10 ways to manage your career

As a ‘Career Activist’ you need to actively manage your career. There are many steps you can take to manage your career, here are ten of them.

  1. Join professional associations and become active members. Take on an executive role, participate in professional development activities, attend conferences. Include your memberships and leadership roles on your résumé.
  2. Take performance management seriously even if you receive mixed messages from your manager or organisation. Prepare for performance conversations. Use the conversation to convey information about your achievements. Seek and provide feedback. Act on the feedback so that you have evidence for job applications about acting on feedback to achieve continual improvement and commitment to personal development.
  3. Build your presentation skills. Even if you do not deliver formal presentations in your current job, you may one day. Consider also that every time you open your mouth you are making a mini-presentation and certainly job interviews are a form of presentation. Take steps to build your confidence and skills in delivering both formal and informal presentations. Join a public speaking organisation such as Rostrum, Toastmasters International, Penguin and commit to mastering these skills. Don’t wait for your agency to pay for this. Take responsibility for your professional development, including financial responsibility.
  4. Keep a diary of criteria-related incidents. One way you can under-sell yourself during job applications is to rely on memory for examples to support selection criteria. The risk is that not only will you pick unsuitable examples, you will likely experience higher stress levels as you rack your brains trying to think of what to write. Ensure fast access to a range of incidents by keeping a log of what happens in your life and note the capabilities reflected in the examples. Write notes using the SAR structure (Situation, Action, Result) so that they can be readily incorporated into your applications.
  5. Foster relationships with referees past and present. Relying on your boss for a reference can by risky. They can move on, you may not get along with them, they might not take a professional approach to reference writing. To safe-guard yourself against these risks, build relationships with a range of people who could potentially speak favourably on your behalf. These people include your boss’s boss, managers in other areas, clients and stakeholders. Keep in touch with past managers who thought well of you as you may need to call on them again.
  6. Experience being on a selection panel. If you haven’t seen what it is like from the other side of the selection table, take steps to gain this experience. It will help you to understand what selection panels do and think, thereby deepening your understanding of what you need to do as an applicant.
  7. Be a mentor. If your agency or professional association has a mentoring program, volunteer as a mentor. This will expand your skills, extend your visibility and build your reputation as a person who contributes to others’ development.
  8. Volunteer for new projects. Don’t wait to be discovered. When new projects come up, speak up and show an interest. Highlight your strengths. Look for opportunities to build your skills and experience, build relationships with new people, and learn something new about your agency.
  9. Contribute outside of work. You can build transferable and specialist skills by volunteering and contributing to the community. You can demonstrate leadership by the roles you have outside of work, as well as achievements and personal qualities.
  10. Maintain a balanced life. Your career is your life, not just your job. Make sure you have time for all that is important to you in life.
Dr Ann Villiers, career coach, writer and author, is Australia’s only Mental Nutritionist specialising in mind and language practices that help people build flexible thinking, confident speaking and quality connections with people.