In the past year or so that I’ve been writing this column, I’ve come to realize that a fair amount of career advice for employed and job-seeking professionals can be boiled down to half a dozen principles. Taking a few hours every couple of months to chip away at these items can make your next job search a bit easier:
Make the time to network. Do this even when you’re not looking for work. After all, layoffs happen to the best of us. Remember that networking doesn’t have to be a hive-inducing endeavor. Often, all it entails is talking to people online or at happy hours. The more people you can ask career questions of, the better informed you’ll be. And the more people you can tell that you’re looking for work, the more help you’ll have finding your next gig.
Get a recommendation whenever possible. Having a colleague pass along your resume to their employer often can make the difference between getting the interview and getting nothing but radio silence. If no one has ever recommended you for a job, you may have to spend a bit more time cultivating your professional relationships and reputation.
Put social media to work for you. I can appreciate taking issue with LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or whatever social platform makes your skin crawl. But social media can make job hunting infinitely easier. Thanks to the wonders of these platforms, you easily can find quality job listings and intel on companies you’re interested in, as well as land informational interviews and job recommendations.
Update your resume, portfolio and online profiles regularly. Keeping your skills and promotional materials fresh can save you some extra scrambling should you find yourself unexpectedly on the job market tomorrow. I promise you that spending a few hours every quarter updating your resume, social profiles and work samples will be time well spent.
Learn how to drum up freelance work. The ability to land freelance work in a pinch can be a lifesaver. If you find yourself between jobs, returning to work after a hiatus or seeking a bit more flexibility in your work schedule, taking on project-based work can help. Besides serving as a much-needed financial stopgap, freelancing can help boost your skill set and work samples. The trick is to work with quality clients who treat you well and help advance your professional goals.
Help others in their job search. Giving back won’t take much of your time. Passing along job leads to others, referring qualified candidates for job openings at your company and quickly sharing your hard-won wisdom with informational interviewers doesn’t just help job seekers. It also helps to grow your professional network. And the more inspiring professionals you have in your corner, the more help you’ll have when it’s your turn to look for work.