Regardless of the tough economy--and the feeling you have to spend work longer because of your office's lean workforce--don't take your eye off the real ball: your next career move.
Always look ahead, and keep taking action, says Lucy Apthorp Leske, vice president, partner and co-director of the education and not-for-profit practice at the executive search firm Witt/Kieffer. Neglecting your career puts you at risk for missing out on the right opportunity when it comes along and, even worse, being unprepared if you should lose the job you have.
And while now may be a time to step back, assess career goals, and try to move ahead, you also should be doing some systematic work to be ready for the next move. It's not just about refreshing your resume, but also about getting the kinds of experiences that make you ready for the next move.
Here are some of Leske's suggestions about what you can do to keep your career plans fresh and prepare yourself for change.
* Get out of your office. Despite deadlines and current demands, don't forget to stay visible - among peers, other departments and higher-ups.
* Keep your resume up-to-date. You'd be surprised how few people make this a priority. A current resume allows you to respond quickly if a job opportunity comes up. More important, it keeps your achievements fresh in your own mind.
* Stay on the lookout. You'll rarely find your next career step if you're not watching out for opportunities for professional development either inside or outside your current organization.
* Stay current. If you're not regularly reading about industry trends in trade, business and general publications, checking out online sources and staying current on trends in your industry, you're compromising your career growth.
* Be a thought leader. Take what you know and tell others - write articles, make presentations, serve on panels, post blogs
* Reinvent yourself. Don't be afraid to reinvent yourself - even if it pushes you outside your comfort zone. Be willing to take on new tasks, even if you fail.
* Be a lifetime learner. Learning sharpens your thinking, keeps you fresh, inspires new ideas and helps you recognize your strengths and areas for development.
* Seek opportunities to gain line management experience.
* Ask for advice before you need it. It's worth developing a good relationship with a search consultant or mentor in your field even when you're not looking for a job.
* Give back. While it's simply not always possible given professional and personal demands on your time, service to others can help you stay grounded, improve the lives of those in need and meet like-minded people.
* Never stand still. You run the risk of career stagnation if you've had your current job with the same role and responsibilities too long. If you've been in your position several years - and you're bored, rarely challenged and/or doing the same things repeatedly - you're cheating yourself. At minimum, you're not making the most of the job you have.