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Boss’s Tip of the Week #12: Your Career: How To Stay Competitive in the Job Market

Here is the latest installment of the Boss’s Tip of the Week.  This advice column for managers is brought to you by Bob Rosner and Allan Halcrow, co-authors of The Boss’s Survival Guide.

Your career and Madonna’s are alike in one very important way: Without constant attention, it will wither and die.
 
You don’t want that to happen, because unless you own a business, you’re just borrowing your job – your career is what you own. You alone will reap the rewards of a career managed well – or wonder what might have been. We hope that sounds like opportunity, not pressure. If so, you’re ready to make the most of what lies ahead. Here’s how.
 
Decide on a career path. If you’re reading this column, odds are that you are either already a boss or about to be one. But do you want to be a boss at this level forever? (It’s OK if you do; it’s just important that you know the answer to the question.) Are you eager to move up the ladder – perhaps several steps up the ladder? Or would prefer to get off the boss track and hone specialized skills? (Maybe you just want to be a great nurse and not manage other nurses.) What would you like to be doing in two years, five years, 10 years?
 
Identify potential obstacles on your path. Once you know where you want to get, consider what you need to do to get from here to there. Do you simply need more (or different) experience, or do you need to learn new skills? Do you need a degree that you don’t currently have? Whatever it is you need, devise a plan for getting it.
 
Keep in mind that reaching your long-term goal may mean a short-term detour. For example, in some organizations international experience is a definite plus. In that situation, you’d be better off pursuing a two-year assignment overseas even though it would take you out of the corporate office for a while. It may also be that you need experience in a related department. For example, to get to the top of the sales organization you may need to spend time in marketing.
 
Decide what you’re willing to do. Are you truly willing to do whatever it takes to reach your goal, or are there some deal breakers? For example, what if your path requires that overseas assignment? Or relocating to another state? What if means a stint doing something you actively dislike? Now is the time to figure out what you will compromise and what you won’t. If there are things you won’t do, now may be the time to re-assess the path you’ve outlined.
 
Know yourself. The more you know about yourself the better. Pursue opportunities that will help illuminate your strengths so you are clear about what you have to offer and where your real value lies. And work now to overcome your flaws so you are prepared for what lies ahead.
 
Keep current in technology. You’ll be less marketable if you aren’t techno-savvy. Be readily familiar with basic programs like word processing and spreadsheets, but knowledge of other programs is helpful, too. (And if there is technology unique to your industry, pay particular attention to that.) Beyond that, explore consumer technology, such as smart phones, MP3 players and Wii.™ You never know when being able to use such devices may help you better connect with a target market or find a new way to solve a business problem.
 
Keep current in your industry. Visit industry Web sites, join industry associations (and go to their meetings), and check out the latest books on the subject. It can only help you to be seen as the expert in the field. (And if you’re not planning to stay in your current field, why are you still in it?)
 
Pursue opportunities. With your career at stake, don’t sit back and wait to be handed opportunities. Pursue them – aggressively. Volunteer to head special projects or task forces. Ask for new assignments. Seek training.
 
Be visible. Think of your workplace as the Cheers bar – everybody should know your name. You don’t want to be obnoxious about it, but volunteer for things that get you noticed. Make sure your boss (and his or her boss) knows what you’re accomplishing. Promote what other people are accomplishing, too; it helps keep you focused on what’s working and it builds a lot of good will.
 
Maintain your network. Start with key people in your organization, but network in industry groups, too. And don’t forget such social networks as LinkedIn or Facebook. When you accomplish something significant, let people know.
 
Keep your resume current. You never know, unfortunately, when you may need it. Beyond that, keeping it current will help you think about yourself from a marketing perspective.

Boss’s Tip of the Week #12: Your Career: How To Stay Competitive in the Job Market
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