Single Most Important Career Question To Ask Yourself

Most people are unaware of seemingly subtle points in their resume that scream out certain things to employers. What may seem vague and somewhat insignificant to you usually is one of the first things that an employer looks for when evaluating candidates. Related: How Career Changers Can Identify Transferable Skills Employers are evaluating resumes and looking to see what you’ve done to keep yourself up-to-date, and many are on a talent shopping spree. This means they are hiring top industry subject-matter experts who have demonstrated their understanding of applying new skill sets and ideas in the workplace.

Most Important Career Question To Ask Yourself

To wit, I jokingly (but not really) say your resume is not an obituary, but instead, a dynamic, driving career road map. And there's one thing that can help "wake" job seekers up more than anything... by asking the most important career question that will impact their competitiveness in today's job market:

"Are My Skills Obsolete?"

If you ask this question, and realize the skills you offer are just run-of-the-mill abilities or are outdated, this is your red flag cue you need to get moving… FAST. If you hope to survive what's now being termed the “Great Recession,” which is continuing with no foreseeable end in sight. Your ability to navigate the requirements of companies hiring will rest solely on how you have kept up your skill sets. Being aggressive in stockpiling skills and knowledge will be critical to making your candidacy the best value in the marketplace... and you’ll need to be strategic about how you map out acquiring those skills. Apply the following questions to your resume to better see what employers are thinking when they read this document:
  • Have I attained any industry-specific certifications?
  • Have I taken any classes, workshops, trainings, conferences, conventions, webinars, continuing education units, or gone to any corporate learning university sessions?
  • How have I demonstrated the practical application of what I have learned into my work?
  • Has there been any peer recognition for my subject-matter expertise (as in any awards, speaking engagements, publications, etc.)?
These factors alone are worth their weight in gold to employers. They simply don’t want someone who will do the minimum possible and push papers around their desk from 8 AM - 5 PM. Companies today are struggling to optimize every company system while squeezing every ounce of profit out as possible in order to stay afloat in this volatile economy. Similarly, you need to take the same approach. Don’t wait for a company to offer to send you to a conference. You NEED to be your own advocate. Identify the key opportunities where you can enhance your skill sets, and present these to your boss as ways you can improve your on-the-job productivity. Be prepared to provide justification in terms of return on investment. And if your manager doesn’t approve the expense and your time out of the office, you’ll need to make a life-changing decision and empowering one:

Invest In Yourself

Be willing to pay for additional professional development yourself. If you are currently employed, think of it as a way to become more indispensable. The job may be eliminated, but if you have demonstrated ROI every step of the way, chances are, the company will find a way to retain you. If you are looking for work, the good news is everyone who is currently employed is so busy doing the work of 2-3 other people due to staff cutbacks, they don’t have the time to go out and take class. You have the time to identify those core skill sets and take classes that add to your value proposition. Passivity and blatant ignorance aren’t going to cut it today. You need to cast a critical eye to your résumé and look at it from an employer’s view... what have you done to keep your job skills up to date? Is your professional development section blindingly empty? Or was the last class you took over five years ago? If so, you’ve got your work cut out for you... and by updating your skill sets, you’ll improve your viability as a candidate for open positions. This post was originally published on an earlier date.

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