As much as I love summer, the final days of August often seem tired and worn out, and I look forward to the snap of fall that often occurs shortly after Labour Day. This final summer holiday also signals a time of transition as we prepare for a new cycle to start all over again.
Yesterday was the first day of the new school year in Ontario. To mark the day, Gill Deacon‒host of CBC’s Here and Now‒asked listeners how they were getting their children ready to ease back into school routines, and they provided lots of tips. She also asked what new starts the adults had planned for themselves. Responses ranged from more education, a return to artistic pursuits and a number focused on starting a search for a new job. I guess we all spent so many years in the classroom that September feels like another “new year” no matter what our age and stage!
Each fall, our low-key, laid back summer selves pull it together and recommit to getting serious. While January 1st New Year's Resolutions seem more like making up for holiday indulgence, those forged in September–whether a new hobby, a class you’re going to take or a career management plan–feel appropriate for this time of year. And our inner calendar is mirrored by the organizational, as the professional meetings and events that wrapped up in June often launch with a flourish this month.
As you head into this other new year, here are 6 “back-to-school tips” I’ve adapted to help you launch your September career planning:
- If you have fallen out of your routine this summer, get back on track. In terms of career planning, this means–planning! Identify some SMART career goals, determine what action is needed to achieve them and seek the help you need to be effective in carrying them out. Then put those actions you’ve identified into your schedule so career management becomes a habit.
- Prepare for career chats by doing your homework. Researching the industry/company/contact and drafting a set of questions you want to ask will lead to more productive meetings and prevent much stress in the long run (see my previous blog on networking). Both Google and LinkedIn are invaluable resources for this.
- Put together a “shopping list” of what will give you career satisfaction. Determining what you want in a new job/career ahead of time will create focus for your own activity and help you clarify your message to others who can assist you. Self-assessment, targeted research and informational interviews combined with coaching from someone who can listen, respond and ask key questions can provide structure and support for the process.
- Save time on busy days by prepping for networking meetings and interviews in advance. This means keeping your résumé relevant as well as up to date, using a spreadsheet or contact management system to track your career exploration and/or job search activity and having a great go-to outfit for last minute meetings.
- Understand what to expect during job interviews. These days, many of my clients are experiencing screening interviews via phone or Skype, panel interviews, presentations and meetings with all stakeholders, not just hiring managers. Head off anxiety by preparing for every eventuality. Then once you are in the meeting, you can focus on being fully present so you get your message across and determine if the role is a good fit.
- Prepare for socializing in the job search. Learning how to balance the niceties of conversation with getting down to business is crucial. My corporate clients tell me they are looking for candidates who not only have the “hard” skills they seek, but are adept interpersonally as well.
Since September is clearly a month of new starts and fresh beginnings, I’ll leave you with a question: What’s your career resolution for this “other new year”?