Back to School for Careers
Do you remember the excitement you had around Labor Day each year? Fresh pencils and notebooks…new clothes…new teacher and new friends to make….? For many people, starting out fresh and getting back to business is exciting.
Or, are you someone who dreaded the back-to-school time? Homework… papers to write… getting up early to make the school bus? Likewise, have you put off doing something about being ‘stuck’ in your career until ‘after the summer’?
Not surprisingly, in our career coaching business, we get more contacts for career help in the first part of September than at any other time, even after January 1st! Why? Based on our 12 or more years in the school system, September seems to feel like it’s time to ‘get serious,’ after a leisurely summer of playing or procrastinating.
Whatever your feelings about ‘back to school,’ here are a few things you can do to leverage the energy or get over the dread you may feel to do something about your career “this school year.”
Learn something new. Just like the kids and adults going back to school, now is the time to set out on a learning project for yourself – upgrade your skills, learn a new skill, work on a certification, take a class just for fun, explore a new hobby. The list of new things you could learn is endless! What will be your learning project for the next nine months?
Clarify your objective(s). Before you can do anything about your career, you need to clarify the direction you want (or don’t want) to go. This may require engaging a career coach to help you be clear on your values, interests, competences, knowledge, passions, and to translate these into career directions and opportunities. While there are many books on this topic, and it’s not brain surgery to do this, it’s very difficult to do yourself – an outsider can be invaluable.
Dust off and update your resume. Updating your resume will help you look back on your accomplishments and build your self-confidence. Now you’re ready if someone approaches you about an opportunity, and you’ll need a good resume if you network. This, again, is something that’s often difficult to do by yourself – most people don’t appreciate their strengths and gifts – and another person can help you see yourself objectively.
Set a schedule for building and maintaining your network. There’s an 80% chance that your next opportunity will come through your network. Think forward to the end of this school year – in nine months – who would you like to have in your network? Which relationships would you like to have stronger and deeper? You can schedule a breakfast once a month (or, depending on your sense of urgency, once a week) with someone you want in your network. (Our book, Power Your Career, The Art of Tactful Self-Promotion at Work, tells you how to do this from step one. And there is a free resource on our website, A Networking Plan for a Year.
Start researching potential employers. You may decide that you want to stay with your current employer. Terrific! Start building your internal network in the organization. If, however, you want to make a change, begin by looking at employers who might have the type of work that you want to do. Research them online, and then find people in that organization (through LinkedIn or other resources) who can give you information, and maybe help you make more connections within the organization.
September seems to be a time for a “re-set” or a brand new start, or ‘getting down to business.’ Take advantage, and figure out what you need to do to make sure your career is on track for where you want it to be.