Career tips

1.   Look out for one. Take responsibility for your own career development. Many large organizations have scaled back on training and development-a common outcome of the economic downturn-and small companies can rarely provide significant support. Simply put, your career rests in one set of hands: yours.


2.   Be strategic. Have a long-term career strategy or, at the very least, a sense for where you’re headed. Ask yourself, “What do I really want to do?” or “Where do I see myself in five to ten years?” Seek people in similar roles and ask for their advice.

3.   Work in step with your company’s goals. Connect the dots from your role to your company’s vision and key objectives. How does your work align with the organization’s goals? What can you do to maximize your contributions?

4.   Be customer-centric. Whether your customers are internal or external, know their wants and needs, and be fervent about meeting them. Bring the voice of the customer into your day-to-day work and let it enhance your decisions and deliverables.

5.   Collaborate. Working with and through others is requisite to innovating, creating, and producing business results. Adopt a mindset for teaming and collaborating, and put it into daily practice.

6.   Hone your communication skills. Communication skills can make or break careers. Pick one area that needs your attention-considering skills such as listening, presenting, influencing, persuading, or distilling messages-and commit to improvement. Take a class, practice with a trusted friend or colleague, or join a group such as Toastmasters.

7.   Cross over functionally. Many successful executives have risen through the ranks by taking cross-functional roles, such as moving from finance to sales or from marketing to IT. Follow their lead and you can grow your skills, your network, and your political capital.

8.   Expand your experience. Volunteer for special projects or assignments that are outside your everyday role. Discuss your goals with your boss, an HR representative, or a senior leader, and ask for help in finding opportunities to broaden your experience base.

9.   Find a guide. Mentors can serve as influential role models and provide important guidance for your career. Reach out to a potential mentor within your company or industry and see if he or she would be open to mentoring you for a specific purpose and timeframe.

10. Network-now. The best time to increase your network is today. Starting now, get involved in groups such as professional associations, charitable organizations, or even sports leagues. Step into leadership roles and make your expertise known.

11. Specialize. Today, companies look for specialists, not generalists. Develop a personal brand, distinguish your skills and strengths, and determine how to best market yourself.