(Editor’s Note: Today’s post is brought to you by our friends at Capella University. Capella is an accredited online university dedicated to providing an exceptional, professionally-aligned education that puts you in a position to succeed in your field. They offer bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees as well as certificate programs for human resources and business professionals. Enjoy the post!)
I hope that everyone saw the May jobs report issued by the U.S. Department of Labor. Specifically, the part that talked about unemployment being at 3.8 percent. We haven’t seen these numbers for close to two decades.
While it’s great to have people employed, it can be tempting to think that, if we’re looking for a new opportunity right now, we don’t need to work very hard. It’s true – organizations are challenged to find the best talent. But individuals still need to have focused career strategies.
Strategy #1: Work / Life Balance Includes Career Goals
To me, work/life balance is the concept of having both a personal and a professional life that I have control over. I don’t know that it means an equal 50/50 split of time. But it means I can have both.
The second part of the definition is equally important – control. This doesn’t mean that we will never stay late or work on a weekend. Maybe that’s exactly what we want to do in order to get that project done in peace and quiet. Again, it’s about having control. If I work on Saturday to clear a few projects off my desk, then I can go see Deadpool 2 on Thursday afternoon.
If you share this definition of work/life balance, then you also realize that it’s not a Millennial thing. Or a Gen X thing. Or a Boomer thing. Every employee wants it. Because every employee wants control over their personal and professional lives. Granted, the reasons might be different, but I’m not sure the reasons matter. Because whatever those reasons are . . . they’re personally important to the employee.
But work/life balance doesn’t just extend to personal stuff like going to your kid’s soccer games or taking care of sick family members. It also has to do with career development. Having work/life balance can mean being able to attend conferences, classes, or obtain a certification that will improve our knowledge and skills. And spending time on learning and education doesn’t have an age limit.
Strategy #2: Invest in Your Own Career
Taking the time and dedicating the resources for career development can be hard. We might not always have the time or the money to make things happen the way we would like. Remember that quote from best-selling author Nora Roberts, “If you don’t ask, the answer is always no.”? Well, there are some things we can ask for.
- Books. There are books on the market for just about everything. Books are especially good if you’re trying to learn a process. For example, let’s say you want to learn more about human resources metrics. Ask your boss for a copy of “How to Measure Human Resource Management” by Jac Fitz-enz. The book is reasonably priced, allows you to learn at your own pace, and you can keep it on your bookshelf for future reference.
- Experiences. In many organizations, work experiences allow employees to learn new skills, grow professionally, and get exposure to individuals they wouldn’t typically meet. It could be a task force, implementation team, or a committee. Sometimes these opportunities are disguised as boring assignments that no one wants. Don’t be afraid to volunteer and give it your all to gain valuable experience.
- Stretch Goals. Speaking of work experiences, sometimes stepping outside our comfort zone can be great for our career. It could involve a new work experience, like I mentioned above. Or it could be taking a class online in a subject that’s always fascinated you. Or maybe speaking at a conference about a program you’ve implemented. Whatever it is, don’t let the task intimidate you. The return on your time investment could be very valuable.
Strategy #3: Develop a Board of Career Advisors
Many of us have mentors who can offer advice and counsel. They can provide tips to be productive and encouragement to stay focused. But not all mentors are the same. And, in some situations, it makes sense to choose your mentors for the task at hand.
For example, let’s say you’re thinking about going back to school to get your master’s degree. Maybe your goal is to apply for a scholarship first. Think about the mentors who will help you get there. And remember, there’s no rule that says you have to limit yourself to one mentor. So, find multiple mentors (aka your own board of career advisors) who can provide value toward all of the goals you’re trying to accomplish.
At this point, don’t think about long-term formal mentoring programs. Instead, see if you can identify individuals who have attended graduate school. Maybe look for people who have worked and earned their degree at the same time.
I’d like to think that everyone knows how important it is to be a lifelong learner and to continuously make investments in their career development. But all learning opportunities don’t look the same. By regularly carving out time for development, asking for stretch opportunities, and building mentoring relationships, you can build the career success you hope to achieve.
Image captured by Sharlyn Lauby on the streets of Long Beach, CA11