- Start with assessing where you are, including your business, technical, and soft skills as well as opportunities for improvement.
- Then figure out where you want to be and who can help you get there. Finding a mentor, reaching out to colleagues, and utilizing resources like Aquent Talent's Expert Network or online courses can provide guidance and education to improve skills.
- Finally, grow your skills using resources like online courses. For example, Aquent Gymnasium, a free online resource for improving design, creative, marketing, and web development skills.
Sun's out, surf's up, and business slows down, which is the perfect time for career navel-gazing. Our digital world is constantly changing, and to keep up, you have to as well. Make sure you're ready by looking at three key areas:
- Where am I now (assessing your skills)
- Who can help (finding the right guidance)
- How to level up (learning and growing)
Start with the (hu)man in the mirror
The first step to any career assessment is to take an honest look at yourself, the professional. It may sound basic, but an easy place to start is with past performance reviews and the job description for your role and the one directly above yours.
Focus on three main skills areas:
Business acumen relates to your ability to obtain the information you need to do your job, focus on objectives, and recognize the right solutions for solving problems. In the most general terms, it's having good business sense.
Technical skills are more quantifiable and measurable, like how well you code or what design programs you know. Interestingly, in a 2019 survey of 1,500 hiring managers, only 7% felt that technical skills were more important than critical thinking skills.
The most squishy of the skills— yet possibly the most critical for career success—are the soft ones, like communication, patience, teamwork, and adaptability. In a recent study, 93% of employers ranked these skills as “essential” or “very important.”
Now, ask yourself if you really have the chops for your current role. What about your manager's? What skills do you wish you had? What have your managers said about you? Do you see any patterns? Take the single most repeated behavior that you'd like to change and form a game plan for how to work on it.
Also try to better understand yourself. Take a communications and behavior assessment test like DiSC and see where you shine. Keep in mind that things you take for granted, like being organized, a great schmoozer, or adventurous, might actually set you apart in the job hunt.
Find out where you want to be (and who can get you there)
Have you ever thought about your dream company to work for? While it might seem frivolous, it can help you focus on what you're doing and where you want to be doing it—or if you want to be doing something completely different. Okay, so say you have somewhere in mind but don't know a single person who works there, now what?
A staffing agency may have connections to some of those companies already. Which means, they may have the inside scoop about upcoming opportunities and can help keep your resume out of the cyber vortex. (Sidenote: stay tuned for our upcoming post on how to best work with recruiters!)
Speaking of the Fortune 500, why do 70% of them have mentorship programs? Because they work. When it comes to mentees, retention rates are 25% higher and they get promoted 5x more than employees without that personal guide. The short of it: find a mentor in a role that interests you and learn from them.
Start with your current company. They may have a mentoring program available that you don't even know about. If there isn't one, find someone that you admire—maybe you want to hear more about their specific position, tips on public speaking, or advice on your overall career trajectory—and invite them to lunch. Building relationships and connections is key. Referrals are the leading source of top quality hires for 88% of employers.
Ask your HR team for a recommendation of a senior-level colleague who might be willing to talk to you about general career advice and long-term goals, or an expert in your specific field who can share their personal insights.
Where else can you look? If you're in fields like UX or front end development, we have a secret weapon for you. Our Expert Network. These experienced professionals have deep knowledge about what's happening in your field today and where they see it heading. Think deciphering job descriptions, assessing relevant skills, preparing for interviews, offering specific company intel or general industry trends. Did we mention it's completely free? If you're Vitamin T talent, let us know you're interested and we'll set you up with a 1-on-1 meeting with an Expert.
Of course, don't forget about the countless Facebook and LinkedIn groups for guidance. The more niche, the more likely you'll get tips and tricks specific to your goals—Freelancing Females; Badass Marketers and Founders; Blog & Biz BFF; Mobile, Wearable and Everything User Experience; Social Media United. You get the idea.
Now that you know your work self (and hopefully some well-connected people) a bit better, you're ready to hunt down those missing skills. Some popular affordable options include Udemy with over 130,000 online classes from personal development and office productivity to marketing, design, and photography. Or Coursera, which offers courses taught by top university instructors on everything from data science to business management to full master's degrees.
And if you're looking specifically to boost your design, creative, marketing, and development skills, we offer Gymnasium, a place to exercise your brain. And, unlike your actual gym membership, it's free. Choose from more than 20 online courses taught by industry experts from places like Microsoft and the New York Times in development, design, UX, and content creation. Over 80,000 students have joined us and earned 5,000 certificates—a subtle way to show your boss HEY, I'M EVEN MORE VALUABLE NOW.
Blog days of summer
You're on fire now and we don't want you to slow down. Stay tuned to this blog all season so you're ready for whatever your professional life might throw your way. Upcoming topics include: getting paid what you're worth, how to not be invisible, thinking like your manager, and attaching monetary value to creative.
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