Have you ever wondered how some people switch jobs so easily? Is it even easy or are they doing something special to get ahead of the career game? What’s their secret? I have been fortunate to have a career since graduating from college in 2007. A few weeks after graduating from South Carolina State University, I moved to the Washington DC area to work for the government. Now, I will be completely honest and transparent that I have never worked for private industry full-time. It’s just not a current desire. However, I have personally coached and prepared resumes for friends and clients who work in the private industry. My advice remains the same, rather you are in the “corporate world” or the good ole “gubment world.” Whichever you chose, you must play to win. If you desire growth in your field and the ability to be mobile, here are 3 ways to win at the career game:
Seriously, networking is crucial. Networking is just as important in the government (state, local, and federal) as it is important in the private/corporate world. I’ll take it a step further. I heard someone tell me a long time ago and it always rung true in my life–It’s not always about who YOU know. It’s about who knows YOU. Gone are the times where we simply work quietly in our offices or cubicles and just hope to get noticed. You have to be vocal. You have to step up for those assignments that put you elbow to elbow with the managers. You have to step up for those assignments and task force teams that put you elbow to elbow with your colleagues. Now, it is very important that your networking be genuine. It’s not about what he/she can do for you. What do you bring to the networking relationship? I remember I use to help my boss with excel spreadsheets. I didn’t do it for any particular reason other than to help. However, I became the go-to-person for not only computer related things but eventually sample work documents. My helpful nature was what got me noticed around coworkers and colleagues outside of my office. To win at the career game, you must present yourself as an asset. You not only present yourself as an asset but actually create something that your coworkers and colleagues know that they can only get it from you! Even if everyone else in your office does the same thing, your pleasant demeanor can be the very reason they prefer to come to you. This gets you noticed! This gets your name in the conversations when they are looking for someone who may be open for a new opportunity, rather internal or external to your company. To win at the career game, you must network, network, and network some more!
Now, when I say credentials, I don’t always mean get an advanced degree. To be completely honest, I didn’t return to school until after I reached a six figure salary in my career. However, I had my credentials. Get your credential game up! Whatever your field is, you must remain competitive. Remember what I said earlier? It’s not who you know but it is who knows you. When someone recommends you for a position, you want to come to play! You don’t want to strike out because you didn’t have the necessary qualifications. Don’t just settle for the bare minimum either! While I was contemplating attending graduate school, I obtained two private industry certifications in my field. Did I need them? Probably not. However, it made me stand out amongst those who had the graduate degree. I brought not only experience but credentials. The time some of my counterparts spent in graduate school, I spent time on the job gaining valuable experience. Now, if an advanced degree is necessary for advancement in your career, you’re going to have to bite the bullet and go back to school. I know nobody wants to go back to school just for fun. My last year of my masters I wanted to quit. Yes, I just wanted my time back. However, I wouldn’t change that experience. I’m about to embark on a leadership program within my field. I know that networking, my experience, and my skill-set played a huge role in being selected for this opportunity. Dreading going back to school? What certifications can you obtain in the interim? What detail opportunities can you take? Can you simply ask your colleague to show you how to work that system he/she operates? What job switches can you do to gain more experience in your desired field? To win at the career game, you must get your credentials (and experience) up!
Let’s be honest, there will always be competition. The career game is a competitive environment. I remember when I was the youngest one in my office. Now, I’m not always the youngest anymore. I embrace new colleagues. You cannot be fearful of helping those who come after you, rather younger or older. As you teach others, you keep that knowledge fresh in your mind. You also want to never stop learning. Never stop perfecting your craft. This isn’t just for those who work the “9-5” but business owners too. Are you continually perfecting your craft? Are you continually learning things and new procedures that can help you advance? Are you reaching out to those in your field who are willing to give you knowledge. There is so much free information out there. Literally, you can find everything on Youtube. Google is my best friend. The internet puts the world of information at our fingertips. Learn, learn, and learn some more. To win the career game, you must never stop learning!
There is no one size fits all approach to winning at the career game but if you apply the steps above, you can begin and/or continue to see the fruits of your labor. To win at the money game, you must be flexible at your own approach. Be willing to adapt to something new. If something is not working, change it. Switch it up. Take control of your career. Take risks. Take that job that scares you. Don’t be afraid to start over. Don’t be afraid to win at the career game…
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