Almost 15 years ago, I graduated with a degree in communications and pursued a career in magazine publishing. Today, I find myself in a unique position. I left magazine publishing for a period to live overseas as a missionary, and now, returning to the job market in the U.S., technology has changed everything.
Unfortunately, my skill set, especially in technology, hasn’t grown with the changing market. Print media is a dying art form, and I need to find a way to catch up with the ever-changing market to land a new job.
Maybe you’re also trying to find your way back to using your college degree. Possibly, you have a stable job and want to stay on top of the learning curve, remaining marketable in your field. Through my challenges and discoveries, I decided to talk to a few professionals in other job fields to see what they’d say about staying marketable within their careers. Their advice relates to many different job opportunities.
1. Add new skills to your career tool belt.
For 33-year-old Blake Hicks, continuing in his stable position as a registered nurse is always an option. However, he desires to stay marketable and move into a managerial role and eventually become a nurse practitioner. Learning new things and adding to the skills he already has must be a priority.
“It depends on what state you’re licensed and working in, but in order to stay marketable in this field you need to keep up your nursing dues and continuing education,” Hicks says. “For me, the 20 hours of required continuing education each year, just to maintain my current position, can be divided into online classes, instructive classes and even good reviews from my supervisor.”
Hicks notes most hospitals are willing to work with and even hire nurses who need to refresh their skills. Many hospitals offer classes onsite to refresh a nursing skill set such as working advanced IV pumps, understanding lab values for drawing blood, performing needle sticks and administering vaccinations.
“Depending on which area of the medical field you’re headed toward, you may need to know specific techniques or skills. For example, if you’re focused in critical care you’d need to know how to read an EKG and how to operate a ventilator,” Hicks says. He works in the psych ward of a hospital and has to stay up-to-date with changing medications or how to document a patient’s diagnosis.
Another way you can stay current in the nursing field is through nursing organizations. To keep up with your credentials, technology and the advancements of medications you can join a nursing association. For example, there are the American Nurses Association, American Psychiatric Nurses Association, Association of Women’s Health, Obstetric and Neonatal Nurses, etc., Hicks says. These associations usually require a membership fee, but it is well worth it for you to stay current and relevant in the changing medical field.
Adding skills to your job tool belt is important for any position. Decide how you want to advance and what skills are needed to get there. Advancement doesn’t always require formal education. Find out what resources your employer may offer. Some companies offer free membership for online courses that relate to your job field, such as Lynda.com.
2. Maintain strong working relationships.
Before landing a teaching job, Karen Cooke, a 34-year-old third-grade teacher, made sure she stopped by the principal’s office after subbing in a school where she would like to be hired.
“I’d stop by the office and ask if the principal was available. If they had a moment to talk, I’d introduce myself and mention I enjoyed subbing at their school,” Cooke says.
Going out of your way and building strong working relationships is important from the beginning. Things have changed a lot since Cooke graduated with her bachelor’s in education; even professional relationships communicate mostly through technology, such as email.
“This is a quick way to get messages to one another. We just don’t have as much time anymore for those face-to-face meetings,” Cooke says. This is all the more reason you have to work harder to maintain these professional relationships, especially with your supervisor. Anytime you can make face-to-face contact, the better chance there is you’ll be remembered and possibly sought out for a new project or opportunity.
The education field can be quite competitive with many graduating with education degrees, and depending on the state and area, there’s not always a plethora of teaching positions, Cooke says. It’s a necessity to have a current teaching license as well as staying relevant with how teachers use the latest technology in the education field. Check to see what your state requires, and consider attending a local school board meeting to find out about the issues in a certain school corporation.
The teaching field has changed quite a bit through the years. Students who once used paper and pencil to complete daily tasks are now using smartboards, computers and e-readers to gather information, learn skills and even take standardized tests. Staying marketable in this field could also require continuing education courses. “Whatever you need to do to stay marketable, most of all, have a positive attitude,” Cooke says.
A positive attitude may make you memorable to the people you meet in any job field. Use opportunities such as local meetings, conferences or workshops related to your career to maintain and grow your professional relationships. As you get to know more people in your field, you’ll recognize how they could help you advance. Don’t settle for communicating via technology; a face-to-face appointment, personal note, a phone call, and going above and beyond what’s required still make lasting, positive impressions and help maintaining relationships within every job field.
3. Research your job field, and find a mentor to learn from.
Tim Luzano, a 32-year-old senior financial analyst, recommends using search engines to stay current and marketable in the accounting and finance job field.
“Google to find out what technology and programs are being used in the field or even at the company where you want to work. This way you can familiarize yourself with some of the terms,” Luzano says. “Once you have a handle on the terminology and software being used, begin to connect with people who are where you want to be in the field, possibly through sites like LinkedIn.”
“If you’re able to make a connection and gain a contact, then take the time to pick their brain. Tell them what you’re familiar with about the field, and ask them what may have changed in recent years. Seek advice from this contact for next steps in landing a new job or advancing your career,” Luzano says. This same networking contact could come back at a later date and tell you about a job in his or her company. This person will already know your strengths, and since you’ve made an effort to be teachable, it may lead to a job opportunity. As you maintain this professional relationship, consider asking a contact like this to mentor you so you can learn more about how they stay updated in the industry and advance in their career.
When looking at the latest job descriptions in the finance world, Luzano says having a Master of Business Administration or being qualified as a Certified Public Accountant adds more weight in advancing your career. Luzano mentioned one of his goals in his finance career is for more involvement in business management.
“As you do your research, find out who the big players are in a specific industry,” Luzano says. This field can be very competitive, and you want to know what you need in order to get to where you want to go.
Whether or not your career dreams are in the financial realm, researching your job field and finding a mentor are important tips to consider. Depending on the career, your needed skill set may change every few months. In some job fields, there are regularly new software programs to help make tasks more manageable. Many times, it’s those who take the time to know what’s coming who stay ahead of the learning curve and advance in their career.
Find thought-leaders in your industry and follow them on Twitter, follow their blogs and receive their email marketing to keep up with the constantly changing conversation about a career path that interests you.
4. Market your unique experience.
One thing I’ve learned from my job hunt and crafting resumes is finding ways to market myself and my unique life experiences. In 2012 while living overseas, I had the opportunity to volunteer at the summer Olympics in London. While I thought I’d be serving street-side handing water to the public, they needed me to assist writing press releases to pitch to local, national and international news outlets. I may have lost some on-the-job learning by leaving the field and moving overseas, but there are also a few perks to what I’ve gained along the way. Look at the experiences you’ve had, even as a volunteer, and include some of those unique experiences on your résumé.
Maybe you find your résumé is pretty typical, and you want to add some flavor to your experience. Discover what organizations/nonprofits your company partners with or supports, and volunteer for one. You may also consider an out-of-the-box opportunity that would grow your experience and benefit the company where you’re employed.
There are many job fields out there and more tips on how to stay marketable in a variety of careers. Maybe you’re at a crossroads with your degree and considering a job switch. Ultimately, staying marketable is all about marketing you. As you strive for excellence in all you do, show present and future employers you’re not only worth keeping, but also worth promoting.
Copyright 2015 Krishana Kraft. All rights reserved.