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7 Easy Ways to Prepare For the Next Step in Your Career

Footprints in sand overlaid with text reading "7 easy ways to prepare for the next step of your career"

When was the last time you set aside a few hours to pause and take a personal assessment of your work and your career goals? Knowing who you are and why and how you show up every day is important. Having a short-term and long-term goal for your career is also important. If you make time for this personal inventory once or twice a year you will know when the time is right for that next step. And that next step might be a new project, new opportunity, or even a new position. Here are some questions I ask myself:

  • Do I still love my job?

  • What do I like about it?

  • What new challenges did I tackle?

  • Did I learn something new?

  • Did I do more than was asked of me?

  • Am I still committed to the mission of our organization?

  • Has anything changed (leadership, budget cuts, projects, etc.) that does not align with my personal and professional goals?

  • What are my short- and long-term career goals and am I making progress toward them?

  • What are my unique skills/strengths?

Personally, I make time to “take stock” of how I am feeling about my career twice a year. I talk with my mentors and I ask for honest feedback about my progress. I update my resume and include my latest accomplishments. I am always ready for what is next – are you?

If the answer is no, then never fear! Here are 7 tips to help you get yourself there:

  1. Reflect on your career goals – Where do you want to be in 2, 5, 10 years? Ask yourself, am I on pace? If not, why? And have my goals changed? Because they do you know – life happens – good things and not so good things happen and that affects our goals. So, check in on them.

  2. Update your resume – At a minimum you should pull out your resume and review it annually. I do it twice a year (June – end of fiscal year and December – end of Calendar year). Make certain it is updated and includes all your latest accomplishments.

  3. Check out your Linked In profile – All recruiters and employers will check out your profile on LinkedIn so make certain it mimics your resume. If you have a photo – update it with a current image and if you do not have one add it. If you are actively searching – be sure to toggle “open to work” so recruiters can find you. Submit posts, share articles, seek endorsements and endorse other superstars, and write your own content. Give people a little insight into who you are and what you care about.

  4. Speaking of recruiters – Take their call or respond to their email! You may not be interested, but how will you know if you don’t have the conversation? I always respond because I am curious and want to know what is happening in our industry. I want to know who is hiring and why. And sometimes I am surprised by an opportunity. Remember you do not have to be actively looking to have these conversations. Some of the best candidates are happily employed people.

  5. Ask for an informational interview – If there is an organization that you care about deeply, set up a short (15 minute) interview. Ask them more about the organization and their future direction. Ask what employees love about their organization and what makes a strong candidate. Be bold and ask if there are/will be future opportunities. I love talking about my organization and my teams so when people reach out to me, I take their calls and make time for them. It is impressive to me that they had gumption and took initiative.

  6. Keep growing as a professional – Never stop learning. It is so important to stay on top of what is happening in our industry. Read the Chronicle of Philanthropy or CASE Currents or any other industry publication. Read fundraising, leadership and management books. My favorites right now are Atomic Habits by James Clear and The Generosity Crisis by Nathan Chappell, Brian Crimmins, and Michael Ashley. You can’t look only to the headlines for your news – go deeper. Take classes. Go to conferences.

  7. Build a professional network – I started building my network of colleagues when I began my career at my very first CASE conference and I have added to it and curated it as I have grown in my career. It is this group of people who I turn to when I have questions and challenges. We share information freely and keep a pulse on the things that matter to us in our industry. This is the group I turn to when I need more information before making a decision. They are my people and if you are as blessed as I am, then they are there for you when it counts.

Listen - if you know what you want and have an idea of what it will take to get there then take the steps I have outlined above or try some of your own! The key is to be ready to act when the right opportunity presents itself. You do not want to be rushed to update a resume that has not been touched in years. You do not want to be at a loss for words or unprepared when a recruiter calls with your dream job. You do not want someone else to tell you what your career should be. This is your career – your life – so own it and be ready!


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