25 Career Changes You Can Make Today

by Carlos Portocarrero on 8 November 2012 3 comments
Photo: Victor1558

We're all busy. And that means we get caught up in our day-to-day responsibilities and rarely have time to take a step back and look at the bigger picture, asking "Where is my career going?"

Here are 25 things you can do today to make sure your career ship is cruising in the right direction. (See also: 25 Awesome Websites to Help You Get a Job)

Read Up

Reading is important because it's how we learn new things and stay up to date with what's happening in the world. Here are some things you should read to keep you as productive as possible.

1. Books

There are a million books out there about how to “boost” your career. But here are four recent ones I've read that bring a unique perspective to the field. Their goal is to treat your career as if you are a freelancer offering your services. It’s your job to hustle and make sure your services are in demand. The rarer and more valuable those services are, the better off you’ll be. As for "SPIN Selling," there are some sales strategies in there you can use during interviews to help you get the job.

2. The News

Make the news a part of your routine. It’s important that you stay “in the know” about what’s happening in the job market, what industries are getting coverage, and what’s “hot” (and more importantly...what's not).

3. Blogs

Good blogs are a great way to keep the pulse of the career field and get actionable advice that’s tried and true. If you're obsessive and love to read, make sure to check out 15 Career Advice Sites You Should Know About or these blogs:

Connect With People

You’re not going to advance far in your career without some help (and a little luck). So make sure you are constantly building a network of people you admire that you can learn from.

4. Online

LinkedIn is a great way to keep in touch with people in your industry and keep track of what they’re doing and worrying about. If someone you admire tweets about a problem, you have a cool opportunity to help them out. It’s also a great way to study up on a potential new boss/employer.

5. At Work

The people you work with today are the people your next job will be calling for references. You don't have to be a fake, just remember that the goal is to get things done and for the entire group to be successful. Be friendly. Be a team player. You can’t do it all by yourself — and you will have a heck of a time getting anything done if your colleagues don’t like your attitude.

6. Your College Network

Most universities and colleges have an alumni association that you can join. Once you’re in, you can search the alumni database by company, industry, and even title. Right off the bat you have something in common with these people, so use the relationship wisely (don’t spam!).

7. Find a Mentor

Mentors are essential in developing your career. We all think we can do it on our own, but that’s just youthful bravado talking. Find someone you respect and trust that has experience and try to learn as much as you can from them. It might be your boss or it might be a former boss...you never know.

8. Help a Coworker

Keep an eye out for someone that has too much on their plate or is obviously frustrated. Then try to help them out. Take on some of their work. Push a deadline back for them. Take them out to coffee to give them a break. Anything. Just let them know you’re there to help. Help your team today, and they will be there to help you down the line.

Software Savers

I'm a tech guy, so I love using software to make my life easier. Here are some tools I highly recommend.

9. Use Prezi for Presentations

PowerPoint is a snooze-fest, so go to Prezi.com and take a few minutes to learn the basics. Next time you (or a coworker) need to make a presentation, wow everyone by using Prezi instead. Then show everyone else how to use it. No more boring PowerPoint slides to sit through, and you've just demonstrated some leadership.

10. Defend Your Time Against Distractions

Regardless of what email program you use, this advice holds. Turn off the notifications that beep or pop up every time an email comes in; these distractions are productivity killers.

Also, use your calendar wisely — schedule your day in advance by blocking off time so, a) no one bothers you, and b) you have clear direction on what you’re doing throughout the day. Add a couple of blocks throughout the day for checking email.

11. Become an Excel Master

You’ll probably never become as good as this guy, but you should at least learn to do more than basic charts with Excel. There’s a reason why this is so expensive. It can save you hours of work, make you look real smart, and give you some great insight when you have tons of data. As I’ve said before, it’s the most underrated piece of software you already own.

12. Try Evernote

Evernote allows you to store all your notes, pictures, lists, links, and anything else you can think of in one cloud-based location. It makes everything searchable, so you can always find that article you flagged or those meeting notes you stored. You may or may not wind up using it, but try it anyway. Some people use it to take notes in meetings and wind up becoming as attached to it as they are to their email client.

Your Salary

One of the most important parts of your career is what you're worth to the market. The sooner you maximize this, the better off off you'll be down the line — think of it as an investment that pays off the earlier you start executing.

13. Run a Salary Audit

The goal is to figure out if you’re being paid fairly. Use salary-comparison sites like Salary.com and Glassdoor to get a range of where you should be. Be warned — you might find you’re paid fairly (and might be overpaid!) even if you feel you deserve more! For more on salary audits, check out my salary guide.

14. Control Your Spending

Making more is the best way to boost your finances, but you also have to control how much you spend. It isn’t as hard as you think. Spend less than you make, and get rid of your debt as quickly as you possibly can.

15. Automate Your Finances

As much as we love to talk about money, we shouldn’t be wasting all of our time thinking and worrying about it. Automate your savings, your bills, and your investments so you don’t have to spend time managing it every month. Now take that time and devote it to planning ahead.

