There are more jobs available in the U.S. today than at any other time since 2000, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. With an average of 241,000 net new jobs being added to the economy each month, the possibilities for employment seem endless. But how can you find the job you want?
Maybe a better question is: If you didn’t need a paycheck, what types of activities would make your life feel complete? Answering this question honestly will also help you unearth your authentic personal brand.
Modern job seekers are often so intent on escaping their current employment situation (or unemployment situation) that they don’t take the time to analyze what they’re looking for in a career or in a life—or what differentiates them from everyone else who performs the same work. A myopic focus on what’s missing—whether that’s more money, a good boss, the right benefits, or some other external factor—often leads people to jump into a situation that turns out to be equally undesirable. When you desperately seek an escape from the negative, you might miss opportunities to think positively about what you really want, and the value you provide to others.
Many successful professionals didn’t achieve that success as a result of exhaustive career planning and flawless execution. They almost certainly felt lost at times or frustrated by their rate of professional development. But truly successful people don’t focus on what they can’t do or what they don’t like. They spend their time thinking about their unique traits and strengths, and areas that they’re passionate about improving. And it’s typically the pursuit of self-improvement and personal satisfaction that leads to a fulfilling and successful career because that pursuit is always tied to identifying you as an asset to your organization.
Whether or not you know exactly where you want to be decades from now, you can use these four tactics today to take control of your career trajectory:
1. Engage with the experts.
Social media gives you access to experts in almost every industry, plus a way to engage people who can offer advice and direction when you need it most. When you take advantage of this, you’re also reaping the rewards of targeted digital personal branding.
You can use Twitter for more than just news updates, and LinkedIn can do more than just store your résumé. Identify people on these platforms whom you’d like to meet and start a dialogue with them. Initially, this can be as simple as liking their tweets, sharing their posts, or offering a thoughtful response to an article they’ve written. If they seem willing to engage (and many won’t—that’s OK), don’t be afraid to introduce yourself and tell them why you appreciate their content. You’d be surprised by how many people will offer to help you on your professional journey.
2. Channel your fears.
Sometimes, fear and nerves can prevent you from taking steps that would help you advance in your current role or make the leap to a new position. Honest, objective input from someone else can often help you overcome those fears.
A career coach can provide you with a plan that fits your professional goals and help you take actionable steps toward reaching them. That might include taking classes to learn a new skill, attending networking events or trying out public speaking to make yourself a more confident candidate.
3. Commit to lifelong learning.
Technology has changed the way we work, and the knowledge and skills that are valuable today can quickly become obsolete. Most truly successful people are naturally curious and take their own personal growth seriously. Whatever industry you’re in, or want to be in, there are resources that can equip you to excel in it.
Whether you’re an entrepreneur or a corporate ladder climber, you’ll likely need to combine a number of distinct skills to advance in business. Platforms like CreativeLive, a live, online classroom, can give you all the tools you need to propel your ideas forward. You can explore a wide range of subjects online—from business leadership to podcasting— to help expand your skill set and incorporate this new mastery into your personal brand.
4. Act like a boss.
Maybe you dream of a C-suite role at a Fortune 500 company, or maybe it’s a seat on the board of a growing startup. These leadership positions require you to think holistically about company goals.
If you cultivate that big-picture mindset in your current role and start taking ownership of your company’s success—regardless of how big or small your present impact on the bottom line may be—you’ll become a much more valuable, visible employee almost immediately. And that’s how you work yourself into higher-ranking positions.
If you invest time every day in your own growth through these four actions, you’ll find yourself moving toward your professional goals more quickly than you ever thought possible. Develop a short-term plan that aligns with what you think you want, and then keep making adjustments until you experience roles and assignments that resonate with what genuinely matters to you. If you stick with a path that rewards your core motivations, the extrinsic rewards will follow.