The new year is a time for resolutions and setting goals, and our careers are no different. If there’s one thing we’ve learned about jobs during COVID-19, it’s that nothing is guaranteed. So if there’s one overriding goal to focus on in 2021, local career coaching experts say it’s this: Be prepared.
“I’ve loved every one of the jobs I had, but I’ve always had my resume ready to go,” says Tricia Nabors, president of Nabors Coaching Group.
“You always need a plan B,” adds Karen Sheehe, a career and retirement coach with Samaritan Business Consulting. “I always want to know, if something fell apart here, what else can I do. …There has to be this sense, ‘Is this place I’m in right now even going to be here next year?’ “
Whether you call it preparation, a plan B or career resilience, how do you get there?
Here are a few goals to start with in the new year:
Define your skill set
“We all are victims of self-sabotaging,” Nabors says. “We might have a skill set that really is beneficial or relevant to someone else, but we might take it for granted because it comes easy to us.”
If you’re having difficulty defining your skills, Sheehe suggests asking friends and colleagues what they consider your greatest strengths. You might also reflect on the types of problems coworkers and supervisors routinely ask you to solve. Are they coming to you regularly for your computer skills? Your people skills? Your management skills?
As Sheehe puts it: Know what you bring to the party and then put it in words.
If you’re still struggling to find those words, she suggests researching the resumes of others who do the same job. You may discover other ways to describe the value that you offer.
Also know that not all important skills come from formal training.
“There are times I get people who lack education, but they have a plethora of experience,” Nabors says. “I definitely believe education helps. I also believe that experience and background have equal weight, and you can sell that.”
Once you understand your skill set, it’s important to continually assess how that skill set fits into your career, Nabors says. Knowing the trends in your area of employment is a key step toward building career resilience and ensuring those skills don’t become obsolete.
“If you’re comfortable and happy, you don’t want to become complacent because complacency doesn’t allow you to grow,” Nabors says. “You want to continue to learn. If we view education as a continual process and not an event, we will never become obsolete.”
Ask yourself how you can add to what you are currently doing for a current employer, she says, or possibly transfer your skills to a different but related industry.
A 2016 Pew Research Center study found that 54 percent of adults in the labor force said getting training and developing new skills is essential for keeping up in the workplace. The same survey found that 35 percent of adults with at least a bachelor’s degree did not have the education and training they needed to get ahead at work.
Depending on your career, continual learning might take the form of an additional certification or training. Or it might require more formal education, Sheehe says.
“Invest money in yourself,” she says. “If you can afford to do it, I’d say do it, do it, do it.”
Grow your network
The professional networking platform LinkedIn estimates that as many as 85% of job openings are filled through networking. Whether you suddenly need a new job or you’re simply looking to advance your career, having a network in place can help.
Not everyone finds networking easy, Sheehe says, noting that a big part of her job as a career coach is helping people brainstorm new ideas and encouraging them to push outside their comfort zone.
“Attend that webinar, go to that mixer, call that person I haven’t talked to in a while,” she says.
Ultimately, career resilience needs to be a year-round process, Nabors says.
“We’re reactive. We need to be planners. It’s OK to live in the moment, but what’s your plan when that moment passes?” she says. “A way for us to combat not being ready is to be ready.”