The pathway up the corporate ladder isn’t always as straightforward as it once was. In a world immersed in technology and ubiquitous information available at all times, it can seem harder than ever to stand out in a sea of other potential candidates.
That doesn’t mean it’s impossible to fast-track a career upgrade, of course. While the professional landscape may be changing dramatically, there are plenty of ways you can get ahead. We spoke with a handful of experts to give their input on how you can start upgrading your career in as little as a week.
Update and Streamline Your Professional Info
With all that info out there, you’ll want to make sure that your professional resume is current and cohesive. Debra Wheatman, president of Careers Done Write, said to start by “ensuring that your resume and LinkedIn profile are properly prepared and you are ready to hit the ground running with brand-relevant materials that are accomplishment-focused with a clear and compelling unique value proposition that highlights your brand.”
While updating and streamlining is important, Leigh Yanocha, Executive Director, Head of People Strategy at Knopman Marks Financial Training pointed out that making your resume bot-friendly can help better navigate the market. “Do a keyword search of your resume to ensure that the buzz words for the position, and your field, are included,” she said. “If you’re applying for a project management position, make sure that key terms, and relevant skills, appear early in your resume.”
Knowing that some estimates state that roughly 75 percent of all resumes aren’t read by a human, Yanocha pointed out that companies often use applicant tracking system software, or ATS, which is used to rank your resume. This software “tends to weed out resumes with unusual formatting, so save your resume as a Word document.”
Network, Even While Social Distancing
For anyone looking for means to upgrade their career, it’s important to cast as wide a net as possible. Networking, even virtually, can help expand your professional circle and help get you to achieve your goals.
“Join your alumni association and groups related to your industry,” Yanocha said. “Keep your existing network strong by staying in touch with former colleagues and mentors, and making sure friends, and friends of friends, know you’re looking. One of the best ways to expand your network and discover job opportunities is by requesting an informational interview with people in your field. This is a way to connect without pressure.”
Wheatman also recommended keeping an active presence on social media. “Create a regular cadence of postings and outreach to your network on LinkedIn to share ideas and begin discussions about what you are doing, how you can help others in their efforts, and what you are seeking.”
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Build (or Strengthen) Your Brand
The idea of building personal brands is a relatively new one, but it’s becoming increasingly necessary as a way to market yourself and your expertise to a wider audience. Tracy Lamourie, founder and managing director of Lamourie Media, said that “developing an impressive public profile and reputation as an expert in their field – ‘thought leadership’ – is something you can start doing today by being strategic and frequenting the sites and subscriptions where they can connect with reporters looking for sources for stories and podcasters seeking guests.”
Lamourie suggested “putting just a half an hour a day into researching and reaching out to offer your expertise,” which she said can “have a huge payoff very quickly.”
Show an Interest in Others
Sometimes the secrets to career upgrades don’t involve cunning brand-building savvy, but small moments. By reaching out to other people, especially when networking, showing a genuine interest in others can make a memorable impression.
“By becoming interested in others, my work began to allow me to have the kind of impact on others that would lead to something even better than a bigger paycheck – it gave me a sense of purpose and fulfillment, said Matthew D. Grishman, wealth advisor at Gebhart Group Inc.
After starting each day with a mindset of how he can help his co-workers, supervisors, and customers, Grishman said he “started having more fun during my work day, as it became more about helping people, and much less about achieving a certain outcome or sales goal.”
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Start Prepping for Remote Interviews
While networking remotely can help get you comfortable with virtual interactions, it’s important to be ready for any and all job interviews that will be conducted in the same manner. “The success of your interview, and whether you land the job, will depend on more than your technical skills and knowledge,” Yanocha said. “The ‘X factor’ that will distinguish you from the pack will be more subjective, such as whether you seem like someone the interviewer would want to work with every day.”
Yanocha recommended thinking of your next interview as “the most important exam you’ve ever taken” to help get ready. “Dress as though it’s an in-person interview. Be on time, have a professional background without kids roaming around, smile, and make sure digital documents, such as your resume, are handy to share with your interviewer. Be prepared to talk about how you function as a remote worker, how you structure your workday and hacks you’ve discovered to be productive while working remotely.”
Tell a Compelling Story
As part of your brand, your story should not only align with your professional info but also be told in a way that’s interesting to others. Particularly if you’re looking to fast-track that new job or possible promotion.
“Your career overview should be succinct and interesting,” Yamocha said. “Mention unusual extracurriculars or unique, relevant projects from a prior position. Find a way to include accomplishments you’re proud of that relate to the position you’re seeking. Think about what truly makes you stand out from other candidates. Try to illustrate this in a brief story, so that you’re showing them who you are, rather than saying, for example, that you’re a hard worker. You want to convey something memorable.”
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