Kick your career into high-gear with these top 3 tips

Whether you’re actively on the hunt for a new opportunity, or you’re planning to take the next step in a year or two, one of the biggest mistakes you can make is to overlook the chance to realign your personal brand with your career goals.

When recruiters hunt for top MBA talent, the most common feedback they hear from employers is that there are skill gaps in leadership, communication and strategic thinking – and unfortunately this doesn’t just apply to MBAs. Smart organizations now realize that soft-skills are vital to top-performing teams – but top talent with strong soft-skills is hard to find.

Below are the top 3 actions you can take now to avoid sitting on the sidelines:

  1. Refresh your personal brand

Social media isn’t going away, and in today’s digital climate where Googling the person who you will interview is the norm, investing in your personal brand on and offline is a must-do. As Shelly Lazarus, the former CEO of Ogilvy and Mather explains, it’s all about style – “not just what you say, but how you say it.”

Remember you already have a brand --- but it’s important that you take control of it. Take stock of what people can find out about you, on and offline, and be carefully considerate of what you are putting out there. Don’t reinvent yourself, because that wouldn’t be authentic, but you can refresh your style by giving it focus. Jeff Bullas, named ‘The number on Global Digital Marketing Influencer of 2016,’ lists four steps to begin refreshing your personal brand:

  1. List your passions
  2. Discover the sweet spot at the intersection
  3. Describe your tone – Witty, Irreverent, Inspirational, etc…
  4. Write the 20 word mission statement that distils your purpose

If you aren’t sure where to start, find some inspiration by reading a book related to your field or career goals, learning a new skill or taking a class, or signing-up for a conference that you know will bring major networking opportunities with charismatic leaders.

  1. Find a career mentor who can hold you accountable

Advice columnists and experts often suggest that the benefits of finding a career mentor usually revolve around networking, helping you set goals or personal development. But what is overlooked or understated is the value that a career mentor can bring when it comes to holding you accountable for making changes stick and achieving your goals.

Before you go on the hunt for a mentor, it’s important that you clearly define:

  • What it is that you want,
  • What your goals and objectives are,
  • And what changes you are looking to make to achieve your professional goals.

Once you know what you want, it’s important to find a mentor who will check in with you regularly and will provide you the support you need to stay on track. When you have someone who will hold you accountable to making changes or achieving your goals, you are much more likely to succeed.

Ready to look for a mentor now? Check out this list of tips for finding a mentor from Forbes magazine.

  1. Refine your soft skills

Listen more. Talk less. Under promise. Over deliver.

If you work within a team, are looking to advance in your career or keep up with the fast-pace of today’s business environment, you can’t just rely on your expertise. Companies are now realizing that they can train new hires on their systems and workflows, but it’s not easy, and sometimes nearly impossible for a company to change an employee’s attitude or way of thinking.

The Harvard Business Review recently listed the top soft-skills of great digital organizations. They are:

  • Goal-centric thinking
  • Collaboration skills
  • Communication skills
  • Learning skills
  • Troubleshooting skills
  • Playfulness

There is no better time than the present to develop your soft-skills. Focus on improving the soft-skills that are highly sought after—enroll in a leadership seminar, or take a class that requires teamwork. Investing in your soft-skills now will lead to a big ROI later.

Remember—kick starting your career isn’t about fast-tracking it to the leadership table—it’s about refreshing your brand, your goals, and your soft-skills so that you are relevant, professionally polished and are ready to confidently take on the next challenge in your career.