When I talk to people as I write their resumes, I listen to their stories. Some are stories of success and some are tales of regret.
I hear, “It’s always held me back that I never finished my undergraduate degree.” Or, “I can’t ask for a raise because I don’t have all my certifications.”
But I also hear, “My last promotion came only after I got PMP certified.” And, “The best thing I ever did was go back to school for my MBA.”
When you are ringing in next New Year’s Eve, will you be celebrating a recent success story or rehashing old regrets about the arc of your career? Will you be sitting in the same cubicle, wondering where another year has gone or will you be enjoying an increased salary, more respect from colleagues, and possibly a brand new job or new career, the kind you’ve always wanted?
Now is the time to launch the changes that will help you further your dreams. Let’s take it step by step.
Step One: Set Your Sights
You wouldn’t start an important road trip without a specific destination. The people I see succeed know what they want. It’s not a hazy picture. It’s a clear and realistic goal.
Ask yourself some questions. Do you want to just earn more money? Are you looking for a position that satisfies a long-held personal mission such as making a contribution to society? Maybe you want a job that doesn’t demand long or inconvenient hours, or one that lets you telecommute, or gives you a chance to use a skill your present job doesn’t call for.
Do some research to see if there is a roadmap to where you are going. What qualifications will you need? Is the salary sufficient? Are companies hiring? What’s the future of these jobs?
Step Two: Determine the Baby Steps
Once you know what you want, you can consider what’s standing between you and what will be the next rung on your career ladder. Then, you can make a plan to take action.
Ask people who are doing what you want to do how they arrived there. Study your industry by following leaders on LinkedIn and Twitter to learn what groups have credibility and will look impressive on your resume.
Don’t fall for the myth that education means enrolling in a traditional institute of higher learning. Education to further your career can take the form of:
- Online courses. Diploma mills of the past have been replaced by respected online universities and individual podcasts covering just about everything you need to know.
- Workshops and training sessions. Quick courses can be local classes or possibly events held as part of a convention or conference elsewhere. When you are a member of professional groups, you’ll be plugged into these opportunities.
- On-the-job training. Hands-on experience beats book-learning in many industries. Become an intern, take a second job, or volunteer in order to gather new skills. We’ll list these on your resume.
- Independent study or working with a mentor. We may not be able to include on your resume the books you’ve read, or the TED Talks you’ve watched, or informational interviews you’ve conducted, but these kinds of informal learning experiences will definitely make you more savvy about your aspirations and give you more confidence during job interviews.
Step Three: Identify the Usual Suspects
Now it’s time to look at why you have not taken these steps already. What’s been holding you back?
Different people have different reasons for dragging their feet when they should be moving forward with a career.
- Fear of failure. Does the idea of “tripping forward”—of making mistakes and having to correct course on the fly—scare you? Tony Robbins might have said it best when he said, “Stop being afraid of what could go wrong and start being excited about what could go right.”
- No emotional or logistical support. It can take the form of a jealous spouse, a lack of encouragement from friends, or not believing you’re worthy of spending the money for the education or the childcare you need in order to move ahead personally.
- Lack of funding. It could be time to get rid of cable, or forgo restaurant meals, or get a loan, or take a side hustle, or apply for a scholarship, or sell some belongings—whatever it takes to pay for that course, conference, membership, or class.
- Limited time. Can you switch to a four-day work week that will free up time every Friday to practice an important new skill, one that will enhance your resume? Can you trade babysitting services with another parent so you can enroll in that evening class you need? Can you outsource an ongoing chore like housecleaning or yard work? Can you simply learn a better time-management system?
The most important thing to get you started on your new career path is to ask yourself, “What am I willing to sacrifice to create this reality?”
The decision to take the leap into the unknown seems scary. But the alternative is even scarier: regrets, missed opportunities, frustrations, lessened self-esteem, stalled earnings, and a sense of failure.
The hardest part is getting started, so what are you waiting for? There’s no better time to start than now. Visualize the goal, break it down into baby steps, remove obstacles in your way, and don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Have the courage to jump start your career. This is your year!