Last February, Joseph Lewis wrote about the 21st Century Career. One of the major points he discussed was the need to continue developing job skills outside of the nine to five job. However, resources are lacking in terms of just how to do this.
In case you missed what a 21st Century Career is, it entails a shift from working decades for the same business or industry, to a more serial style career where you progressively move up every 2-5 years in different companies. Today a career isn’t defined so much by the company you work for, but by the unique set of job skills you acquire from experiences inside and outside of the workforce.
Like Joseph said,
“If your only professional endeavor is to spend 8 hours a day at a desk shuffling papers for someone who is ready to retire, then your career is already in trouble.”
So how do you succeed in a world that is quickly changing the idea of the career?
1. Make Sure Your Work Matches Your Passion
I know this point comes up in every post about work, but it’s usually just a filler point. This point is essential to accelerating your 21st Century Career because work is no longer just an 8 hour a day endeavor. If you are continuing the skills of something you don’t enjoy, after hours, you are going to hate your life.
The nine to five job is there to pay the bills, the after-hours development is there to secure your future. In order to further a career today, you have to constantly be developing the skills of the next position. Unfortunately, those skills aren’t always readily accessible in your current position.
I learned about this early on in my career. I graduated from college with a prestigious marketing degree, but during the height of the recession. So after graduating, I took a sales job for an IT outsourcing company making cold calls 8 hours a day.
Needless to say, I wasn’t passionate about interrupting peoples’ days for a living, but the job also didn’t allow me any opportunity to practice SEO, blogging, content creation, or any of the actual marketing skills I was interested in doing.
I had to build those skills on my own free time if I ever wanted to increase my chances of finding a marketing job. As a result, I took on freelance work writing for eHow, studied Google Analytics, kept up a blog, and other social media. I had some fabulous marketing experience during college, but the work I did myself gave me the chance to develop a different set of skills with SEO, content creation, and analytics. A year after getting the sales job, I was offered a job to lead marketing for a small business.
2. Become an Authority
Before the 21st Century Career, you were competing with a very small and local group of candidates for the position you sought. Today your competition could very easily be someone across the ocean. To really stand out you need to develop yourself as an authority. The easiest way to do this is to start a website or blog and then start sharing your skills.
If you are a baker, share recipes, pictures of your baked goods, and stories about success. If you are a sales person share sales tips, write an ebook, recommend good books, write reviews and produce podcasts. The list is endless. Eventually, when you show up to an interview and can leave them with a site that shines of all the great experiences you have gathered, you will definitely have a leg up over the person who showed up with just words on a piece of paper.
3. Develop Side Projects
In a 21st Century Career you are likely to change jobs several times throughout the 40 or so years you work. Therefore, you will always need to be aware of the skill sets required for the next career up the ladder. Using that list, you can start determining which of those skills you can pick up from your current job and which ones you’ll have to develop on your own.
Just as cold calling alone wasn’t going to get me much further in my career path, we all know the areas we need to develop that our current job just won’t allow. In addition, as you work on these projects make sure to record them on your blog or site.
4. Maintain Work Life Balance
After reading this it is easy to see how accelerating your career today could quickly overwhelm your life. Everything you have built will fall apart if you don’t maintain a healthy work-life balance.
One of the best ways to prevent yourself from neglecting your personal and family needs is to have ongoing talks with your significant other. Ask how you are doing with taking care of their needs, if they feel good about the time they get to spend with you, if you’ve been helpful. Generally, if you are giving appropriate attention to your family they will be cooperative with giving you time to work on your career at home.
If you are creative, you can also find ways to increase your job skills by involving your family. Internet marketers can blog about their family and practice SEO on that site, accountants can share tax saving tips for the family, artists can write, paint, or sing about a family event, member, or experience.
You may at first feel that you have to sacrifice certain priorities to make balance work. But in the end, you will see that those sacrifices were nothing compared to what you could have lost.
As you follow your passion, become an authority, and maintain those side projects, you should find your life to be more enjoyable. You will be right on track with accelerating your career in no time.
(Image courtesy of Jerrycharlotte under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 generic license.)
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