Up, over and out: Five career mantras for the new year

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What you need to know – and do – to find success in the nonprofit sector, or beyond, in 2019

With a new year under way, many of us are setting career resolutions. Maybe it’s to add or sharpen some skills that prepare us to move up and take on a more senior role. Maybe it’s to transition from the private to nonprofit sector in search of work that provides more meaning and better aligns with our values. Maybe it’s to move out of a traditional job and look for gigs with the flexibility to allow us greater work-life balance.

Whatever our goals for 2019, we need to understand current and emerging trends in career development to best position ourselves for professional success. The centre of career trend exploration in Canada is the Cannexus National Career Development Conference. From Jan. 28-30, more than 1,000 career counsellors and coaches will gather in Ottawa to explore innovative approaches in career counselling and career development.

Here are insights, strategies and tips from five career experts who will be presenting at the conference:

1. Create a positive digital footprint – Jean Giroux

Everyone has a story to tell and something unique to offer potential employers. That story was once told by the traditional resume, but now, studies show that just six seconds is the average time an employer spends reading a resume. A great deal more time is being spent determining if a client's social media persona aligns with company values. In a 2018 Career Builder report, 70% of the 2,300 recruiters surveyed had made a hiring decision based on a candidate’s digital footprint.

To create a positive digital footprint:

  • Use resources such as Rep’nUp and Scrubber to conduct a social media audit on yourself. This will give you an idea of how others may view you and help you decide if changes are required.
  • Find the best medium to tell your story. Whether it is through pictures, words, videos or recordings, social media can help bring that story to life.
  • Determine what platforms your target audience is on (Instagram, Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn) and maintain a professional presence on the most relevant site.
  • Develop an online network: Historically, we have found jobs through people we know. LinkedIn is an information-rich platform based on that very premise. Create a strong profile and access the platform’s networking opportunities.
  • Identify relevant positive role models, companies and groups to follow. This will provide you with the opportunity to like, share and comment on posts, and help you create an industry-specific digital footprint and keep up to date on what is happening in your field.

Embrace the art of self-promotion by creating a positive digital footprint that reflects your skills and communicates a unique personal brand.

2. Increase resilience – Valerie Ward

Research shows that critical soft skills can make all the difference between seeing challenges as possibilities or as seemingly insurmountable barriers. The underlying dynamic is resilience – the ability to bounce back from adversity. Resilience is more important than ever, taking charge of our work lives and effectively moving forward toward our goals.

The two most fundamental soft skills to strengthen – which can be measured by an assessment known as the Employment Readiness Scale™ – are self-efficacy and outcome expectancy. Self-efficacy is a person’s belief in their ability to perform well. We can strengthen self-efficacy by reminding ourselves of past successes and building on them, and by considering a range of options rather than one “right” approach. Outcome expectancy is based on whether the individual expects to succeed and whether they see themselves as personally responsible for causing that success. We can strengthen outcome expectancy by learning from past difficulties, and by trying out new behaviours in small steps.

When we strengthen both self-efficacy and outcome expectancy, we become better able to:

  • Make decisions about a type of work to pursue that affirms and makes good use of our strengths and interests, and upholds our values
  • Learn and perform well in education or training
  • Present ourselves effectively to potential employers
  • Connect positively with others to perform well as part of a team
  • View our work history in a positive light, even seeing the benefits gained from negative experiences

By boosting these soft skills, we can become more resilient, more able to deal with stress, and more able to anticipate and manage work-life changes.

3. Navigate the gig economy – Deirdre Pickerell

For some people, the gig economy is eroding the traditional employment contract, leading to more precarious work. For others it offers unlimited potential for flexible work.

The notion that everyone will gig was discussed at the World Economic Forum’s Annual Meeting in 2017 where Stephane Kasriel, the CEO of Upwork, noted that “entrepreneurs and freelancers represent the future of the workplace.” Despite these predictions, the Gig Economy Data Hub recently indicated that “only 10% of workers rely on gig arrangements for their full-time job.” However, factoring in contractors, freelancers, temporary workers and self-employment, labour market participation rates rise as high as 30%.

