The start of the New Year is always a great time to pause and look for career advice. Career advice is relevant for any age and any stage of your career. Adapting your skills, career goals, network, and industry knowledge is more important as you age in the workforce.
As the New Year starts, take some time to focus internally and externally how you can make the best career moves and actions for a great year.
1. Be Aware of Your Interpersonal & Generational Communication Style. Our experience, profession, industry, and education shape our interpersonal and leadership style in the workplace. I come from a military and Midwestern background, so I have a direct, no nonsense, and “get-er-done” work style shaped from military deployments, the expectation to always “hustle” from coaches, and a family of farmers. Knowing this, I take special steps to walk around each day and talk face-to-face, use the phone, and engage co-workers to understand their challenges. In short, I force myself to “slow down” so I get everyone’s feedback. In today’s workforce, older generations must be aware and adapt to younger generations to enable an entire organizations success.
2. Expand & Maintain Your Network in a Variety of Industries. Most of my career has been in Business-to-Business (B2B) Marketing for the logistics industry. Knowing that, I strive to develop contacts in Technology, Higher Education, Finance, and Manufacturing to improve my career portability. I absolutely hope that I never leave my current role. If I must leave my current role, then I want to have a large and broad network to find my next opportunities. LinkedIn has made keeping and building a network easier, but it still needs effort. Most importantly, do not forget traditional meet-and-greet, conferences, and other public events to meet other industry leaders.
3. Keep Yourself Active in The Public Eye. Google your name, what comes up? This is a very simple test to determine the image of your personal brand to the public. If your name is attached to press releases, news stories, public events, and education — awesome — keep it up. If nothing comes up, then start to determine how to position yourself in initiatives you personally value. Volunteering, helping at the local school, speaking in a college classroom, or helping military members launch their post military careers are all ways to do something good and build your digital brand. Today, everyone researches everyone’s digital footprint, ensure you have a positive one.
4. Improve Your Formal Education. Who has the time? No one and that is why it needs to remain a goal for everyone. Possessing formal education and improving your educational credentials at all stages of your career is an effective method for your career to remain relevant. I just began a Master of Science in Data Science program that will take about two years to complete. The use of larger amounts of more disparate types of data to solve increasingly difficult business problems is becoming common in more industries. The speed and depth of change in business will continue to increase and it is always better for your career to get ahead of the change. A solid and continuously developing formal education helps ensure you stay at the top of your game.
5. Live in a Place with An Active Workforce. Working longer has become a fact of business life over the past decade regardless of your level within an organization. Working longer helps maximize your retirement income, helps in providing healthcare and other benefits, and aids in overall life satisfaction. Geographic location is a significant factor to help in a long career. These locations have a high labor force participation rate and a low historical unemployment rate for workers aged 44 to 64. These cities, in five older worked sized population categories, are ranked by the workforce population, engagement level and unemployment rate. The goal is to inhabit a city with high workforce engagement and low unemployment rate.
Top 10 Locations: Large City
1. Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minn.-Wis.
2. Denver-Aurora, Colo.
3. Washington-Baltimore-Arlington, D.C.-Md.-Va.-W.Va.-Pa.
4. Kansas City-Overland Park-Kansas City, Mo.-Kan.
5. Boston-Worcester-Providence, Mass.-R.I.-N.H.-Ct.
6. Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas-Okla.
7. Seattle-Tacoma, Wash.
8. Indianapolis-Carmel-Muncie, Ind.
9. Pittsburgh-New Castle-Weirton, Pa.-Ohio-W.Va.
10. New York-Newark, N.Y.-N.J.-Ct.-Pa.
Top 10 Locations:
Medium Large City
1. Salt Lake City-Provo-Orem, Utah
2. Harrisburg-York-Lebanon, Pa.
3. Milwaukee-Racine-Waukesha, Wis.
4. Cincinnati-Wilmington-Maysville, Ohio-Ky.-Ind.
5. Nashville-Davidson--Murfreesboro, Tenn.
6. Virginia Beach-Norfolk, Va.-N.C.
7. Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill, N.C.
