What is your greatest asset? I am asking in the financial sense, so if you answered, “my personality” or “my hair,” start over. Many might say their home, if they own it, or maybe their 401(k). If you are near retirement, those may be the right answers, but for most professionals in their twenties, thirties, forties, and even fifties, the most valuable asset is their potential future earnings. And yet often we spend more time trying to find the best deal on a new cell phone than we do actively managing our careers.
If you have a college degree, experience with good companies, and a stable job history with a record of achievement and increasing responsibilities, you are a hot commodity. We are most likely in the early stages of a business expansion that began very recently, just as quickly as the last one ended due to the pandemic. Recently that expansion has caught fire due to, among other things, $5.3 trillion in recent or proposed stimulus spending.
For the professional workforce, we are still in a secular trend that will last about another 10 years, driven primarily by the baby boomer generation leaving the workforce in numbers that cannot be replaced on a one-for-one basis. With that backdrop, let us start to look at what action you should be taking.
First, understand that no matter the economy or your background, no one is going to manage your career for you. Many things are better outsourced, but this is better left in your own hands. Keep your resume current. Top performers particularly tend to forget significant achievements over time, because they are “just part of the job.” Keep a folder where you can put e-mails from the boss or co-workers thanking you for your part in a successful project, or other awards or recognition.
In addition to keeping an actual resume current, your social media is today’s first impression and online resume. Make sure your LinkedIn profile is current, accurate, and complete. Highlight accomplishments, not just responsibilities. Take just a few minutes on a regular basis to join relevant industry groups and connect with leaders in the industry.
Be honest with yourself in evaluating your current situation. It is all too easy to become the “boiled frog” when you have a job where you are comfortable with a stable company. If you have not had a promotion or increased responsibilities for a while, your career is probably falling behind where it could — and should — be. If you have not gotten a raise, or bonus payout, in a couple of years, do not rationalize it. Make a case for an increase in both responsibilities and compensation, schedule time with your manager, and make your case.
You do not necessarily need to change companies or jobs, but you should be in a state of readiness to do just that should opportunity come knocking on your door. If it is time to make a change, be proactive. Consider which companies and types of opportunities would make sense for your next career move and do not wait for them to post a job opening. Believe me, they would love to know about you.
About the author
Paul Sturgeon is CEO of KLA Industries, a national search firm specializing in plastics, packaging, and polymer technology. If you have a topic you would like to see discussed, a company that is growing, or other ideas for this blog, e-mail Sturgeon at [email protected].