This story originally appeared on Flexjobs.
When you think about your future career, what comes to mind? If you’re like many people, you might envision a steady stream of jobs in one industry, each one bringing you to the next level of success.
That type of career, however, isn’t as common as it once was. According to statistics, baby boomers held around 12 jobs by the time they turned 52, but half of those jobs were held between the ages of 18 and 24.
People change jobs and external factors force jobs to change. The global pandemic, for example, has shown how quickly different career paths and company growth plans can be altered. While one company may be experiencing rapid growth, others may be in survival mode.
So, whether you’re starting a job search or you’re thinking ahead, how can you prepare for your future career? Here are several tips.
1. Research growth trends
Knowing the projected growth trends of your desired future career can help you map out a career trajectory. Find out what the different career levels are like and what you need to accomplish to move up the ladder.
Research the average salary on sites like PayScale and Salary.com to understand the earning potential and to help you with future interviews and salary negotiations.
Check out the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which is a fact-finding unit of the U.S. Department of Labor. Its Occupational Outlook Handbook provides detailed information for a variety of fields and can give you projected job growth rates, median pay information and more.
2. Find potential employers
Find out who the big players are in your desired industry. Who is hiring and who has a company culture that would mesh well with your professional and personal aspirations? Who offers the benefits and work flexibility options you need?
Even if you’re not ready to apply, check out open positions at these companies to see what the requirements are. Follow any company that interests you on LinkedIn, Twitter and Instagram to get an inside look at what the company is like.
3. Talk to other professionals
Interacting and networking with others can keep you in the loop when it comes to your future career. And it doesn’t have to be done in the traditional networking meeting setting either. Consider joining industry groups, both virtual and in-person.
Websites like Meetup.com can be a good resource for finding these groups, even if most meet ups are done virtually during the pandemic.
Many of these professional groups involve a weekly or monthly meeting where there may be a speaker or group topic to discuss. This can open you up to meeting people in a new career area and forge new connections.
You can also schedule informational interviews to chat with professionals in your area of interest.
Despite using the word “interview,” this sort of meeting is more of a get-together where you can talk with someone who is doing a job you’re interested in, or someone who is higher up in your industry.
Ask how they got started in the field, what they’re working on, and what they like most and least about their job, and where they see growth opportunities — among other things.
Submersing yourself in your future career can make you a more knowledgeable job seeker when the time comes.
Seek out related podcasts, blogs, YouTube content and books. Get to know what the hot topics and issues are in the industry.
Who are the leaders and the movers and shakers? Follow them on social media and interact when appropriate.
5. Consider volunteering, interning or part-time work
Getting hands-on experience in your desired future career area can be a huge plus.
Taking on an adult internship, volunteering or being open to freelance work and part-time jobs can get you job-relevant experience and help you see if this is a career field you really want to be a part of.
You can also create new relationships with people in the industry, potentially leading to job references or recommendations, or even a job.
Even if it’s not a full-time job, if you’re moving to a new career field, this experience can make a significant difference and position you for success.
6. Professional development
Depending on the field, taking some classes, earning a degree or completing a certification may be helpful or required to learn the most up-to-date information in the industry.
Many universities and learning platforms offer online courses, meaning you can fit in professional development in your free time. This addition to your resume can show that you are serious about your new career and see the value in growing in your skills.
7. Evaluate your personal brand
Your personal brand — how you present your professional self online and in your job search documents — may need an overhaul.
Are you using the most current industry verbiage in your professional social media bios? Are you following subject matter experts to stay on top of the trends?
Is your resume updated to show how your skills work for your new career? Be sure to highlight your transferrable skills and show how they can benefit a company.
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