[You & the Recession] 3 Tips to Boost Your Career in Today’s Economy

The economy feels like it’s moving sideways even though data suggests it’s ever-so-slightly improving. Promotional opportunities are few for people with jobs, and budgets for developmental activities such as conferences may have been slashed.

If you do a few simple things in your job life now your career can take a better route than simply hunkering down and waiting for the economy to improve.

Why is this important?

Because managing your career – right along with taking care of your family – is your job Number One. The tendency for most people in a choppy economy is to hunker down. Like waiting out a storm, people sit back, try to get out of the line of the storm, and sit.

Not you.

While others are waiting for things to pass, you can do three things now to separate yourself from others, providing you a career boost others will miss.

1 – Volunteer for special projects

With most people hunkered down and most companies not growing, promotional opportunities are fewer and farther between: gaining those new experiences that add to your career skills through moving up are restricted. Another way, though, is to get those experiences through special projects. It adds to your experience and skill base, might give you broader exposure within or outside of your firm, and keeps your job skills sharp.

In particular though target experiences or settings that add to your resume. Doing the same iteration of something does little after four or five times. Better that your special project add to your background: working in a marketing project, for example, if you have little marketing experience.

2 – Do volunteer work outside your job

Employers to a near-fault value initiative: people who do things above and beyond their “day job” because they think about doing more within their jobs rather than less. Upping your volunteer activity is one way to show that initiative, particularly if those options (e.g. special projects) are not available through your work.

One tip though: think about how to maximize that experience. If you’re active in your church, for example, do your volunteer work outside of the church setting (homeless shelter programs, youth programs, etc.) so you not only pick up the experience but you do it with relative strangers so you can expand your career network to people you don’t know rather than people you already know.

And as noted above, make the experience additive by working in a role or area that (marketing for example if you’re a finance person) adds to skills and experiences.

3 – Help pay for the cost to attend conferences

While development and travel budgets may have been slashed, you can use your time and your nickel to attend those conferences. I’ve seen people “split the cost” – which is common in areas such as education and non-profits – with their supervisors by getting the paid time off from their company but paying for any outside costs such as travel, registration, or housing personally so they can attend conferences.

Rather than missing those conferences, attending them keeps you current professionally AND keeps you in the mix of people in your professions so you are “top of mind” rather than forgotten when career opportunities arise.

Anything else?

Probably, but the gist of what you should take away is the slack and down economy is not the time to run and hide. It is the time to manage your career as you should: actively and with some smarts.