How to map out a career strategy during uncertain times

It’s been kind of hard to “plan” in the year 2020, hasn’t it? Although there isn’t much to joke about this year, you may have seen some of the memes floating around talking about a 2020 planner as the worst investment of the year (and so many others).
For many of us, that meme is pretty spot on! 
And with all that is changing and has changed in the world since last spring, it may seem like a funny time to start mapping out a career strategy. We completely understand where you’re coming from! 
But, hear us out. When things are hazy and uncertain, it’s actually the perfect time to think about your career strategy. Even the phrase “career strategy” has some different connotations.

Understanding and planning your career strategy 

Here are two of the most important elements of “career strategy” that are especially important right now:

1. Job search 

There’s the element of career strategy that pertains specifically to your job search. If you’re out of work or are looking for a new opportunity right now, you may be lasered in on this component of a career strategy. 
To map out a career strategy focusing entirely on landing a job, you’ll want to consider adding and/or prioritizing these elements:
> Expanding your network. With so many of us continuing to work remotely due to COVID-19, this will primarily be happening on LinkedIn. And there is a TON of opportunity there right now! Connecting with like-minded professionals, or managers/HR reps at ideal employers can be a great way to expand your network with individuals relevant to your job goals. Of course, you can (and should) always add recruiters to your network! Our team here at Matlen Silver is always eager to meet new professionals (and our clients are hiring!). 
> Leveraging your network. Adding to your network is an important part of finding a job in these difficult times. But adding connections alone isn’t usually enough to turn the needle. You need to add value to and then leverage those individuals in your network. This can happen on LinkedIn, through email with past colleagues or even family and friends, or through online networking events. In fact, we went into some detail on online networking in a recent blog post — check it out for some inspiration and ideas!
> Putting your resume out there. Of course, all the legwork in the world is unlikely to help a job land in your lap. You’ll need to (if you haven’t already) polish your resume and do some prep for Zoom interviews. While building the right relationships (especially with recruiters/recruiting firms) is helpful, the barebone basics of a job search still apply in today’s landscape. Here’s a post we published pre-COVID, but that is still very much relevant today. It digs into what employers expect and want from candidate resumes. And of course, if you choose to work with a recruiter, that recruiter will help you get your resume in pristine condition as well.

2. Planning

Maybe you’re currently employed with a full-time job. Or perhaps you’re a contractor working on a current assignment. Either way, you’re thinking ahead to what’s next in your career. Setting goals or at least thinking about them, and trying to figure out where you’d like to be and what you’d like to do in the next few years. Or even the next few months!
When things are somewhat uncertain in the world, having a career strategy in place can help give you a sense of calm and clarity. Although this strategy or plan may change, having a roadmap in place to guide you can be tremendously helpful as you make the decisions that will shape the future of your career. 
In our experience, both internally on our team and working with contractors across the country in a range of specialties, here is some advice that can help: 
> Try not to get too granular. You may know exactly what role you want in the next 2 to 3 years. Or perhaps you have an ironclad salary in mind for your next job. While it’s a good idea to have clear goals and motivating factors, though, it might be more beneficial to avoid getting too granular in your career strategy. There are so many variables that can make a dramatic impact — we’re learning this now more than ever! Perhaps you find a job with a company that gets you super excited to go to work, but the salary is $5k less than your goal. If you feel compelled to “stick to the plan,” you may miss out on a rewarding opportunity! 
> Take the right perspective. As I just mentioned, there are so many variables that will impact your career. You’ll zig where you may have zagged, someone offers you an unexpected job in a new role, you meet someone and move to a new city. And that’s just to name a few! It’s so important to look at a career strategy and strategic planning as a guide map or a roadmap, and not as something that is set in stone. Life presents us with some unexpected twists and turns sometimes, but you may miss out on some amazing opportunities if you feel like you “have” to stick to a list. A member of our team recently shared her story about career growth and planning — check it out for some more helpful advice!
> Bring in an outside perspective. Sometimes when you’re so focused on what’s right in front of you, or what you think is the most important element, you miss out on something else that can have a major impact. That’s where bringing in an outside perspective is essential. That perspective can come from anywhere, but beware: well-intentioned family and friends may not give you the unbiased advice you may need. In our experience, we strongly recommend finding a career mentor. Your mentor has typically been in a similar situation or has a similar background, and can help you learn from his or her own career growth. A strong mentor will push you to grow, ask the right questions and provide you with the type of candid feedback you may not find elsewhere. 

We can help you map out a career strategy.

Of course, our team here at Matlen Silver can also help you with both components of a career strategy. We can help you identify priorities and create a career roadmap, but also find a job right now (or line up your next project if your contract is about to expire). To learn more, check out our current job openings, or contact us.

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