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Here’s Your 6-Month Road Map to a Better Job in 2020

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Do you want to get a promotion in 2020? Or find a better job at a new company? No matter what your career goal is, coming up with a road map to help you achieve it is the best way to start. The first step is determining where you are in your career and where you want to be.

It’s possible to get a better job in just six months — as long as you have a clear beginning and endpoint. GOBankingRates spoke with career experts about the action items you can take each month to land a better job in 2020.

Last updated: Dec. 19, 2019

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Month 1: Network

“I tell my clients the No. 1 key to finding the job you want, or taking your career to the next level, is to network,” said Keith R. Sbiral, certified professional coach with Apochromatik.

Job opportunities are often found through people you’re personally connected to, so networking can give you a big leg up in your job search. Here’s how to go about it.

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Make One New Connection Every Week

“[Networking] isn’t easy for some people [but] if you break it down, it can be,” Sbiral said. “My suggestion is to make one new connection, either through LinkedIn or in person, each and every week.”

By the end of the month, you’ll have four new contacts — and if you keep this going for the entire six months, you’ll have 24 new contacts.

“Your network is more likely to land you a new job than all the internet searches you can do,” Sbiral said. “This strategy takes a minimal amount of time per week and will build a rock-solid foundation for your career.”

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Ask Friends or Family To Refer You to People They Know

In addition to making new connections on your own, you can ask your friends and family members to refer you to people who are already in their networks.

“Ask your friends and family if they know anyone who is hiring,” said Ellen Mullarkey, VP of business development for Messina Staffing Group. “Personal connections are one of the top ways that people find out about opportunities, so start reaching out to people.”

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Take Advantage of Networking Events

Roger Maftean, a career expert at ResumeLab, recommends searching Eventbrite and Meetup for events related to your desired industry.

“[Attending these events is] the most organic and down-to-earth way to network and schmooze,” Maftean said. “It’s imperative that you’re not desperate but rather come off as open to new opportunities. There are plenty of these for most industries and, more often than not, free entry too.”

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Month 2: Learn a New Skill

“Investing in yourself and continuing your education, or adding new tools to your skill set, is going to help you advance … throughout your career,” said Val Streif, a former career advisor for Mentat. “There are so many free courses available online to learn almost anything, so plan to spend a little bit of your free time consistently working on something to improve yourself, whether it’s programming, Photoshop, learning a new language — anything that makes you an asset to a higher-level position is going to be a big help.”

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Take a Free Course on Coursera

One of the best resources for free online courses is Coursera. You can find courses specific to your industry or take a course that could help you in any career. Popular free courses include “Learning How To Learn: Powerful Mental Tools To Help You Master Tough Subjects” and “Successful Negotiation: Essential Strategies and Skills.”

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Get a New Certification

Some career paths require you to get new certifications to climb the job ladder. If this is the case for you, start looking into which certifications will help you move up the ranks and what’s required to get them. Many certifications can now be acquired through online courses.

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Consider Enrolling In a Graduate Program Part Time

Perhaps your career would benefit from getting a higher degree in your given field. You probably won’t be able to finish a degree in a year — especially if you’re attending classes part time — but it’s certainly something you can start now to get a better job down the line.

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Month 3: Identify a Challenge at Your Company and Come Up With a Plan To Solve It

“Companies do not hire people to just complete tasks — they hire people to solve business challenges,” said Daniel Mori, president and chair of Employment Solutions.

Whether you want to land a new job or get a promotion at your current company, being a proactive problem solver will help you achieve that goal.

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Identify the Problem

If you’re seeking an internal promotion, talk to your manager or boss about any challenges they need help solving and come up with executable solutions. Being the person who solves a major issue at your company will get the attention of the higher-ups when it comes time for promotions.

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Once You’ve Solved the Problem, Update Your Resume and LinkedIn Profile

Solving major challenges at your current job will also make you a more appealing candidate should you ever seek employment elsewhere.

“When preparing a resume, CV and LinkedIn profile, [a job seeker] should frame their current employment to highlight the challenges they solve and the benefits [they provide] to the company,” Mori said.

