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If You Stay Ready, You Don’t Have To Get Ready

It’s a great feeling to be happy and content in your current firm or organization, but the fact is that no one knows what the future holds. These are uncertain times. No matter how much you love your job or how secure you think it is, it’s smart practice to be ready for anything—and that means keeping your traditional and online resumes current at all times.

After all, the most desirable candidates aren’t necessarily those who are desperately scouring job listings; they’re more likely to be the ones who are currently cheerfully employed and thriving. You never know when a golden opportunity will strike, whether it’s an internal role that was just vacated…or an external position that your old colleague has recommended you for. Besides the job market, it’s also important to have your credentials updated in the event of a new client project or the chance to be selected for a board, panel, award or speaking opportunity.

Freshening Up Your Professional Persona 

Early in the year is a fantastic time to overhaul your resume and social media presence. But where do you even begin? Here are some actionable steps you can take to optimize your professional persona and have all your bases covered.

Revamp your resume and LinkedIn profile. Update your resume and make sure your wins are clearly outlined. (See ResumeCheatSheet.com for tips on structuring your resume and making it stand out.)

It’s a good idea to be maintaining your social media presence all along, because at some point, you’re going to have to turn the dial up. If you find yourself in the position of searching for a new job—and you go into a frenzy trying to update your LinkedIn profile after letting it go stale for years—it’s going to look suspicious to employers.

With your LinkedIn profile, promote and market yourself just as you would your firm or company. Organizations that are client-facing are often drawn to candidates with marketing and social savvy who can act as brand ambassadors for their company. If you appear to be holistically involved with your employer’s brand, it raises your value and you become less of a commodity in the job marketplace. (See LinkedInProfileCheatSheet.com for tips on optimizing your LinkedIn profile).

Reconnect with references. Think about who you’d like to use as employment/professional references if and when you need them. If you’re not currently in contact with these individuals, this is a good time to renew those ties. It’s better to reach out before you actually need a reference so that people don’t feel used and are more inclined to help you. It’s also less anxiety-provoking for you.

The process of reconnecting with references sounds daunting, but it needn’t be time-consuming. Even if you make just one call to one person each week, that’s 52 people a year. A good rule of thumb is to start with LinkedIn connections with whom you haven’t spoken in the last six months.

Work your connections. In essence, LinkedIn is a round-the-clock networking event held online. Just like at an in-person event, it’s not enough to just show up. You have to cultivate your connections just as you would in real life, and that delicate dance requires constant nurturing. Start by reading, liking and commenting on content your connections post. Over time, you'll begin to build quality relationships and those online conversations will turn into phone and face-to-face meetings. 

Network and be social without the notion of getting anything back. Connect people who can benefit each other (but always ask each party for their permission first). Think, what can I do to foster productive relationships among those I know and help them reach their goals? When you manage your expectations and simply do nice things for others as a gesture of goodwill, people are much more likely to return the favor.

You might also try a “buddy system” approach where you post about the work and accomplishments of a friend or colleague, and they post about you in return. This is a great way to call positive attention to yourself without appearing to sing your own praises too much.

Position yourself as a thought leader. Stay active and visible on LinkedIn by posting interesting articles, endorsing others and participating in LinkedIn groups. This will help you keep your profile views up and get noticed as a subject-matter expert while educating others.

Strengthen your credentials. Look into professional development opportunities such as certifications or professional continuing education courses, both in-person and online. Since you’ll be among peers, this also creates natural networking opportunities.

Brush up on your interviewing skills. Even the most talented interviewees get rusty without regular practice. Consider working with a private coach to fine-tune your professional message, whether it’s for a formal interview, your annual performance review or an impromptu chat with an industry contact on the elevator. (Visit InterviewPrepSheet.com for tips on navigating your next job interview.)

Once you’re done overhauling your professional persona, you should start keeping a journal of notable projects, success stories, client testimonials and achievements. Then, periodically transfer this information to your resume and your LinkedIn profile. Journaling your accolades chronologically can help you cherry-pick those wins that are relevant to the job or other opportunity at hand. It also helps to ensure that no important details are lost.

Following the steps outlined above will help you stay on the industry radar and boost your chances of being hired quickly if your job situation changes. When you’re proactive versus just reactive, you’ll have the confidence to roll with the professional punches and come out on top—no matter what life brings your way. Remember, if you stay ready, you don’t have to get ready!

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