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3 Things 2017 Taught Me About the Importance of Career Strategy

I’d love to get advice on how to build a career strategy to achieve long term goals, something that can be done even while you are living an employment gap period.
— Jess L.

When Apply and Command launched in 2016, I offered individual consulting sessions in addition to long term work. The sessions were affordable and in many cases offered a lot of materials for independent work afterwards.

But of my “one-off” clients came back for at least one more meeting.

At first, I worried the advice I gave them was bad--but the truth (thankfully) was the opposite. My clients had success in the areas I consulted them on and were hoping for advice in other areas. Clients who came in for resume or cover letter analyses would return for interview coaching or full professional branding. I moved from calling myself a Career Coach identifying as a Career Strategist. By the end of 2017 I was only offering strategy packages and now, in 2018, I’m only taking one-to-one clients who are ready to commit for a minimum of 4 months. Half of this is due to some things I learned about coaching (which I’ll discuss in my newsletter this weekend) and the other half is the very reason this post exists.

Building a strong career strategy is not easy to do alone.

Not for the average person, not even for my proactive clients. Still, once folks realize strategy is the key to moving forward--and when they get a taste of seeing it work, they wanted more. My long term clients benefitted from months of working with me and being able to spend more time with individual cases taught me a lot about Career Strategy in general. Here are the three most important things I learned. 

1. The Best Strategy is Custom Made for You

It's a full time job to field through the internet for Career Strategy examples, tips and tools. It's time consuming to vet them and to try them out. And unless you also have an understanding of the hiring side--there are bound to be gaps you simply can't close. Some jobs are less competitive, some people's goals are more accessible. It takes time to research hiring trends in different industries, at different levels (Manager vs Director vs VP) and this is time the average person doesn't have. That being said, get the part you can get right as right as you can get it. Create a strategy that fits you at all levels; a brand that's authentic to you, networking methods that fit your personality, creative outreach that showcases your skills. Be inspired by folks with a similar path but don't force yourself into their footsteps. 

2. Your Professional Brand is the Core to Your Strategy

Professional branding was something I worked on with almost every client. If you're struggling with your cover letters or resume (generic statements, changing your materials every single time you apply for a job); if you're nervous during interviews and unsure of what to say or how to answer questions; if you're looking at job description after job description and you can't see where you fit--there's a huge chance you don't understand your brand. Your professional brand, once polished and perfected, becomes the core of your verbal pitch, your cover letter introductions, your social media profile bios and even the answers to your interview questions. It's very simple: understanding who you are and what you do makes it easier to tell other people. 

3. A Strong Strategy Includes Self-Care

Looking for a job/asking for a raise/working toward a promotion (and anything else you can think of) SUCKS. It's not fun and the longer it takes the less fun it becomes. Making career moves, especially for folks who spend years in jobs they hate, jobs they love but can't progress in or who don't have jobs at all, can be exhausting, daunting and dangerously depressing. (I knew I didn't want to be a recruiter any longer when a candidate confessed they were suicidal and I could do nothing to help and my company was unconcerned). Because strategy can also take a long time, you can get depressed even when you're making progress. It's important to combat negative feelings in order to keep your momentum. Working with a coach or strategist helps, but for folks on a budget, scheduling time for fun things and talking openly to your community about your feelings can alleviate some of the mental stress.

Bonus Tip: 

As obvious as it sounds, break everything down into smaller digestible pieces. Know where you want to be six months from now but focus on your weekly goals. Don't think so hard about future success that you cripple your progress in the present.

Since I no longer take short term clients, I want to make sure Apply and Command continues to offer accessible advice. Here are some of last year's worksheets, that helped my clients achieve their goals. 

Starter Tools for Your 2018 Job SearchStrategy

2017 Build your Brand Worksheets

2017 Skill Finder Worksheets

2017 Guide to Public Speaking

Want more? Tools in next week's newsletter will help you;

  • get a promotion
  • ask for a raise
  • improve your effectiveness as an employee

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