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Career Maintenance

2011 May 13
by Shannon Lowder

IMG_0167I’m not a gear head by any means.  Though I do know more about diesels now that I did two years ago.  I love my Jetta TDI!  The one thing I’ve always know about cars is you have to maintain them to keep them running well.

Or in some cases, running at all.

The one thing your career and car have in common is they both need maintenance to keep them running.  Most people don’t want to put time into their career until they’ve had the talk with their manager and they’re headed out the door.  That’d be a lot like not changing the tires on your car until after you’ve hydroplaned your car off the road.

Both your car, and your career can run a lot smoother if you put a little time into maintenance.  I’d like to share a couple of items you might want to check regularly.  For now, I’m going to leave it up to you as to how often to perform these maintenance checks.  Personally I like to put a little time into these each month.

1. Google yourself.  Potential employers are seeking new candidates all the time.  If you want to be considered for those jobs, you’ve got to see what they see.  Then based on your results, you might want to seed what shows up.

What I mean is, if you want to show up as knowledgeable about a particular topic, Google it.  Do you show up in the first page?  If not, perhaps you should consider helping out on ServerFault.com or Any other support site.  Answer questions about that topic until your name shows up when people Google that topic. 

2. Polish your resume.  When’s the last time you updated your resume?  If it’s longer than 3 months, I’m willing to bet you’ve probably accomplished something that isn’t on there.  If you have a LinkedIn Profile, you should hit that profile at least 4 times a year and add your latest accomplishments.

One of the great things about LinkedIn, you don’t have to follow that silly 2-page limit.  Fill in as many achievements as you want.  The more you have, the more search results will match your resume. 

3.  Make it to a professional group meeting in your area.  If you’re in a knowledge worker role, there’s a professional group for you.  Again, Google it!  The more people you meet, the more chances you have to be introduced into your next job.  While it’s important to master the knowledge in your industry, it’s just as important to meet the people in your industry.

This one can be tough if you live far from a city center.  Luckily there are virtual groups you can join.  It’s can be harder to make a connection in the virtual, but until you have the free time and money to travel, it can be a great starting point.

4. Reconnect with older connections.  It’s normal to lose touch with people in your network over time.  You’ll be closer with those you work with every day than those you worked with 5 years ago.  Take some time to reach out to a few people you haven’t called on in a couple years.  Catch up.  See what they’re up to.  Grab a cup of coffee with them and see what’s new. 

Just touching base with someone can be an opportunity to help with a project.  You might just serve as a sounding board for a problem on their project.  By being there, you will remind them what you’re capable of.  You never know…you might even get a chance to work with that person one more time!

5. Pay it forward.  This has become my number one priority over the past few years.  Once you’ve made it into your career, you’ll have knowledge and experience you didn’t have when you began.  It is your responsibility to share that.  If you can help someone learn something you know, do it.  If you have help someone by introducing them to someone you know, do it!

After you’re into the mid-level career, you’re only going to grow by helping others help themselves.  When you teach, you’ve got to know your material inside and out.  I push myself to learn every little detail of indexes just to teach others what an index is.  I know there’s a lot more to learn, but I share what I have. 

Putting yourself out there to help will push you to be better and better each day.  And that’s what’s really going to propel your career.

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