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Preparing for your career path and building your professional brand is a continual but necessary work in progress. Dean of Corporate Education at Strayer Mary Carr works with Fortune 500 companies on identifying, cultivating and transforming employees’ skills that can be translated into business-focused results. In this video, she discusses career readiness for individuals and the tips you need to make this year your Ideal Year for your professional life. Becoming and staying career ready is not an easy road because, in addition to all of the hard work that goes into developing your functional abilities, Carr reminds us that, “Reassessing your own skills can be a difficult exercise because you have to be continually open to seeking out and hearing things about your performance that you need to change or stop doing. Typically, these are things people don't want to hear but it's important to realize that without this feedback, you will have limited development. You have to realize that the people who really care about you will be candid because they want you to grow.” In order to be "career ready" you much also assess your soft skills - the ways in which you communicate, problem solve, and work - in order to develop a quality and trusted brand. Throughout her own career, Mary has grown professionally in many ways through the help of others, and reminisces on the time early in her career that she was advised to speak her mind more, “Leaders thought I was too much of a people pleaser, so I began to get out of my comfort zone. I spoke up in meetings and showed I had a point of view. I learned that people might not always agree, but I gained respect from my peers.” She continues to reassess and improve upon this skill to this day, well into the executive phase of her career, illustrating that you need to constantly refine and hone aspects of your professional voice, brand and style. In her off time, Carr listens to music, reads constantly ( Mindset by Carol Dweck is a book she highly recommends for professionals) and loves to paint. Watch her video below, and check out a few more tips on career readiness below.
We all know your resume and cover letter are the first impression you make on a prospective employer and, ultimately, at your job, so keep in mind you should update it regularly so that it reflects the new levels of your professional brand that you have achieved and new skills that you have developed. When paired paired with specific language that speaks to the requirements of a particular job description or opening, it shows a potential employer you have the skills they need to fill a gap in their company.
Building relationships is an important step in finding the right opportunities and improving your social skills, which will benefit your career in the long run. Set aside time each week to connect with friends and colleagues. Learn about their career aspirations and goals, become a resource to them, and seek ways to expand your professional network together.
If you know what industry or role you want to break into, know what skills you need to have. Research and connect with successful professionals in your dream job and learn what it took for them to get ahead. Often, it was a combination of learning on-the-job, in an academic setting, and from others.