Figuring out how to become a more qualified, competitive job candidate can seem overwhelming. Often it feels as if you only have a handful of options to build your resume in any meaningful way – like earning additional degrees or simply gaining several more years of experience in your role.
But, in the meantime, there are other activities you could engage in that, while may not be on your immediate radar now, could actually go a long way to bolstering your professional reputation and increasing your chances of advancing in your career or field more quickly.
Learn a new language
While learning a new language or improving on your fluency of a foreign language may not be essential to your role, it does give your CV an impressive boost and indicates that you're a well-rounded, multi-skilled professional with something unique to offer. Also, if you're learning a language from scratch, be strategic when considering what to study. By choosing a language that has some kind of direct relevance to your field or to the industry, you'll strengthen your profile even more.
Take some time off
This may seem counter-intuitive, but a well-timed, well-thought-out leave of absence, whether it's a few weeks or a few months, can do wonders for your career. For starters, taking some time away can give you some much-needed perspective so you can re-evaluate your career goals and make a new plan of action to reach your goals. But, perhaps most importantly, it gives you time to engage in highly fulfilling activities that could potentially have a great impact on your career. For example, you may spend some time working on a book project or volunteering internationally. Perhaps you're taking a course or learning a valuable new skill. Make the most of your time "off," and immerse yourself in career-building activities that you enjoy and help to refocus your priorities.
Become an influencer
Not everyone is comfortable using social media as a tool for career advancement, but by understanding which channels are most frequently used or respected by your colleagues and learning to optimize your presence on these channels, you can build a pretty strong online reputation in your field. What kinds of things can you do online to become an influencer? Writing original content, posting videos, sharing relevant content, joining and contributing to relevant online groups and discussions, or engaging with other influencers in your field are all great ways to make your presence known.
Blog or vlog
One of the best ways to "brand" yourself as an influencer or an authoritative voice in your field is to produce regular high-quality content – both written and multimedia – that positions you as an expert in your field. This can reside on your own personal website or blog, which you then share with your colleagues, relevant publications, or on your social media channels. Or you can publish directly on social media. If you're reluctant to post a video, consider this: over 80% of all online traffic is projected to come from video by 2021.
Take a course in leadership or management
If you're especially interested in taking on more responsibility and moving up into a higher position of leadership in your organization (or with a new employer) but perhaps don't have years of experience in these types of roles under your belt, consider finding a good in-person or even online management or leadership course that won't pull you away too much from your regular job duties.
For academics this certainly isn't "out of the box" thinking, it's a required part of their job title. But, even if you work in fields such as sales, marketing, management, finance or tech, you can still give your professional reputation a boost by publishing your own writing – even an opinion piece – in an industry-relevant publication to establish yourself as a trusted authority in the space. Remember to include all links to your published pieces on your social media accounts, especially LinkedIn (and this includes articles where you may just be quoted – those are often just as effective because you're likely being presented as an "expert" on the subject).
Talk to a mentor
If you're stuck in a career rut and are trying to figure out ways to expand your skills or make it to the next level, who better to ask for advice than a trusted mentor who, ideally, knows the industry inside and out and has been in your shoes before. Getting someone else's perspective on where your career path is headed (someone outside of your close inner circle of family and friends) is an invaluable exercise and often yields some of the most insightful career advice you may ever receive. Don't have a mentor? Read this to learn how to go about finding and approaching a career mentor.