if your company does. If your job doesn’t offer this service, find a budding, local photographer to take your photo for cheap (this also helps their portfolio so it’s a mutually beneficial exchange).
Join a Professional Organization
Your network can highly determine your net worth. One of the best ways to start stacking professional coins is to join a professional organization. Whether local or national, professional organizations are a great way to network, strengthen your leadership skills and tighten up your resume. Many organizations also offer special incentives to members such as career development sessions, discounts to professional conferences and access to high-ranking business professionals. Need help finding the perfect organization? Try this list from our friends at Blavity.
*Shameless plug: If you’re a Columbus native, check-out the Columbus Urban League Young Professionals where I serve on the leadership board.
Update Your LinkedIn Profile
First things first, if you don’t have a LinkedIn profile, stop what you’re doing and go set one up. Unless your receipts speak for themselves or you happen to be the second coming of Oprah Winfrey, a professional profile is a must. Believe it or not, this is one of the first things prospective employers do when looking into a potential candidate. LinkedIn is also a great way to interact with other professionals, increase your SEO and build your online brand. Trust me, when you’re engaging in online chatter with the CEO of your organization, the 15-minutes it took to create your profile will be worth it.
Make Money Moves
Bad credit and constantly stressing about money on a non-pay week isn’t cute. Yes, we do what we have to do, to do what we want to do, but are you killing yourself for an employer who isn’t paying you your worth? Experience, performance, tenure and leadership are all things employers take into account when determining if an employee is eligible for a raise. If you score 10s across the board on all of these, it’s time to have a conversation with your employer about your compensation.
Get a Mentor
It’s always good to hear from someone who’s been where you’re at and doing what you want to do. A good mentor can also play a key role in helping to advance your career, offering access and opportunity. Make it a point to find a mentor in your field and also one who is not in your field but is still successful.
Attend a Professional Conference
Step one. Save your coins now. Most professional conferences require a registration fee and may also require travel and lodging, so prepare yourself in advance. Conferences are a great way to network with professionals you likely wouldn’t have connected with otherwise. If the price tag for your conference of choice seems a little steep, ask your employer if they’re willing to pay the fee, or a portion (sell it as a professional development opportunity). Also look for local and regional events that don’t require travel or lodging.
Spruce Up Your Workspace
Put yourself in a headspace to soar by having your surroundings to reflect your #GoalDigger mindset. From a cute calendar to a notebook with a motivational saying, let your workspace be a reflection of the energy you hope to radiate for the year.
Assess Your Digital Footprint
Play a game. Search your name in Google and see what pops up (make sure to also check the “Images”). You may be surprised at you found. Social media is one of the first stops an HR representative makes when looking into potential candidates. Make it point to do this exercise a few times a year. The Internet can be a career-crippling place if you have any skeletons floating around the digispace. Also make sure to comb through your social media and remove any cringe-worthy photos and posts, particularly from your college or “I don’t give a what” days.
Network, Network, Network
This one’s a given. Meet new people, shake a hand, exchange a business card, invite your CEO to a coffee break. Forging lasting and authentic relationships is key to career advancement. It pays to know people so put in and secure the bag.
Find a Balance
The grind is great. The grind is expected. But so is mental wellness and moments of peace. Yes we all want to Beyoncé our careers but even the Queen takes a break every once and a while. Laugh a little, take a staycation; sneak a sick day, and whatever you do, make sure to use each and every one of your vacation days. What good is the grind if you’re too exhausted to enjoy the fruits of our labor at the top? You’ve worked hard in 2017 and will damn sure do it again in 2018, so chill like you deserve it.