A successful career is built over a lifetime. Your goal can't be merely finding a job and then, in performance-review lingo, "meeting expectations." In a tumultuous employment landscape where most people have numerous jobs in a career, and many people have multiple careers in a lifetime, we all need to assess ourselves frequently to make sure we're on the road to success.
Whether you're looking for work or currently employed, this list of questions, supplied by leading career experts, will help you keep your career on track.
Are You Always Prepared for a Job Search?
First, that means having an updated resume (and portfolio of work) that you can customize for each job you apply for. "Most job seekers use the 'spray and pray' approach;" that is, spray the same resume around and pray that someone calls," says Emily Bennington, a co-author of Effective Immediately: How to Fit In, Stand Out, and Move Up at Your First Real Job. "But hiring managers want to know that you're a fit for their organization. When you take the extra time to note something specific to each company, it shows you care and that you go above and beyond."
And Lewis Lin, founder of Seattle Interview Coach, warns against being poorly prepared for job interviews. "Interview questions such as 'why do you want to work [here]?' continue to surprise job candidates," he says. "Take the time to prepare your interview stories."
Have You Developed, and Shared with Everyone You Know, a Short, Clear Branding Statement?
Career expert Liz Ryan says you need a great 10-word description that conveys exactly what you have to offer. "A great branding statement zooms in on the business pain you solve," she says. "For example: 'I run HR for businesses where recruiting talent is critical.' Once you can articulate your professional power -- not your skills, years of experience, degrees and titles -- to people you meet, your message can find new audiences in every interaction you -- and they -- participate in."
Do You Regularly Conduct Stakeholder Interviews at Your Current Job?
Soliciting feedback is a must. Julie Jansen -- speaker, coach and author of I Don't Know What I Want, But I Know It's Not This -- says you should consider everyone who affects your career. "They could range from someone who attends meetings regularly with you or your manager's boss," she says. Ask each person for a 30-minute meeting at which they can share specific feedback about you and how you handle aspects of your job.
"Prepare your two or three questions ahead of time, and design them with a focus on areas that you would like to improve or develop," says Jansen. "Ask them for ideas or recommendations."
Are You Developing a Consistent, Industry-Appropriate and Professional Web Presence?
Recruiters and employers are researching candidates and employees online, and they have to be able to find you represented well. A first step is to do a thorough search for yourself on the Internet -- and then take steps to clean up anything inappropriate you find. Then you can begin to develop your online presence by establishing a presence on sites like LinkedIn and Twitter, as well as on industry-specific networking sites and forums.
Are You Building and Maintaining a Professional Network?
"Build relationships with colleagues in your immediate geographic location, your country and globally," advises VocationVillage.com career strategist Dr. Janet Civitelli. "Attend a major industry conference once or twice per year, and participate regularly in local professional groups. Consider taking a leadership role that will bring you visibility. Keep in touch with colleagues who leave your company."
Are You Staying Educated About Your Industry -- and About Job Search Practices?
Reading books and publications related to your industry may give you the knowledge you need to stay ahead of the competition. In a recent poll, 60 percent of people say they'd read zero professional-development books in the past year.
And seek out continuing-education opportunities that add not only industry-specific skills but also broadly applicable ones -- PowerPoint or public-speaking skills, for example.
Do You Have a Long-Term Career Strategy?
Fast-paced changes in technology and society can quickly make a profession obsolete. Everyone needs to make long-term plans and prepare for upheavals that may doom his profession -- or send it overseas.
Do You Enjoy Your Work?
Most experts say that if going to work each day makes you miserable, your career is in serious danger. The solution may be a new employer, a new career or a new attitude -- pinpointing the causes of your dissatisfaction is the first step.
And enjoying what you do for a living is one likely byproduct of following this article's advice. When looking for a new job is out of the question, consider tackling one of your preceding "no" answers as a first step to career security and satisfaction.