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How to get ahead when you’re not working

How to get ahead when you’re not working

As a professional, you have invested your time and resources into your schooling, your professional development, and your career. Now is not the time to sit on the sidelines and let your hard work and career momentum slip away.

Career development is not something we talk about on a regular basis. In fact, much like our vehicles, we don’t give it much thought until there’s a problem. Prevention and planning are often overlooked. Mac Anderson, author and founder of Simple Truths and Successories, Inc., writes “We are often so focused on today’s problems that we put off planning for tomorrow’s opportunities.” And in most cases, that’s what happens in our careers. We are so busy with the day-to-day stuff that we spend little to no time putting together a strategy that we can follow for the future.

Whether you are working, taking a sabbatical, or considering a return to the workforce later this year – there are plenty of things you can do to make your transition back to work easier.

Continuing Education – Many colleges and universities offer long-distance courses and programs through the internet. Consider a course that is of interest to you and that enhances your employability. For example: If you are a tax accountant and unable to work today (for whatever reason), upgrade or expand your knowledge base and expertise by taking a workshop or course in taxation. Not only are you upgrading your skills, you’re demonstrating your pursuit of excellence through professional development, and staying current in your industry and profession. Win-win-win.

Professional Associations & Memberships – There are professional associations and memberships for just about any profession. A quick Google-search will give you the names of organizations in your area, as well as those regionally, nationally, and internationally. Consider joining and learning what you can about your profession and your industry. Many of these groups will help you stay up to date with your skills, and will introduce you to professionals with the same and similar backgrounds. Expanding your professional network will serve you very well throughout your career.

Conferences, Online Meetings & Webinars – Can’t make it back home to your association’s annual conference on the other side of the country? Consider a local conference, or combining a travel destination with a professional conference. Not only will this look great on your resume, but you’ll be meeting new people, experiencing different vantage points from colleagues, and you’ll have had the experience of attending a different conference. The same holds true for online meetings and webinars. Take full advantage of any extra time (and I’m not suggesting we aren’t all very busy living our day-to-day lives, but if you do have the time, why not use it to your advantage) and advance your career.

Network – Many of us are professionals. Find other people in the same profession or industry. Explore the expertises of one another: Do you have colleagues in common, customers, companies…? If things go well, you may develop an alliance or a partnership that may not have otherwise existed and can be leveraged once you return to work. Are there ways you can refer work or business to each other? The possibilities are endless. However, in order for this to be possible, you must be willing to explore these opportunities.

Research – Maybe attending conferences and meeting new people is not something you enjoy. Now is a great time to put together a job search strategy. If you know to where you want to work, (and even if you don’t) research companies that are of interest to you. Get to know them better; have an excellent understanding of how you might approach them for a job when the time is right. Who are their decision makers? The list goes on and on…just get started doing the research.

Volunteer – Whether you plan to go back to a similar career or something new, gaining experience through volunteer work will serve you well. Wouldn’t it be great to learn about a profession or an industry from doing volunteer work? It would be great to have that experience on your resume and it would lend credibility to your interest and involvement in that profession.

Update your resume – It has been my experience that most people wait until the last minute to update their resume. “Maureen, there is a job posting that closes on Friday and it’s my dream job, can you help me update my resume?” I appreciate that not everyone loves to write his or her resume and it can be a daunting task. My advice is to break it out into smaller chunks: Start by asking yourself this: “What do I want this employer to know about me?” and follow it up with “and how can I prove it to them?”

Learn about social media – There are plenty of opinions about the use of social media; especially in ones career. For the purposes of this post, I will say this: simply educate yourself about the choices. You don’t HAVE to do anything about social media today, but you do have to get educated about it and make an informed decision. You can only put your head in the sand for so long before someone will call you on it. So get informed. Don’t trust what others have told you; do your own research, form your own opinion and take it from there.

There will always be lots to do. When you make a conscious choice to determine what your future will look like, that plan will help steady you in the future.

Related Categories: Career Clarity, Job Search

About The Author
Maureen McCann is an award-winning career coach, master resume writer, and master certified interview, employment, and career strategist whose clients include C-level executives, managers, and professionals in all industries including the Canadian banking, oil and gas, healthcare, IT, and government sectors.

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