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How to Build a Career Path

How to Build a Career Path

In a time of uncertainty in the job market, work has been on everyone's mind. Industries are struggling, and people find themselves without jobs or shifting in a new direction faster than ever. While I feel lucky that I am not just starting my career, having experience may make it even harder to shift gears. Many of us may have to build a new career path, and it's times like this that personal branding is more important than ever. Regardless of your tenure, we can all learn transferrable skills that can help propel us onto a new career path. It's scary to think you may have to start over, but we do what we must do to survive. People are starting businesses or taking this opportunity to change careers to something they love. Now is the time. If you find yourself setting down a new direction, I've been there. I went after a new career a few years ago in which I had zero experience or education. I had a ton of passion, but I was also looking for a better paycheck, if I am honest. Careers aren't always about money, but it's a big part of it, and depending on the lifestyle you want to live, it's something important to consider. I pursued a new path for passion, work-life balance, and financial gains. Everyone has their reasons, so be clear the new direction you are seeking can deliver your expectations. Once you've narrowed down the direction you want to go, there are some essential steps to take to help you gain momentum throughout your career. These steps can help if you are shifting jobs or just starting, they are necessary at any level. Building career success doesn't happen by accident. If you want to guarantee future success, be intentional about your actions.

"Building career success doesn't happen by accident. If you want to guarantee future success, be intentional about your actions."

Build Your Network

How to Build a Career Path

One of the essential steps to build a career path is personal marketing and building your network. Luckily, these days we have LinkedIn to help us do that quickly and effectively. If you aren't on LinkedIn yet, this is what Envato Tuts+ is saying about it, "The beauty of LinkedIn is that it provides a central location to post your profile, showcase your skills, display your accomplishments, gather recommendations, and network with other professionals. By implementing six key steps, you can use LinkedIn to your advantage and catapult your career much further—and much faster—than you think." They are right; think of this as a digital resume that works for you. You'd be surprised at who might be searching for you, and you want to put your best foot forward. You can quickly connect with people in any industry. Maybe you want to move into tech; you can connect with tech executives to network with. I pretty much accept any connection if their title and profile are professional. It's all about growing your network, so the more people you connect with, the more extensive your network will grow so you can reach people that may have previously been out of network. Ladies beware, Linkedin is no different than any other social media site, and men do try to use this as a way to "connect" with you inappropriately, so I have no problem blocking or removing those creeps. When you build your profile, market your skills, and gather recommendations which I highly suggest – this is an easy way to get a public list of referrals. I try to be present on LinkedIn, but if I were actively searching for a job, I would treat it like IG. I'd be on it connecting, posting, commenting, and engaging in the community I want to be in. You never know who you will come across that could help you connect with your future job. LinkedIn also offers courses and certifications of their own that can strengthen your experience. Be sure to keep a catchy yet professional title that leaves someone curious to explore your profile not just your job title. You want to stand out!

Reputation is Everything

How to Build a Career Path

Whatever industry you are pursuing to build your career path may seem vast, but you are most likely connected to a lot of people without even realizing it. It's called six degrees of separation, and describes it as, "Six degrees of separation refers to a theory that all people on Earth are connected by no more than six separate individuals. A theory that parallels the idea that "it's a small world," it maintains that, through a series of connections or steps, all people have the potential to know one another on a first-name basis through mutual acquaintances." Let me tell you, as someone who worked in recruiting, this is true for profess networks. It's not that hard to find someone who knows someone to get the real low down on who you are. What does it mean for your career path? Everything. People will talk, and you won't be able to hide behind your resume when the truth comes out. The way you treat people, your work ethic, the good, bad and ugly will be shared about you, and you can't stop it. That's why you must represent yourself to the best of your ability at all times. We all have bad days or ugly moments, but overall if you are a nightmare to work with, it will get around. Recruiters or employers technically aren't supposed to have these "back-alley" conversations, but they do. If someone is applying to work for you and you know someone from their previous company, you're going to ask that person "off the record" if this person is legit or not. You'd be surprised at how powerful this is, so if you don't want any dirty laundry being aired, you need to think about your reputation. You may get away with being a monster for the time being, but it always comes back to bite you in the ass. What will help is always to treat people with respect, be open and collaborative, follow all company policies, and make friends at work. You want people on your team because those are the people who could be telling a future employer whether you suck or not.

Know Your Value

How to Build a Career Path

Experience is a tremendous asset to build a career path. Once you have some under your belt, and I'm talking a few years, not six months, you've got some leverage. It looks good to have some tenure on your resume. I am not saying you have to stay at every job for five years but sticking something out for 2+ years shows dedication. It's ok to have a mixed bag, but as a recruiter, when people jump every six months to a year, I immediately assume they are flakey, so consider this when making moves. Trust me; I've changed jobs abruptly when I needed to, so don't hold yourself to a job if you're miserable but showing growth within an organization is a massive plus to building a career. Once you find an organization you vibe with, and you show potential for upward mobility, it might be worth sticking it out. It can be easier to get promoted internally vs. going for a promotion externally. Once you prove yourself an asset, you have leverage at a company you work for; they will want to retain you and all the work you've done. Internal promotions are where I saw the most bang for my buck. I had to work my ass off, but once I became invaluable to my boss, she helped propel my career. I was also not afraid to negotiate with her because, at that point, my results spoke for themselves.

Knowing the industry and your value in it is essential when climbing the corporate ladder. I researched what positions were worth in my area, so I knew what to ask for. You can do this on LinkedIn or and find out appropriate salary ranges. Take into consideration your value to the company, and you have room to negotiate. I didn't always get what I wanted right away, but you must be willing to give and take a little when negotiating. You must know your value and not be afraid to ask for it. According to the AAUW, "In our salary negotiation training, we find that some of the barriers that keep women back from negotiating are not feeling they have all of the information they need, not wanting to feel they're bragging about themselves, and sometimes it's just grateful to be offered a position," to learn salary negotiation check out this course. Only you can advocate for yourself, so don't be afraid to ask a company to pay you what you're worth. I learned that being open and honest about salary is entirely normal and respected. If an employer doesn't have the budget to pay you what you expect, maybe they aren't the right employer or might not be the right role for you. Just because you may be new to the industry doesn't mean you're worth any less.

"You can learn skills, but you can't teach passion, and that's what you genuinely need to carve out your path."

Shifting your career path can seem complicated, but as you build a reputation and gain experience, you can create the narrative around your future. My mentor used to say, "What do you want to be known for?" because your work ethic and skills will speak for themselves, and you will find people coming to you for that expertise. I used my skills to build out my career shift; I saw a need in the organization, and I took every opportunity to sell it to my boss. I jumped at every stretch project while still crushing my regular job responsibilities. That's when a boss truly knows you are ready for more. I did market research and figured out the role that I wanted that didn't exist at my company, and I wrote the job description. When asked why I was successful in my current position, I reinforced the value I could bring to the one I wanted. Ultimately, I was promoted into a new role for the company and continued to write my next job description year over year. I studied roles in other organizations using Linkedin and built out an entire department with zero experience. I knew it was a need, and all I had to do was show the return on investment, which I did through the improvements my team made. It was a messy process, but I armed myself with information. I joined networks, partnered with peers in the industry, and learned anything I didn't know. You don't have to have formal education, meet every job requirement, or be the best applicant for a job you want. You have to be the best personal marketer and show how your transferable skills will help you succeed and deliver results. Confidence is vital when it comes to building a career path. You must believe that no matter what, you will figure it out, and you will succeed. You can learn skills, but you can't teach passion, and that's what you genuinely need to carve out your path.

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