By Nancy Yu
Making a big career move can be intimidating. Taking a new career path, changing employers, starting a new business, going back to school, or any kind of drastic change in your life often comes with a lot of risks. Whether or not you are ready to take that leap or find yourself working tirelessly to accomplish your goals, there are simple and small steps you can do now that can make a significant and positive impact on your future.
Chat with a Friend
Sometimes people find it too personal to share their professional problems or seek career advice from their friends, colleagues, or a new acquaintances. However, opening yourself to others in that aspect of your life may as a consequence, open doors to new, unexpected opportunities. For example, your friend from college may have a close friend who is hiring someone just like you. Or the person you commute with every day may be the hiring manager at a major tech company. Whoever it may be, your connections and relationships can put you at an advantageous position.
Keep in mind that not every conversation will lead to a dramatic change in your life, but consistently maintaining your network and forming relationships with people can not only be fun and emotionally rewarding, it can also be invaluable to your professional endeavors. So go out there and have coffee with a friend! Make small talk with the person who sits next to you on the train! Do not undervalue the resources your network of friends, colleagues, and acquaintances can bring.
Invest in Yourself
Set yourself apart from other similar candidates. Pursuing a higher education often requires a significant amount of money, time, and emotional investment that you may not have at the moment. However, you can still better yourself professionally with the resources you can currently afford. Consider pursuing a certificate in your industry. Whether you are interested in software engineering, business, digital/social marketing, or finance, there are programs available that can help you stand out above the rest. These programs can add experience, technical skills, and increase your value as an employee. Regardless of what industry you are in, there are different certification programs available that are not only cost-effective, but also self-paced.
Furthering your education can be self-taught as well. Consider also taking on a side project, whether it is making your hobbies profitable, working on a start-up, freelance work, or volunteering, challenging yourself to new opportunities is an education in itself. Through these experiences, you can learn entrepreneurship, management, leadership, and hands-on training. Remember that although not all education results in an institution-issued piece of paper, it does that make the education any less valuable.
Speak Up for Yourself
If you believe you deserve a raise, then in all likelihood, you do! Not surprisingly, not all well-deserved raises are given. More often, they need to be asked before they are received. Having a conversation about a small pay bump can result in thousands of dollars over time. People who negotiate their starting salary early on in their careers by just $5,000 can earn more than $600,000 over a 40-year career. Although asking for a salary increase may be uncomfortable at first, it is important to speak up for yourself and be your own advocate. Be confident and assertive and remind your boss of your value. It may even help set the stage for future advancement.
Not all changes in your life have to be drastic. You may not be ready – we get it. But changes can also be small – coffee with a friend, a side project you have always wanted to work on, or speaking up for yourself at work. These smaller career moves are nonetheless impactful in their own right. These incremental improvements and investments in your life will move you, whether slowly or swiftly, in the right direction: forward.