First Starting Out:

Ah, the dawn of your career … When an opportunity is at your fingertips, but reaching out and grabbing it is a lot more difficult than it looks. Jumping in without a plan will put a hindrance on your fresh start. Fortunately for you, there are a lot of expert tips out there that can help!

how grow your career 2015

Important Offline and Online Strategies:

Are offline considerations still relevant in this brave new world of 2015? Absolutely! All the LinkedIn and Twitter profiles in the world can’t replace the memorability of in-person networking, so take advantage of career expos and workshops out there. Nothing will make you stand out more to recruiters than friendliness, tactful persistence, and creativity.

It’s also never too early to start developing your personal brand. While your profile pictures and tone of voice should be professional and consistent on every social networking platform you use, personal branding extends offline, too. A personal logo, or at least a common color palette and design style for your resume and cover letter (and business cards, if you have them), will make you look polished and put-together.

Last but not least, when you’re hitting the Web in your job search, check out these fifteen sites compiled by Forbes to help you cast your net as wide as possible.

Tips to Remember in Order to Reach Your Goal:

US News has compiled some excellent tips to help you put your best foot forward in ways you may not have thought about. There are a lot of untapped resources already in your life that can help make you a standout job candidate. These include:

  • Using your university’s alumni network as a job resource. Many career services departments already have a program like this in place, or would be happy to connect you with alumni in jobs relevant to your interests if you ask.
  • Preparing thoroughly for every application. No matter how trivial the job seems, take time to sweep your resume for mistakes, write a unique cover letter, and research the company enough to give intelligent answers during an interview.
  • Pushing past shyness to greet people and ask them sincere questions. Networking is kinder to extroverts than introverts, but most people are happy to give you information if you show interest. Start small, and work your way up to bigger events once you know you can do it.
  • Emphasizing non-work-related experience. The hobby you taught yourself one summer, the unofficial movie reviews you write for fun, or the weekends you’ve volunteered with your family are all valid things to bring up. They don’t take the place of professional experience, but they demonstrate things like curiosity, self-motivation, analytical thinking, and altruism.
  • Setting up a LinkedIn profile. There are plenty of steps to walk you through the process, and it basically serves as an exhaustive resume that recruiters can browse at any time. It’s the leading place to find professional references and connections.

Common Mistakes to Avoid:

Starting out for the first time means you’ll inevitably make some mistakes, but hopefully you won’t make these now that we’re warning you about them.

  • Student loans are bad enough. Please don’t go off the deep end with your credit card use. You’ll thank yourself one day for the restraint you show now, as good credit will make you more attractive to employers and landlords in your dream city.
  • Don’t write off a job opportunity just because it doesn’t look directly related to your ultimate goal. Think of it like a video game side quest: tracking down a side character for information won’t keep you from reaching the final boss’s fortress. It’s just a detour, and you might pick up some skills that will come in handy later.
  • Underdressing. Don’t ever do it.
  • Isolating yourself, from new people, new ideas or new challenges, is a sure way to float downstream while winners swim past you.
  • Don’t dedicate yourself so hard to your work that you forget to take care of yourself and never have fun. That will only turn around and stab you in the back, as the most dedicated and effective employees are those who know how to unplug completely and come back revitalized the next day.
  • Being passive-aggressive or taking sides in office drama will not end well (no matter how emotionally tempting it can be to get involved).

Now that we’ve saved you from these rookie mistakes, go out and rock your career! (Don’t worry, we’ll wait for our consulting fee until you’re settled.)

Going in a New Direction:

Starting over can be almost as scary as starting for the first time. It’s not easy to set aside everything you know and be the newbie once more. Even if you’re taking a path similar to your original one, there will still be new social cues and different ways to apply your skills, and learning these takes time. Apply the following tips in order to make the journey a little smoother!

Important Offline and Online Strategies:

You have a couple of advantages over the wet-eared graduates: your network of connections is probably pretty substantial, and you already know the ins and outs of your industry. This will make identifying and presenting your transferable skills a little easier. Find out, from the Internet and from acquaintances who work in the field you’re considering, what aspects of your current knowledge will help you in your new vocation.

Keep your ear to the ground wherever you go. You might find out about a really great opportunity in a field that you hadn’t considered, but would be worth investigating. Such an occasion could arise at any time, so be sure you have some business cards handy to give a potential contact. All the networking skills you’ve developed so far will also need to be dusted off and ready for use. Find a good friend with whom to practice your elevator speech and handshake.

If you’ve never devoted time to crafting a personal brand, it would be a really great idea to work on that. Identify what has set you apart so far in your work life — your sense of humor, passions, weekend pursuits, cultural and vocational insights — and mix it together. By being same person in real life that you are online, you’ll begin to build a recognizable voice. Nobody can tell you exactly how to do this, as everyone’s personal brand will be different, but here’s a handy guide to what not to do.

Tips to Remember in Order to Reach Your Goal:

Changing or starting a career is usually a bumpy ride, even if you’re leaving your old job on good terms and you already have some experience in your desired field. These tips won’t guarantee a smooth transition, but they will help you prepare more intelligently.

  • Don’t start down this path until you have asked and answered all the necessary questions — and there are many. Switching careers isn’t something you can try for a little while to see if you like it. It’s a life-altering investment, so be sure you’re ready.
  • To prepare for the upcoming shift, start making room in your current job to learn new things and stretch your comfort zone. This will put you ahead of the curve when you throw yourself out there completely.
  • Be straightforward and clear when it’s time to make the switch. Don’t give your boss or coworkers false hope that you might stick around with enough encouragement, and don’t be vague about which field you want to break into. You’ll get the most respect and the most helpful advice when you shoot straight with everyone.

Most importantly, don’t give up! Just like the new graduate, you probably won’t do everything right, and that’s fine. There are important lessons about perseverance and humility that you won’t learn if your path upward is too smooth.

Common Mistakes to Avoid:

That being said, don’t give yourself so much slack that you get into a problem that could have been easily avoided. Watch out for these pitfalls:

  • Making snap decisions that will affect your entire career just because you don’t like your current job. Gather some close friends and pinpoint your reasons for the change. Do you find this entire genre of work unsatisfying, or is there something stifling about your specific workplace culture that isn’t a problem at similar companies? Knowing the difference between a bad job and a bad career can save you from wasting a lot of time.
  • Blowing your cover before it’s “safe.” A downside of changing your career is that if you’re still currently employed, the news of your impending departure might get you into some uncomfortable situations at the office. If you think your boss might take it personally, or a coworker with a personal grudge might use it to stir up trouble, keep your online job-searching discreet.
  • Leaving on bad terms. Even if you don’t think you’ll ever encounter your current contacts again, and even if the idea of freedom is so tantalizing that you’ve started to absolutely loathe your job, don’t burn any bridges. (For instance, the former boss whose manipulative tactics you’re blasting on Twitter might end up being the niece of the HR manager you’ll meet with next week.) An unflattering reference or surprise connection could close doors that you can’t afford to be closed out of once you’re between jobs.

If you make one of these blunders, is it the end of the world? Not usually, but you might get yourself into a mess that you’ll have to spend a very long time cleaning up.

Where are you in your career? Wishing you had one, wishing you didn’t, or somewhere in between? Let us know what parts of this article you found useful, and comment below with any experiential advice you can offer your fellow readers.