50 Tips on How to Advance Your Career in Just 15 Minutes Every Day
By Stephen Dupont, APR
What is the secret to a great story?
It’s this: With every sentence, the story advances.
Word by word, sentence by sentence, paragraph by paragraph, page by page, the story moves forward.
Each word and each sentence compels the reader to read the next word and the next sentence and the next page.
This is how great books, movies, speeches and albums are built.
And, it’s how you should think about building your career.
Sure, there are some shortcuts you can take on the way to your desired career goals. But, more often than not, it’s about hitting a lot of singles to move from base to base.
The problem is that many people put off career development until they reach a crisis in their lives (a layoff, disagreement with the new boss, etc.) or face a big decision (move across the country to pursue a job, spouse wants to start a business) that leaves them scrambling to do everything at once (update resume, update LinkedIn, networking meetings, informational coffees, etc.).
Responding to such situations isn’t career development. While sometimes you might come out ahead, such as obtaining a much better job than you had before, more often than not, you’re limiting yourself to a narrow set of choices.
The point of continuous, long-term career development is to create a broad range of options (and opportunities) that consistently flow into your life regardless of economic conditions or inevitable changes.
So, how can we apply this concept to your career?
Here’s what I would suggest, based on what I try to do every day with my own career: spend at least 15 minutes doing at least one thing that advances your career forward.
Think of it like investing in your 401k or IRA retirement account.
With each paycheck, you have a small amount taken out to buy shares of a mutual fund, which grows over time. Before you know it, you have this huge nest egg.
This same principal works with small investments in your career. Over time, opportunities and options multiply as magically as compound interest.
Here are 50 practical actions that you can take on any given day to move your career forward. Of course, there will be times when you need to spend more time, such as taking a class to learn a new skill or meeting with a mentor to discuss your career.
But, if you follow these tips — all doable within 15 minutes — and do at least one a day, you will feel a sense of accomplishment as you watch each investment of time add up to something bigger.
1.) Every Sunday evening, before you head back to the office, take 15 minutes to write a list of the most important things you need to accomplish in the next week.
2.) Create a bucket list — take 15 minutes to write a list of the 10 to 20 things you most want to do or achieve in your life.
3.) Write about the five things you fear the most and think about how you will overcome those fears.
4.) Write out seven words that best describe you now, and the seven words that you would love others to use to describe you and your approach to work and life.
5.) Take the “Strengths Finders” assessment to learn more about your personal/career strengths.
6.) Start a new social media account to learn how it works. For example, if you think Snapchat might be an important social media platform to connect with customers, get on it to learn how it works so you can speak with confidence about it.
7.) Listen to a podcast on your way to work. I recommend the Moth Radio Hour, The Tim Ferriss Show, Seth Godin’s Startup School, and The Moth, among others.
8.) Sign up for a webinar that may offer new insights on your work skills, your industry, or a big trend.
9.) Read an article or the chapter of a book on your field, business in general, career development or another area. For book ideas, check out this list.
10.) Start writing an article that you’d like to publish on LinkedIn or Medium. Even if you don’t feel like you’re an expert, writing an article is a great way to think about a particular issue or trend. Interview other experts to include their insights in your article.
11.) Watch a YouTube video to learn about a new skill or experience that could enhance your abilities.
12.) Read up on a new trend that may affect your work in the years to come, such as blockchain, cryptocurrencies or artificial intelligence.
13.) Take 15 minutes to actually read one of the e-newsletters that you receive each day in your email.
14.) Sign up to attend an industry conference that will allow you to collect new ideas, help you learn about new technology, and/or allow you to network with more people within your industry.
15.) Look into getting an advanced degree or a certificate in a specific skill (such as coding or data analytics). If you think you might need a masters degree, look at the job descriptions that you can easily find online to see what levels of education are needed to reach a specific career goal, such as being a vice president within a company.
16.) Deliver great customer service. Take an extra 15 minutes to do something unexpected that will delight a customer.
17.) Interview a customer to learn more about how your company and its brands have transformed a customer’s life.
18.) Email an interesting article with your observations to a client or another person within your company with whom you’d like to foster a better working relationship.
