Are you satisfied with where you are professionally? Is your income level and designation at par with your long-term career goals? If not, you might be stuck in a career rut. It happens to everyone – your progress hits a plateau, and it feels like you’re working hard but somehow the results just aren’t coming.

If you are struggling – it is important to develop an attitude like a great coach.

The first thing you have to do to turn your situation around is to envision the process. Envision the process and do it as fast as you can because patience isn’t a virtue in this business. You’ve got to know what you want is to look like. I’ve had championship teams. I know what they look like, act like, behave like. I know the price they pay and I know how they conduct themselves and go about trying to accomplish these tasks.

– Bill Parcells

If you’re in a slump, here are some things you can do to get your career moving in the right direction.

  1. Be smart with your time.

Days at the office can be chaotic at times. Deadlines, meetings, client calls and presentations can blend into each other until it feels as though you’ve been living the same day over and over again for months. If your time and energy is being drained by menial tasks, it is time to rethink how you approach a day at the office.

Make a list of the top five goals in your professional career. These could include things you need to work on, skills you need to gain or a promotion you need to achieve. Once you’ve figured out your most important goals, allocate a block of time in each day to work on things that will get you closer to them. This way, you will be able to filter out less important activities which take up large portions of your time.

For example, if you want to rise a level or two in the hierarchy this year, try cutting in half the time you use to check emails and spend that time increasing your skills and expertise.

  1. Revisit your resume and bio.

Most of us forget about our resumes once we get a new job. The only time we see them again is when we are looking for another job. If you’ve been with a company for a couple of years, you should be reviewing and updating your resume.

Instead of waiting till you’re on the career opportunity hunt, revisit your resume every six months. This way, you can keep track of what you have achieved, and mention it on your resume. Any sales figures, promotions or professional certifications you have gained over the last six months should go into your resume. Dust up that old Word file and start updating your resume today.

  1. Keep your LinkedIn profile tight.

LinkedIn is one of the most prominent websites used by industry professionals today. A massive amount of recruitment and business partnerships happen over LinkedIn. Your profile must be as relevant as possible to take advantage of any opportunities that might pop up.

Make sure your profile has all of the keywords relevant to your skill set so that recruiters can find you when they perform searches. If you have a professional certification, add it to the end of your last name field. If you haven’t already, add a keyword-rich headline that describes your current professional status. When you’re mentioning the job titles you’ve held, be as descriptive as possible.

  1. The best of the best train and work hard on their education.

You might think trade shows are only for sales and marketing folk, but this isn’t true. Industry conferences and other related events are good places to learn about the current trends in your industry as well as the skills or products that are currently in demand. You can use this information to guide your professional choices over the next several months.

Spend time daily reading and increasing your level of expertise. Become an authority and people will reach out to you!

If you’re in an industry that values specialization, taking up a professional course can boost your market value. Investing in your education is your BEST investment option.

  1. Get out of the office and create additional relationships.  

The size and quality of your professional network plays a significant role in determining how far you will get in your career. Take some time to get in touch with your old colleagues or contacts. Send them a casual email and indulge yourself in some light conversation about how their lives are going. It doesn’t take much effort to reach out like this, but the connection you make can be valuable if you’re on their mind when a position opens up in their organization in the future.

Make it a goal to end this year in better professional shape than you have ever been. If you commit yourself to working hard at the right things, this year will be the year your career really takes off. You must decide to take control of your career and develop greater relationships.

  1. Consider working with a coach.

Remember your first experiences on a winning team or becoming truly great at something such as playing golf or playing your first piano recital? What was the #1 key to success? You probably answered, a great coach. That is correct if you add a few additional terms – practice, discipline, and accountability.

Your coach’s job was to teach you the basics of playing, and after that, to help you hone your skills. The process usually included observing you at play, assessing strengths and areas for improvement and helping you to see what the coach observed. A coach, seeing opportunities for skill building, would spend hours assisting you to achieve new levels of success. During some of these hours, the coach may show a video of current performance, demonstrate how to adjust execution, and structure ‘practice, practice, practice’! For constant fine-tuning and improvement, you repeated these steps, perhaps even with different coaches over the years.

