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Tips to help you follow your career path

Friday, November 9, 2012 - 12:01 am

November is national Career Development Month, which provides a timely reminder to review your career path. If you're already involved in a process of exploration and decision-making, you could honor the month by scheduling activities ranging from job shadowing to interest assessments to meetings with a career counselor.

The following tips are divided into categories, as well as a third list for all workers.

Unemployed workers

•Confirm that you have targeted a vocation or professional field for this next stage of your career. It will simplify job search and make it easier to plan your career.

•Take the long view when networking: Who would be good to know throughout the next stage of your career?

•Strategize your current “time off” – can you use the relative flexibility of being unemployed to clean up any career steps? Now might be a good time to study for the next level of professional licensing, for example, or to add a skill set that will create more resiliency in your career.

Employed workers

•Review your current job: Are you satisfied? Are things heading in the right direction?

•Prepare for your annual review – or get one scheduled if you haven't had one in a while. Plan to discuss your goals and how you can integrate them with the department's needs.

•Network internally: Join committees staffed by people from departments that interest you; connect with people who can tell you about “hidden” opportunities.

•Take credit for your work and external activities by updating your boss in emails; keep your resume updated also.

•Anticipate a career path focused on growth might mean lateral as well as upward moves, both inside the company and to other companies; network accordingly.

All workers

•Develop an expertise within your profession, to help you distinguish yourself from others.

•Take classes or webinars to stay fresh on developments in your field.

•Attend regular meetings of a professional association.

•Build an advisory team, to include a mentor from your field, a career or life coach, and a friend you trust to be honest.

If these lists give you enough ideas, jump in by scheduling the steps on your calendar. While you've got the datebook out, zoom forward to next November and save a half day for more review and list-making. Or, if you're currently pursuing a career exploration process, schedule yourself for quarterly sessions.

The session itself should include some quiet time for reflection and goal-setting, as well as a review of last year's notes if you have them – or it can include a “checkup” with your career counselor. End by creating a list of steps and a timeline

Amy Lindgren owns Prototype Career Service, a career consulting firm in St. Paul. She can be reached at or at 626 Armstrong Ave., St. Paul, MN 55102.