How to Make Yourself More Marketable
Regardless of the economic forecast, smart employees know that the best way to survive – and thrive – professionally can be summed up in one word: marketability. The more marketable your skills and experience are, the more likely you’ll be to find a new position quickly if you – or someone else – decides it’s time for you to move on in your career. And, while maintaining your marketability does require effort on your part, it isn’t as challenging as you may think. It all comes down to being proactive and keeping an eye on the road ahead, even as you work hard and focus on the present.
As always, what you know is crucial. Workers with the most up-to-date skills and knowledge of current programs and applications will have an edge over those who have allowed their education to lapse. In today’s competitive environment, every little bit helps, so be sure to take advantage of any training programs or classes your company offers, and if a tuition reimbursement program is available, make use of it by enrolling in professional development courses or an MBA program. Gaining advanced technical skills and expanding your general business knowledge shows initiative on your part and demonstrates your commitment as a lifelong learner – two things potential employers appreciate. If your company doesn’t have a tuition reimbursement program in place, consider laying out the money to get started on an advanced certification or graduate program. Do it a few classes at a time, or as many as your budget and schedule allow – but do it. The time will pass regardless and being able to include even one recent class on your resume can make a great impression on a hiring manager.
Be an expert
While being a bit of a renaissance employee is important, identifying areas where you can shine is also critical. Stay on top of new and upcoming trends in your field, and be prepared to step up and educate the rest of your team or department if the opportunity presents itself. Being aware of potential issues and trends shows your current manager how valuable you are, and gives you plenty to talk about with potential employers should you decide to make a career move. And at the very least, being an expert in one or two key areas could give you a professional edge.
Develop transferable skills
Most of us probably don’t spend a lot of time thinking about our transferable skills. We tend to think that certain tasks we perform as part of a specific role are only applicable to that job in that particular company or industry. In fact, transferable skills are among your most valuable attributes, and can be what set you apart from the competition.
In order to stay on top of your transferable skill set, take a few moments to think about the various positions you’ve held throughout your career and then jot down a list of skills you’ve developed that are transferable. Odds are you have more than you think, and this list is a wonderful thing to have ready if you decide to make a career move. In fact, if you decide to change industries, you should be prepared to discuss how your prior job experience has prepared you for different corporate environments – with a list of transferable skills, you’ll be ready.
If you discover that your list of transferable skills is a little short, there’s no time like the present to add to it. Accept any special projects that are offered to you, and seek out others that interest you and whom you feel offer an opportunity to learn – especially if they allow you to take on a leadership role. The chance to collaborate with individuals from other departments or to participate in cross-departmental projects or initiatives could add depth to your experience – and resume.
Always be networking
When the time comes to move on in your career, you’ll want a solid network of professionals you can contact for job leads – and even if you’re planning to stay in your current position, having a strong network will only work to your advantage. So dedicate at least some of your free time to building that network. Join professional organizations and be sure to attend their meetings and conferences where you’ll have an opportunity to connect with people from other companies and areas. Don’t be afraid to pick their brains for ideas you can use in your own work, and increase your knowledge of industry issues by engaging in topical discussions.
Volunteering is another excellent way to expand your network, so make the most of opportunities to do so. Lending your time and talents to a great cause could connect you with people who you might not have met otherwise, and may offer the chance to add valuable skills and experience to your resume.
Keep your eye on the big picture
It can be easy to lose sight of long-term career goals in the midst of the daily grind, and easier still to forget that the best time to develop and maintain your marketability is now. By keeping the bigger picture in mind, you’ll ensure that you’re in control of your career and prepared for anything that comes your way.