  1. Develop at least 1-2 relationships with specific industry recruiters

Anyone that has ever applied through a company’s career page can appreciate this one. You will sometimes get a confirmation that the company received your resume, but often that’s where the communication ends. An Executive Recruiter will be able to tell you that the hiring manager has viewed your resume and whether or not they want to move forward.

Companies often use templates when they post their open positions. Hiring managers tell me they are most interested in finding candidates with “X “ experience in “Y” industry, yet this information is nowhere on the list of job requirements. How are you supposed to know this? When you’re speaking to an Executive Recruiter about a position, they will have this information and better yet, they will be able to coach you to best highlight it on your resume.

Most important – great recruiters will tell you the truth. Sometimes this is the tough medicine you don’t want to hear. By telling you that you don’t have the level of experience the company is seeking, you haven’t sold the type of widget the company is selling, or you aren’t at the career level the company is seeking, you can move on to apply to other positions that are a better fit. Most Executive Recruiters will be honest with you right up front.

Lastly, Executive Recruiters will be able to share the coveted information that you can’t get anywhere else. Real version of company culture, team environment, bios of executives, where the company is going, etc.

  1. Exercise. You are the most important tool.

Do not underestimate a first impression. According to 2011 research by Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital, people assess your competence and trustworthiness in a quarter of a second (250 milliseconds)–based solely on how you look.

Studies show that attractive people are more likely to be viewed as smart, happy, interesting and successful. Among the executives surveyed, 16% said physical attractiveness contributes to a woman’s executive presence and 14% said the same for men. Moreover, those working in formal business cultures ranked it slightly more important than those in casual work environments. The researchers note, however, that it’s “less about being stereotypically pretty and more about consciously highlighting your best attributes and features and taking the time to appear well groomed.”

Bottom line – quit consuming junk food and implement a 2-3 session per week exercise plan. Do what you enjoy! If it is tennis, play tennis. If it is hiking, go hiking. The point is to exercise and keep your most important tool sharp and ready.

  1. Work on the mental game.

‘Happiness is vital to superior performance’ may give us pause to ponder. Is this observable? Is the superior performer happy? And how can we tell? Does he whistle a little tune as he walks past? Does she always add smiley face icons to her messages? Then we legitimately wonder if this statement has been studied scientifically and proved statistically. Yes it has, in a way.

Shawn Achor of GoodThinkInc invested a decade to research his book The Happiness Advantage. (Crown Business; September 14, 2010) Achor found that ”happiness raises nearly every business and educational outcome: raising sales by 37%, productivity by 31%, and accuracy on tasks by 19%, as well as a myriad of health and quality-of-life improvements.” Statistics like these are pretty convincing.

You can decide to change your attitude. People want to be led by happy motivational leaders.

  1. Develop a process to systematically find a new career position.

Searching for a job is a process, and it can sometimes be a lengthy one. It involves drawing on skills you’ve developed over time including reflection, research, planning, writing, speaking, problem solving and self-advocacy. You can be successful in the job search, but it will take a reasonable investment of time and energy.

  • Identify your skills and interests.
  • Develop your documents.
  • Research possible job opportunities.
  • Utilize your network.
  • Fine tune your documents and submit applications.
  • Keep track of everything.
  • Prepare for interviews.
  • Follow up.
  • Prepare to negotiate and/or accept an offer.
  • Learn about being successful in the workplace.

Consider developing a database or a system that will quickly allow you to evaluate where you are in terms of communicating and developing relationships with companies you have targeted. Yes – you heard that right. You should target and pursue companies. Waiting for your phone to ring is a bad plan. Be bold – make it a process and not a one-time event.

Let me know if I can help!  bruce@bruceriggs.com

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