8. Oklahoma City-Shawnee, Okla.
9. Hartford-West Hartford, Ct.
10. Albany-Schenectady, N.Y.
Top 10 Locations:
1. Omaha-Council Bluffs-Fremont, Neb.-Iowa
2. Des Moines-Ames-West Des Moines, Iowa
3. Madison-Janesville-Beloit, Wis.
4. Portland-Lewiston-South Portland, Maine
5. South Bend-Elkhart-Mishawaka, Ind.-Mich.
6. Wichita-Arkansas City-Winfield, Kan.
7. Boise City-Mountain Home-Ontario, Idaho-Ore.
8. Springfield-Greenfield Town, Mass.
9. Syracuse-Auburn, N.Y.
10. Little Rock-North Little Rock, Ark.
Top 10 Locations:
Medium Small City
1. Appleton-Oshkosh-Neenah, Wis.
2. Cedar Rapids-Iowa City, Iowa
3. Green Bay-Shawano, Wis.
4. Fort Wayne-Huntington-Auburn, Ind.
5. Davenport-Moline, Iowa-Ill.
6. Springfield-Branson, Mo.
7. Corpus Christi-Kingsville-Alice, Texas
8. Kalamazoo-Battle Creek-Portage, Mich.
9. Asheville-Brevard, N.C.
10. Erie-Meadville, Pa.
Top 10 Locations: Small City
1. Lincoln-Beatrice, Neb.
2. Fargo-Wahpeton, N.D.-Minn.
3. Rochester-Austin, Minn.
4. Sioux City-Vermillion, Iowa-S.D.-Neb.
5. Wausau-Stevens Point-Wisconsin Rapids, Wis.
6. Eau Claire-Menomonie, Wis.
7. Edwards-Glenwood Springs, Colo.
8. Mankato-New Ulm-North Mankato, Minn.
9. Midland-Odessa, Texas
10. Harrisonburg-Staunton-Waynesboro, Va.
Source: United States Census Bureau, American Fact Finder, 2017 American Community Survey, Table S2301 Employment Status — Calculations by Author.
6. Take Advantage of Any Offered Education. Any organization, business to government, always offers some type of free training to upskill workers at a variety of ability levels. Take advantage of these classes whenever they are offered. Focus on classes and skills that will make you unique, valued, and versatile within a variety of roles. Skills in data use, technology, data visualization, cost reductions, productivity improvement, leadership, business growth, and customer satisfaction are in demand in every industry.
7. Teach the Next Generation of Leaders. Being an expert in your current role is good. Being an expert and a teacher in your current role is awesome. Teaching the next generation of leaders and co-workers within your organization clearly separates an employee as a leader and a highly valued participant. Generational teaching within the organization is also a way to learn new skills from younger employees and build inter-generational connections among employees.
8. Understand the Capabilities & Shortfalls of the Most Recent Technology. New technology and different ways of doing business hold both peril and promise. Attending conferences, reading the latest business news, keeping up-to-date on podcasts, and listening to leading speakers are all ways to understand how the latest technology helps and hurts an organization’s success. You do not have to be an expert but understanding how a new piece of technology can help, or not help, your area in a business makes you an asset.
9. Expect a Shock to Your Career … Soon. Every single employee at every single level in an organization should always expect an immediate change to their employment status. This is not paranoia, this is a current workforce reality. Regardless of your skill, level in the organization, and prior contributions there are changes driven by international trade, brand value changes, disruptive technology, state tax breaks, and breakout competitors that will affect your employment due to no fault of your own. Having a growing network, modern skills, a strong personal brand, and living in a dynamic economic community will keep your career prospects strong.
The New Year always brings a reexamination of your current and future career aspirations. Make 2020 a year of focus, determination, upskilling, and creating multiple, independent options for your ongoing career success.
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Chad Storlie is a retired U.S. Army Special Forces officer and an adjunct Professor of Marketing at Flagler College. He is a mid-level B2B marketing executive and a widely published author on leadership, business, military and technology topics.