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Month 4: Perform the Duties of the Job You Want — Even if They’re Not Part of Your Current Job Description

“You’ll have a far better chance of advancing higher in the food chain if you’re already performing some of the duties required of that next level,” said Dan Clay, career strategist and author of “How to Write the Perfect Resume.” “Assuming you’re already performing well in your current role, you should actively seek opportunities to build experience doing the types of things you’d be doing in the role you hope to get to. The more you can prove that you’re already capable of doing the work at the next level, the easier the decision will be to put you there.”

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Mentor New Employees

If you want to move into a management position, volunteering to train or mentor a new employee will show that you’re ready for the responsibility of being a leader for others on your team.

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Take On a Project No One Else Wants To

If there’s a project that others on your team have been avoiding, be the one to step up to the plate and tackle it. Even if the project doesn’t directly fall under your responsibilities, it’s a good way to show you’re up for new challenges. This will impress your higher-ups when it comes time for promotions.

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Share the Workload of Someone in Your Target Position

One of the best ways to prepare for tasks required of someone in your ideal position is to actually do them. Ask someone in a more senior position if there’s anything they need help with and then lend them a hand with their workload. When it comes time to ask for a promotion, you’ll have tangible proof that you’re up for taking on the work required at the next level.

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Month 5: Brush Up on Your Interview Skills

Whether you seek an internal promotion or a new job, you’ll likely have to answer some questions about why you’re the best person to fill the position. Interview questions usually fall into set topic areas, so as long as you’re prepared to discuss them, you should nail the job interview.

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Know Which Questions You’re Likely To Be Asked

“Research the top most commonly asked interview questions,” said Jaime Chapman, a resume writer, career coach and founder of Begin Within. “Prepare a story for each category: leadership style, problem-solving, teamwork, balancing competing priorities, meeting tough deadlines, strengths/weaknesses, etc. The stories should be easy to remember, visual and explain your expertise at the skill.”

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Prepare Questions To Ask Your Interviewer

Interviewers will typically ask you if you have any questions for them at the end of an interview. If you haven’t thought ahead about this, you might just say “no,” which could indicate a lack of interest. Prep a few questions to ask your interviewer so you’re ready when the time comes. These might include:

  • What characteristics do you look for in an employee?
  • How do you measure success in this role and what are the best ways to achieve it?
  • What are the opportunities for professional development?

Having insightful questions prepared can impress your interviewer and help you make it to the next step in the application process.

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Practice, Practice, Practice

Ask a friend or family member to conduct a mock interview with you so you get the experience saying your answers out loud. You should also consider recording the interview so you can see exactly how you sound and tweak your answers as needed.

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Month 6: Establish Yourself as an Expert

If you want to climb the career ladder, make yourself a sought-after expert in your field. Doing so will make your current employer more eager to hold onto you and new employers more eager to hire you.

“The opportunities are limitless to put yourself out there,” Chapman said. “Don’t be afraid to brag a little bit. Building your [reputation] as an expert in your field will create a demand for you.”

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Speak at Conferences

One of the most effective ways to get your name out there is to speak at conferences. Although this might seem like a lofty goal, it’s really not. We all have expertise we can share.

Begin by researching which conferences occur in your field and take note of their Call for Papers deadlines. Next, brainstorm possible topics you can discuss. A good rule of thumb is to raise a problem or question and then outline how you solved it or how others can solve it based on your experience.

You likely won’t be accepted to every conference you apply for, so cast a wide net.

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Publish an Article

Becoming a published author is a great way to establish yourself as an expert. Search for publications that fit your field and area of expertise and pitch your idea for a guest submission. As with conferences, you’re likely to face rejection in this process, but keep plugging away. The payoff could really be worth it.

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Teach a Webinar

Webinars let you connect with a wider audience, build your network and show off your knowledge. All you need is a web camera, presentation slides and webinar software such as BigMarker, and you’re ready to go.

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Appear as a Guest on a Podcast

If you’re not comfortable hosting a webinar but still want to get your name out there in a similar format, consider appearing as an expert guest on a podcast. Search for podcasts that cover your industry and send personalized emails to the podcast hosts about what you would be able to contribute as a guest. Once you get booked, make sure you take plenty of time to prep your answers. End the interview by letting listeners — and potential new employers — know how they can reach you.

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