by Emma Norris
Chances are, when you think of “networking”, you picture yourself handing out business cards to suit-clad strangers in a crowded room. If, like me, you happen to be an introverted homebody, just the idea of being in such a situation probably makes you shudder.
Why would I be out in public making small talk with strangers and eating mayo-filled sandwiches (and there’s ALWAYS mayo) when I could be eating pizza on the lounge in my trackies?
That said, there’s no doubt that it’s important to be proactive about your career. Whether you work for a company, are a freelancer or run your own business, getting outside your career comfort zone can forge the path for exciting new career opportunities.
The good news is, doing so doesn’t necessarily have to involve networking in the traditional “corporate speed dating” sense. Here, career coach, HR professional and the owner of Pop Your Career, Rebecca McFarland, shares 5 ways you can give yourself a career boost without networking.
#1 Upskill by doing a course
If you’re still writing “proficient in Microsoft Word” or “represented my primary school in chess” on your CV, it may be time to think about expanding your skill set. Seeking further education is an excellent way to not only develop new skills, but to formalise the ones you have already (for example, you may have dabbled with SEO at work, but doing a course in it will help solidify that knowledge and tends to look better on paper.)
“Doing further study is a great way to learn new skills or hone the skills you have,” says Rebecca.
However, she adds that this doesn’t necessarily have to mean going back to uni. There are so many self-paced short courses these days you can complete from the comfort of your own home. While you can find online courses on just about anything these days (I’ve seen everything from self-hypnosis to becoming a professional dog psychologist), some good ones that are relevant across most industries are social media, digital marketing and project management.
Udemy and Lynda are great places to start, as they have a huge range of affordable short courses.
#2 Hire a career coach
If you feel a bit stuck in your career and don’t know what step to take next, it’s worth considering hiring a career coach. It’s a bit of an investment, but it’s one that could fast track your career success and save you a lot of sleepless nights obsessing over what to do next.
“Career coaching can be such a helpful tool, especially if you are looking for some clarity in your career,” Rebecca says.
Whether you’re looking to score that promotion, start that side hustle or transition into a new industry, a career coach can help you get clear on what you need to do to make that happen. However, Rebecca adds that if you’re looking for someone to tell you exactly what to do, you’re barking up the wrong tree.
“A career coach’s role is to facilitate you finding your own answers, which is far more powerful,” she says.
#3 Update your LinkedIn profile
If your LinkedIn profile is gathering (metaphorical) dust and cobwebs, you could be missing out on some seriously great career opportunities. Research shows that 95% of recruiters use LinkedIn to find talent.
“Using LinkedIn is a great way to access the hidden job market,” Rebecca says. “Instead of waiting for jobs to be advertised, you can be proactive by promoting yourself as a suitable candidate to potential employers.”
While it’s creepy to add the CEO of your dream employer on Facebook, it’s totally fine on LinkedIn. It’s a professional networking platform – that’s the whole point! Even if they’re not hiring at the time, they may look at the impressive skills and experience listed on your profile and keep you in mind for when they are. Of course, you’re going to need a kickass profile for that to happen. Check out our guide to using LinkedIn like a pro.
#4 Find a mentor
Remember how we told you a career coach won’t tell you what to do? A mentor will. Well, they may not “tell” you, per se, but they’ll make suggestions based on things they’ve experienced in their own career.
“Unlike a career coach, a mentor provides advice based on their own experiences,” Rebecca says. “A mentor relationship is usually developed over a long period of time and can be just what you need if you know what you want to achieve, but need help with the ‘how’.”
Not only can a mentor provide guidance, they’re a great source of support and may be able to introduce you to resources and people (yes, networking, but not the awkward kind!) that will help you get ahead in your career. Need help finding the right mentor? Check out these simple steps.
#5 Ask for a testimonial
It’s all well and good to shout from the rooftops about how good you are at what you do. But it means a lot more coming from someone who has actually worked with you. This is why testimonials are an invaluable resource when it comes to giving yourself a career boost. Essentially, a testimonial is a written reference or review about the quality of your work and your work ethic.
“Testimonials can help you get a new job, secure a new client or even convince your boss to let you to take the lead on an exciting project,” Rebecca says. “Check in with previous managers, colleagues, clients, suppliers or anyone else who can comment on your work.”
Once you have this little nugget of gold, you can use it everywhere: on your LinkedIn profile, CV, personal website or on a client proposal.
Don’t forget that career rejection is not uncommon, nor the end of the world. It’s always possible to get over that career slump.