Why An Annual Career Checkup Can Be Just As Important As A Physical

Taking time to review the direction of your career is vital to your success in today's ever-changing job market. Therefore, as the New Year begins, be certain to ask yourself the big questions:
  • Are you moving forward with exciting opportunities or is your field beset with limited options, a shrinking customer base and bouts of downsizing?
  • Are new technologies enhancing or depleting your chances for professional growth?
  • Is your line of work (and/or industry in general) expanding or contracting?

Unlike 30 years ago, career advancement is no longer bestowed upon hard working employees by grateful organizations. In fact, the reality of today is that job security has ceased to be met by external structures. Rather, true security is best achieved through internal direction, regular planning and a focus on professional excellence.

Even the ladder of success is more likely to be horizontal than marked with the formerly vertical rungs of advancement (i.e., forward movement is now represented by increased training opportunities and responsibilities rather than enhanced job titles and corner offices). Today's savvy employees recognize the need to be the masters of their own destiny. They know how important it is to keep current with the demands of the times, consistently re-evaluate their direction and take a proactive approach to career management.

This means that, just like an annual physical is critical to the health of your body, an annual career checkup is essential to the wellbeing of your career. The start of the New Year is a great time to review the strengths and limitations of your profession and your position. Organizations are making their own internal assessments: creating initiatives, putting budgets into place, implementing plans and hiring accordingly. Should you deem that a change is necessary, this is the perfect time to make your move. January and February generally represent the strongest hiring period of the year and are, therefore, prime months to open up to new opportunities.

To best conduct your own career checkup, here are three points you will want to consider:

How valuable is your current position to the organization?
Do you affect the bottom line? Are your responsibilities critical to the company's success? Are you a direct link to customers or clients? Will management likely view you as an asset or a liability?

Your prescription: If the answers to these questions suggest you are at a disadvantage, it is time to take on additional tasks and responsibilities so that your contribution level increases. You want to be in a position to add real value to the overall goals of the organization. Otherwise you will likely be viewed as expendable ... and we all know what that means.

Are you consistently updating your skill sets?
The skills you offer represent your ultimate worth to an organization. Technical innovations, the globalization of the marketplace, increased competition and demands from consumers have all contributed to the necessity for highly skilled employees. If you are failing to remain current in your field and are falling behind with the latest technologies, you are putting your career at great risk.

Your prescription: Identify the skills in greatest demand for your line of work and make certain you take the necessary steps to ensure you can perform them at the highest level. One way to do this is by reviewing job listings for positions associated with your profession. You will note that certain skills appear over and over again and are generally placed towards the top of the various ads. This is an indication that these attributes are especially valued by today's organizations. Then check out the following sites for the appropriate courses and tutorials you need:

  • Lynda.com: Offers courses on technology, creative and business skills
  • GCFLearnFree.org: Computer skills, basic math, Microsoft office are all offered absolutely free
  • OpenCulture.com: Thousands of free online courses, audio books, eBooks and more

Is your personality and work style a good fit with others in your organization?
Are your relationships with your boss/co-workers/managers/clients/customers generally congenial? Are you considered easy to work with and a positive representative of the company? Are you thought to be an active contributor to the goals of the team?

Your prescription: Although hard skills are the critical determinants of your worth to a company, your soft skills such as personality and fit may be an even greater indicator of how well you are doing. Organizations need skilled problem solvers but people want to work with people who are pleasant to be around. If you find yourself at odds with those around you, this is a big indication that it is time to move on.

Above all, make certain you are taking full advantage of all of the opportunities to be found at this special time of year. There is no better way to kick off the New Year than by having a career that is healthy, rewarding and vigorous. With a thorough checkup, following the necessary prescriptions and a little luck, real success may well be yours in 2016!

Mary Eileen Williams is a Nationally Board Certified Career Counselor with a Master's Degree in Career Development and twenty plus years of experience assisting midlife jobseekers to achieve satisfying careers. Her book, Land the Job You Love: 10 Surefire Strategies for Jobseekers Over 50, is a step-by-step guide that shows you how you can turn your age into an advantage and brand yourself for success. Updated in 2014, it's packed with critical information aimed at providing mature applicants with the tools they need to gain the edge over the competition and successfully navigate the modern job market. Visit her website at Feisty Side of Fifty.com and celebrate your sassy side!

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