19.) Sign up for a seminar to learn a new skill that will enhance your ability to serve your clients better.
20.) Update your LinkedIn profile.
21.) Update your resume (even if you’re not looking). You never know when you’ll need it.
22.) Get a new photo(s) for your LinkedIn page taken (and other social media, too).
23.) Create a list of key words or phrases that you want associated with your personal brand. Use these words to revise your LinkedIn page, your resume, and anywhere else on the Internet where there may be a profile or bio about you.
24.) Revise your personal bio (one paragraph describing yourself).
Put Yourself Out There
25.) Join a professional association, or, if you already belong to one, sign up for a committee.
26.) Ask if you can write a blogpost for the company’s blog, or for the blog published by a professional association to which you belong.
27.) Write an endorsement for another person on their LinkedIn page, or a review for a brand you love.
28.) Set up an experiment. If you’ve always wanted to create and sell your art, how about setting a date from a year from now and set a goal of creating 20 pieces of art to sell at your art sale. Invite all of your friends (and their friends) over for that event and see what happens.
30.) Immediately following an industry meeting or seminar, invite someone you met at the event to join your LinkedIn network.
31.) Send an email to set up an informational coffee with another professional within your industry. Even if you’re not looking, building relationships with others in your industry is important in building a strong network, and in learning new things about your industry.
32.) Grab a coffee with your boss and learn more about the big challenges facing your company or industry.
33.) Invite a group of peers within your industry to get together for coffee to talk about your career experiences and learn how you can help each other out.
34.) Send a thank-you email to someone in your life who has helped you out. For example, if an older professional in your industry offered his or her time to do an informational interview with you, send them a little note to let them know where you’re at in your career and to thank them for their help.
35.) Ask a question on a professional online forum or share your wisdom or experience with a response.
36.) Contact a nearby college or university and offer to be a speaker based on your professional experience.
37.) Offer to judge an award program for your industry.
38.) Offer to volunteer to a cause or organization (beyond the one you work for) that you really believe in.
39.) Write a list of things in your life for which you are thankful.
40.) Contact a local college or university and offer to serve as a mentor to a student.
41.) Every morning before you start your day, take 15 minutes to write at least five ideas that will enhance your career, your work, etc. Have a specially designated notebook to write out your ideas, such as people in your industry that you’d like to meet, places you would like to travel, things you could do to make your workplace operate more efficiently, etc.
42.) Grab a few of your work colleagues or friends and conduct a 15-minute power brainstorm about an upcoming work challenge, or about how to advance your careers.
43.) Unsubscribe to all email lists that do not provide value to your career.
44.) Clean out your desk or cube — get rid of all of the paper and other stuff you don’t need any more.
45.) Clean house — eliminate Facebook “friends” who stress you out or anger you with their posts.
46.) Organize the desktop on your laptop so you can find things more easily. Empty the trash on your computer and back-up (with a separate hard drive) everything on your laptop.
47.) Turn off your screen at least one hour before you go to bed (try to get at least 7 to 8 hours of sleep!) and take 15 minutes to write out the three most important tasks you need to complete the next day. Put that list in your briefcase or backpack and then read a book (with real paper).
48.) Before you turn out the lights to go to sleep, take a few minutes to meditate on three things that would bring more happiness into your life.
49.) Get your work-out gear ready the evening before and set your alarm to wake up at least 30 minutes earlier and then go for a walk, a run or go to the gym and work out.
50.) Make your own lunch at home in the morning — include healthy fruits and vegetables to help you avoid going out in the middle of the afternoon searching for a candy bar.
One Step at a Time
Fifteen minutes a day may not sound like a lot of time, but it is enough time to take action — to take that next step toward your career goals.
Remember this: It takes 58,070 steps to climb Mount Everest. You can only achieve that by putting one foot in front of another.
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Stephen Dupont, APR, is VP of Public Relations and Branded Content for Pocket Hercules (www.pockethercules.com), a creative brand powerhouse based in Minneapolis. Contact Stephen Dupont at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit his blog at www.stephendupont.co.
© Stephen Dupont, 2018