By Terri Eyden
Make 2012 the year you take steps – even if they're baby steps – to boost your career! We've put together ten ideas for you to consider.
"Nobody can go back and start a new beginning, but anyone can start today and make a new ending."
– Maria Robinson
1. Assess Yourself
Create a focus group of your friends and family members – those who know you best and where you're coming from, and those who will give you relevant feedback. Ask them what they consider to be your foremost talent, and write down what each of them tells you. Next, ask your focus group to list work-related attributes they believe apply to you, such as accountability, assertiveness, knowledge, creativity, decisiveness, and initiative.
Using the focus group list to prompt you, add words that speak of your unique qualities – your values, your passions, your special skills. Make a record of five key attributes that you want to accentuate for a target audience – whether that audience is your boss, your colleagues, your clients, or prospective clients.
Write a benefit-driven statement for each attribute that will resonate with your target. For example, you could make the claim that you're an effective communicator. To convey that, you could say to a prospective client, "What I bring to the table is effective communication. I'll listen to your needs, your concerns, and your goals, and then I'll respond to you honestly, based on my expertise as a CPA."
This process allows you to determine your distinguishing attributes and what you have to bring to the table.1
"In order that a man may be happy, it is necessary that he should not only be capable of his work, but a good judge of his work."
– John Ruskin
2. Brand Yourself
Brand yourself around your area of expertise and subjects you're knowledgeable and passionate about. Here are some ways to accomplish your branding goals:
- Speak at events
- Publish a blog
- Create a newsletter
- Write industry articles
- Hire a professional to build and maintain a website
- Add a tagline in your e-mail signature and business card
Take the necessary steps to make yourself synonymous with your expertise.2
"A brand is no longer what we tell the consumer it is – it is what consumers tell each other it is."
– Scott Cook
3. Take on new challenges
Asking for additional work demonstrates your interest and desire to help your firm succeed. It also puts a spotlight on your value within the firm. Before being asked to do something, take the initiative and do what needs to be done.
If you aspire to move beyond your current position, look for opportunities to volunteer or perhaps serve on an advisory board.
Become a mentor to someone either inside or outside your company. It's a great way to help you stand out and boost someone else's career as well.
Take on an assignment no one else wants; every assignment is an opportunity to differentiate yourself, so take advantage of it.
All your efforts will help build your reputation as a person who's passionate and dedicated to the industry.3
"Accept the challenges so that you may feel the exhilaration of victory."
– General George S. Patton, Jr.
4. Sharpen Your People Skills
Strong interpersonal skills are crucial to gaining the respect of your clients, your boss, and coworkers. Interpersonal skills will also attract the attention of others and open doors of opportunity for you.
Be friendly, outgoing, and personable.
Be a person of integrity. Warren Buffet, CEO, Berkshire Hathaway, said, "In looking for people to hire, you look for three qualities: integrity, intelligence, and energy. And if they don't have the first, the other two will kill you."
Treat people with respect. If you don't treat your clients and those around you with respect, they certainly won't want to do business with you or be associated with you.
Take an interest in people and get to know them. Ask questions and then let people tell you about themselves without interrupting. Give them the attention and focus they deserve. Listen.
When interacting with people, be yourself; otherwise, people will see right through you. Don't act like a different person in social situations than you do in business settings. Only when you're yourself can you be truly great.4
"It's nice to be important, but more important to be nice."
– Sally Hogshead
5. Be an Innovator
Never be afraid to think outside the box. Look for creative solutions to problems that will make you look and feel good. For example, find a novel way to cut costs or be the first to get trained in an up-and-coming technology.
Identify a task or project that could have a big impact, then write a proposal and pitch it to your boss. George Hollenbeck, an organizational psychologist said, "Few will say no if you have an idea for how things can work better."
Ideally, you won't have to take no for an answer. But, if your idea is shot down, "your ambition and enthusiasm will get noticed," says Robert Lee, an executive coach in New York City. "You're not likely to be a candidate for bigger positions if you never raise your hand."5
"You can't cross a sea by merely staring into the water."
6. Keep Learning
A proven way to advance in your career is to be continually acquiring new knowledge.
Stay on top of trends or developments in your field.
Take a class. While many employers are happy to pay for classes, such opportunities don't come to you – you have to ask for them. Sell the idea by showing how beneficial the class will be to the entire company. If your boss says no, consider paying for the course on your own. Not only will you gain knowledge, your boss will likely look at you with greater respect.6
Switch your career direction entirely or expand your career options. Consider becoming a Certified Forensic Accountant (CrFA), Certified Management Accountant (CMA), Certified Financial Manager (CFM), or Certified Accountant Technician (CAT).
Gain any and all skills that will make you stand out. Make yourself an essential team member.
"It's what you learn after you know it all that counts."
– John Wooden
7. Proactive Networking
Broaden your professional circles this year and reach out to a diverse socioeconomic group of people. Professionals who make it a habit to facilitate introductions are recognized as valuable resources and colleagues.
Following are examples of what you can do to become a proactive networker:
- Follow up immediately after every first encounter
- Offer to help people
- Find ways to stay in the minds of those with whom you network
- Host events to bring your network group together
- Make introductions/referrals on a regular basis
- Find ways to demonstrate your subject matter expertise
- Follow through when you commit to doing something for someone
- Socialize with clients or colleagues over lunch, dinner, or at social functions
- Join a local social networking group or Toastmasters7
"The successful networkers I know, the ones receiving tons of referrals and feeling truly happy about themselves, continually put the other person's needs ahead of their own."
– Bob Burg
8. Social Media – Take the Plunge
Social media is everywhere, and, as an accountant serving clients and working with colleagues, you need to get in the mix. Many people say they don't have time, they aren't tech savvy, they don't know where to begin, or they don't have the marketing skills to know which platform will best keep their services in the minds of their clients. But, you would be wise to learn about social media options and give social media marketing a chance.8
There are several platforms to consider, including LinkedIn
, and blogs
. Click on the links provided to sign up and create your profile or to learn more about each option.
It's important that you don't create profiles and then forget about them. You need to actively manage your online accounts and reputation in order to convince those who search online for your name that you're the one they need.
For more information about social media, search the Internet or read one of the many books available on the subject.
"Innovation needs to be part of your culture. Consumers are transforming faster than we are, and if we don't catch up, we're in trouble."
– Ian Schafer
9. Don't be afraid to be different
Being different is a major positive if you use it to your advantage. Your natural characteristics are what will – and likely, already have – set you apart in a positive way. When you're solidly grounded in who you are – with no apologies – you'll experience success.
True movers and shakers live their lives with conviction, and they rarely hide who they are. They celebrate the opportunity to stand out from the pack. So, if you're different, you already attract attention, which may be the best thing that ever happened to you.9
"Remember, no one can make you feel inferior without your consent."
– Eleanor Roosevelt
10. Appearances Matter
In any business situation, appearances count, even if we don't want to think so.
Think of yourself as a package. A package can be a powerful tool that, if used correctly, can influence a customer to buy your services. When packaging yourself, your audience is going to be both consciously and unconsciously influenced by the way you present yourself.
Let's start with your clothes. Today, dressing for success is about reflecting your authentic self in a way that attracts your target audience. Your clothes should express your professionalism, your creative energy, your talent, your warmth, your way of thinking, and your expertise.10
It's also important that your office is clean, organized, and uncluttered. Make it a welcoming place where your clients will feel comfortable.
Your website, business cards, and marketing materials also should look professional and be kept up-to-date.
"Keeping your clothes well pressed will keep you from looking hard pressed."
– Coleman Cox