Work in the gig economy brings both opportunities and challenges. Gig work can be flexible, meaningful, sustainable over the long term and offer opportunities for more than just a living wage. These workers often feel in total control about when and how they work. For some, having multiple sources of income through gig work offers greater financial security.

But, for every worker earning sufficient wages and enjoying the flexibility the gig economy provides, there is a gig worker barely surviving. These workers cobble together as many gigs as possible to provide for themselves and their families.

However, the gig may not be the fundamental problem. After all, everyone can likely share a story about employers taking advantage of employees or finding loopholes in employment laws. We can also all tell stories of people working in traditional employment situations who are juggling multiple part-time roles and still barely getting by.

4. Find a non-traditional mentor or be one – Letecia Rose

Mentorship provides individuals with the advice and information needed to navigate corporate and interpersonal structures. Most critically, mentorship is about networks and connections. And, if used wisely, a mentor or sponsor can help accelerate your career progress.

The idea of mentorship is great. But good intentions, busy schedules and unrealistic expectations create a wide opportunity for failure. However, it is not mentorship that is flawed; rather, our understanding of what it should look like is problematic. This is what the new mentorship looks like:

  • Mentoring goes virtual. Technology allows us to connect with each other using many different platforms and devices. Mentors can now virtually connect with their mentees anywhere and anytime that they are available. Virtual meetings also widen the reach of who can potentially mentor.
  • Mentorship relationships can be short-term. Instead of a year-long commitment, try coffee mentorship. Ideally, coffee meet-ups are productive and goal-oriented, leaving the mentee with critical information or a contact and the mentor feeling good about the impact they may have made on the mentee. Organizations such as Ten Thousand Coffees and Nia Centre for the Arts have created online platforms to initiate these types of connections.
  • Mentors can be anyone. Formal mentorship matches often have an established “senior” person mentoring an up-and-coming “junior” person. However, there is much to be said about looking horizontally or even outside of your sector.

If done creatively, mentorship can have an impact on careers, create new relationships and change lives.

5. Develop skills with micro-learning – Daisy Wright

We have become so busy that we don’t leave margins in our lives for professional development. It’s not that we don’t want to; it’s because we haven’t deliberately carved out a set time for it. No matter our career goals, we need to recognize that these days the best job security is continuous professional development coupled with a willingness to adapt to change.

Use these micro-learning approaches focused on short-term activities to help you position yourself for career growth:

  • Retool your skills. It is easier than ever to enroll in courses that will educate and inform. Explore Alison, a global online learning community that offers free, high-quality resources to help develop essential, certified workplace skills. Try Coursera, an education platform that partners with top universities and organizations worldwide to offer free and paid courses online for anyone to take. Visit Skills You Need, another platform that offers free courses on leadership, interpersonal and presentation skills, among others.
  • Engage in second-skilling. This is a concept made popular in Singapore, where you develop your skills for a new job while you’re still working.
  • Adopt the five-hour rule. Set aside one hour per day, from Monday to Friday, for deliberate learning. Unable to commit to one hour at one sitting? Split the hour into 20-minute increments.

You can also find an accountability partner. Connect with someone who believes in you and your goals, is committed to your success and will hold you accountable to what you say you will do.

In this new year, resolve to meet the shifting demands of the labour market by building new skills, making new connections and embracing change. And remember there are highly skilled career counsellors and coaches across Canada to support you along the way.

Sharon Ferriss is the Director, Marketing, Web & New Media with CERIC, a national charitable organization that advances education and research in career development in Canada. She has 20 years of experience as a marketing, communications and events professional, primarily in nonprofit organizations, as well as having worked as a journalist for print and television. Sharon has had senior communications roles with the Purchasing Management Association of Canada (PMAC) and the Human Resources Professionals Association (HRPA).

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