The start of a new year can be a catalyst for the desire to advance your executive career and achieve professional growth. But what is the secret to reaching your annual executive goals?

Regardless of your target goal for 2018, the key to staying on track to improve your career trajectory is: proactivity. Whether you are hoping to change career, industry or position, or would like to build your network, become a thought-leader or negotiate for a higher salary in your current role, consistent proactivity is integral. Listed below are 7 ways that you can proactively take control and future-proof your career in 2018.

1. Understand What You Value Most in Your Career: 

Before you get started your career strategy, it is important to reflect on what you value most to ensure that you are heading in the right direction. Our Executive Director of BlueSteps Executive Career Services, Kathy Simmons, often recommends that her clients review their resume/ CV and cross-out with a pen all the skills and responsibilities that they might be good at, but that no longer excite them or leave them feeling fulfilled in their career. What is left are the components of your career that you most truly value. If you would like more help in defining your values, read our new “Global Guide to Personal Branding for Executives” which contains insightful exercises on this topic.

2. Create a Two-Tier Career Strategy

Once you understand your value and what you are working towards, you can proactively begin creating an executive career strategy. To maximize your efforts, it is best practice to split your career strategy into two: your internal strategy and your external strategy. Your internal strategy will focus on actions you can take within your current role that could help you to progress in your career, such as expanding your skillset, logging your professional achievements and strengthening relationships at your existing organization.

Your external strategy should focus on actions you can take outside of your role, such as networking with industry peers, researching potential opportunities, attending industry events, and building relationships with executive search consultants.


3. Develop Your Personal Brand

Your personal brand is something that is reflected in all your career materials (resume/ CV, cover letter, bio), your online profiles, your participation in speaking engagements and any thought leadership articles you publish. To create a stronger personal brand, you should assess what message you are trying to convey about yourself (based on your strategy and your values), then make sure that message is consistent across all platforms, profiles and documents that are linked to you. To build your brand further and increase your visibility, you can actively network both on and offline, share your knowledge through articles, blogs and other forms of publishing and careful curate your online presence. When reviewing your brand, ask yourself: Do I use the same name on my resume, blog, LinkedIn and email signature? Do I want to be considered a thought-leader on a certain topic? What will people find if they enter my name in a search engine? Are my values visible? Am I conveying ethics and integrity?

Understanding and monitoring your brand is vital in today’s digital age, and if you haven’t already done so, now is the time to take control of your brand and image.


4. Build and Maintain Your Professional Network

As the saying goes, “Don’t wait until you need a friend to make one.” You should proactively network with your peers throughout your career to safeguard yourself against unexpected periods of transition becoming lengthy. Allocate a set amount of time each day to connect with new people, rekindle old professional relationships and strengthen existing ones - both online and off. When executive recruiters contact you, even if the role is not a good fit for you, make sure that you take the time to explore ways to build a mutually beneficial relationship. The recruiter is more likely to remember you should the right opportunity arise, if you have helped them in the past by connecting them with someone in your network.


5. Define and Articulate Your Unique Value Proposition

Not only must you identify what you value in your career, but you must identify the value that you would bring to a potential organization. Discovering what makes you unique among fellow candidates with similar experience, backgrounds and qualifications can be difficult but it is this that will help set you apart when new opportunities arise. Being able to articulate your unique value proposition (UVP) to others takes time and should be worked on in advance of your job search.


6. Commit to a Career of Life-long Learning

As an executive, it is important to invest in yourself and in furthering your knowledge and skillset for the benefit of your career. Committing to life-long learning does not have to centre around academic goals (although it can, if you would like). It can be a commitment to improving your emotional intelligence, decision making, communication skills, cognitive flexibility, global awareness, innovation skills, or your understanding of new technologies emerging in your industry. Learn to identify areas which need work and invest time in filling your knowledge gaps will strengthen your candidacy for executive roles and improve your performance in your current role.


7. Update Your Vital Career Documents

Your executive resume/CV remains pivotal of gaining a new executive role. Don’t wait until an opportunity arises to frantically redraft your resume/CV. Make sure all your career documents (resume/CV, cover letter, bio, LinkedIn profile, etc.) are up-to-date and optimized for success. Ask yourself: When was the last time it was updated? Does a chronological, thematic or hybrid resume format work best for me? Have I included the right keywords to avoid being eliminated by Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS)? Have I included quantifiable results? Is it more than two pages in length? Does it portray my performance?



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