When I advise you to always look for your next job (no matter how happy and secure you feel in your current position), I don’t mean to covertly search job listings and interview while on your current employer’s time and payroll.
Always looking for your next job means identifying and pursuing better opportunities, within or outside of your current organization. It means continually adding new accomplishments and responsibilities to your resume. It includes cultivating professional relationships using the approaches we discussed a few weeks ago.
- Get yourself a mentor, maybe two. You’ll learn and develop higher paying skills much more effectively when you have someone who helps teach and motivate you. Mentors can show you the ropes and share information not available in textbooks. How should you get a mentor? Find someone who has the knowledge, skill, and experience you want and ask for coaching and feedback. Sure, some insecure people won’t agree to this because they see your ambition as a threat. In many instances, however, you’ll compliment most people with your request and they’ll often make time in their busy schedules to help you.
- Volunteer for challenging projects. When my director said our company needed training videos created for a safety program and new hire orientation, I volunteered to produce them. The projects encompassed enormous amounts of work and coordination, but I learned video production from start to finish. The company essentially paid me to learn this new skill. Do you have opportunities at work to volunteer for new projects? Be selective about which ones to pursue. Step up to those projects which offer opportunities to learn something new. Be careful of seeking projects that increase your workload without learning opportunities.
- Keep a work or project journal. You take notes in school or training, what about at work? I know several people who keep “little black books” of notes and hacks for getting things done. My older brother is a professional sound engineer and he uses these “sidekicks” frequently. He’d probably sacrifice a limb before parting with these notes. Did you make a mistake on a project that ended up costing time and money? Write down what you learned as a hedge against it happening again. Have you discovered an efficient shortcut to being more productive? Take notes so you remember to use it the next time around.
- Bring a book. I worried, initially, when my managers saw design, programming or project management books open on my desk. They didn’t seem to mind, so I worked through a chapter each day and incorporated what I learned into current projects. Businesses and employees both benefit in an atmosphere that encourages learning and improvement.
- Ask! Absorb as much as possible in your work environment by asking everyone questions about what they do. Don’t tax their time expecting in-depth explanations. Ask them to define a term you haven’t heard before. Invite them to diagram a process for you. Ask them how they got to where they are in their careers. Making this informal learning a habit will give you a broad grasp of the company and build that marketable trait known as “business acumen.”