Plot Your Next Move

You should always be ready to make a move because you never know when a random opportunity (or a layoff) will come along.

16. Work Smarter

Before you try to find another job, make sure you’re killing it at your current job. Make life easier for yourself and for others by finding efficiencies, working smarter, and getting things done. Easier said than done, I know, but when you’re out there interviewing, you want to have concrete examples of how you created value in the past.

17. Learn More Skills

This isn’t easy either, but if you’ve been reading the news and some good blogs around your industry, then you should have a pretty good idea of what you should add to your arsenal. Maybe it’s software skills or a certification, but in order to get to the next step you have to add these skills. Before you go back to school and go into debt, look into alternative online learning solutions like Coursera, Lynda, and online universities.

18. Learn How to Interview

Interviewing is an art form, and you have to know how to drive the conversation and tell your story. I could point you to a million different resources on this, but I’ll make this simple. Go to New York Times bestseller Ramit Sethi’s site and read all the free stuff he offers. Even without paying for his Dream Job program, you’ll still get a ton of value. Start there and sign up to get his hilarious/insightful emails.

19. Be Flexible

Most people think they are in control of their careers. You pick a field/industry/job, and then you plow ahead, doing your best to go as far as possible. That’s not realistic. Things that interest you will lure you into different areas. Stuff you had no idea existed will come into play. You’ll get laid off. You’ll get promoted. You’ll switch jobs. Be open to these changes, and don’t shut any doors because they don’t mesh with your “five year plan.” The best course of action is to be ready for anything because the unexpected moves sometimes wind up being the best moves you ever make.

About Your Boss

This person is a huge player in your career — whether you like it or not. So make sure you're devoting some time and energy to this relationship.

20. Have a Sit Down

Communication is crucial, especially with the person you report to. Whether you get along with your boss or not (in a perfect world you at least respect and trust him or her), you need to have a clear understanding of what’s expected of you and how you can exceed those expectations. Not sure how to “hit a homerun” for your boss? Ask, and then execute.

21. Pretend You’re the Boss

I don’t mean put your feet on your desk and start bossing people around. I mean really take the time to imagine yourself in your boss’s shoes. Think about her day-to-day, the people she manages, the boss she has to answer to. All of that...think about it real hard. Sometimes a little empathy goes a long way. Plus, it will help you on your next task.

22. Help Your Boss

We’re all very busy, but pay close attention to your boss for a week. I mean, really pay attention. What’s bothering him? What’s keeping him up at night? What worries him? Now spend some of your time trying to make his life easier.

Acquire New Skills

Your career can’t progress if you don’t learn new, practical skills that are valued in the workforce. Just because you graduated college doesn’t mean you should stop learning. If you do, you’ll stagnate real quick.

23. Get Technical

Learning to program isn’t easy, but having a basic understanding of how things like websites and apps are created can go a long way. So check out sites like About.com, Udemy, and Code Academy to get a jump start on the essentials. Heck, you might even find yourself getting into it and wanting to learn more.

24. Start a Blog

I’ve always believed everyone can benefit from having a blog. If you commit to a regular posting schedule, you’ll find yourself reading more industry-related news and staying on top of your space. This is a good thing. The blog is an outlet where you can discuss topics that you find especially interesting and potentially find others who are interested in the same things you are. Plus, it’ll teach you the basics of SEO and social media, and you'll be building your "brand" as an expert in your industry. With practice you’ll eventually become a better writer.

25. Teach Others

You can’t call yourself a master at anything until you’ve taught it to others. So pick out something you’re really good at, and share it with others trying to learn it. It can be someone you work with or perfect strangers online. And if you can’t get motivated to do it, you can try to sell your course on sites like Udemy.

Bonus

Have something on the side. I've found that my day-to-day is way more satisfying when I'm working on a side project outside of work. It gives me a sense of empowerment and accomplishment that lets me know I'm not just my job. Which oddly enough motivates me even more at work. Whether it's a blog or a freelance business, just find something you enjoy doing and devote some time to it.

If you have any other tips that you've found to be effective, please share them in the comments!

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Guest's picture

Great advice. I find the points on maintaining a good relationship with your boss and coworkers particularly helpful; often times when people are unhappy with their career, the natural tendency is to hole-up and isolate themselves. This can be absolutely detrimental in a number of ways, so it's good to keep in mind how important it is to maintain these relationships.

Guest's picture

This is actually a pretty comprehensive list with good advice. Certainly anything to do with learning new things is always a good way to go.

Guest's picture

Hi Carlos - you provided a very comprehensive and useful list of tips. If readers acted on them, it would be mind-blowing what it would do for their lives let alone their careers!

I post on EscapingDodge.com. In the Cultivate Your Income category there are two topics that take a different, but complimentary, approach on how to improve your income. Those topics are "5 Reasons to Turn Your Job into a Career" and "How Corporate Culture Affects Your Bottom Line."

Thanks for the useful content,
Ree