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The Toronto Sun CareerConnection

Manage your career

By Sharon Aschaiek
Special to the Toronto Sun


The start of a new year sparks the desire for change, and many slot improving their career lives at the top of their resolution lists. But while most people start off their search for a new job or profession with zeal, many lose steam within months or even weeks.


"Fear holds a lot of people back, especially in a tighter economy," says Mark Swartz, a Toronto-based career coach, speaker and author (www.careeractivist.com). "It can be an intimidating thing shifting into something less known."

What's missing?

Swartz, the author of the series of books Get Wired, You're Hired, says that before bolting from your company in search of something better, take a long, careful look at the sources of your dissatisfaction. Re-examine your work-life priorities and figure out what's missing in your current position: sufficient challenge, managerial respect, money, a sense of community, etc. Once you've established what's lacking and what matters most to you, see if you can first improve the situation from within.

"Can you fulfil more of your wants by working on different projects, moving into a different division, or into management? Can you expand or alter your existing work to meet your needs? It's a simpler and more satisfying move in that it's less risky," Swartz says.

If you've decided your current situation is beyond repair, you'll still have to ask yourself some important questions before leaving.

"What are your short-term and long-term goals? Are you happiest as an employee? What about self-employment? Or running a franchise? You'll have to determine what types of opportunities are out there that suit your personality."

Swartz advises beginning your job search with the classified ads -- the "low-hanging fruit" that he says someone has to grab. But he stresses what most people know but often don't want to admit -- that about 70% to 80% of job opportunities are not advertised. To tap into this hidden job market, job seekers need to become savvy networkers.

For those who find themselves laid off or let go, reconnecting with old colleagues and business associates is a difficult thing to do, Swartz says. Shame and embarrassment prevent people from tapping into their network of contacts to find out about open positions and hiring trends at specific companies.
IMPORTANT QUESTIONS
If you've decided your current situation is beyond repair, you'll still have to ask yourself some important questions before leaving.
  • What are your short-term and long-term goals?
  • Are you happiest as an employee?
  • What about self-employment? Or running a franchise?


  • But Swartz says pulling yourself out of this unproductive mentality is critical to re-entering the workforce. Attending networking events to build new contacts is also crucial -- both to job hunters and to the already employed, as a way of preparing for a rainy day or an eventual career transition.

    "You have to be on top of your game and show people you're worthy of them referring you to others. You don't want to tell people you're looking for a job off the bat. You want to build sustained relationships that keep you at the top of their mind, so the next time a hiring decision is made: Boom! There you are."

    Keep all of the business cards you collect, and make notes on the back of each one indicating important details about the person.

    Preparing for your career transition also requires continually updating a record of your professional accomplishments -- this makes it much easier to discuss them with a new potential employer.

    Finally, Swartz says, stay on top of trends in your industry -- new research, technologies, innovators and other developments. Maintaining updated skills and knowledge is essential to staying competitive and manifesting the career of your dreams.

    "Employers want to see you've invested time and money of your own to manage your career. They want to see you've got initiative and a sense of drive, which in this day and age is very important."



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