One of the biggest fears a lot of people have is not being able to provide for themselves or their family. People work hard to avoid “living in a van down by the river”. So much time is spent looking backward and trying to learn from your past (Like two weeks ago when we looked back at some of the main lessons you can learn from a year of blogging.) Instead of looking back, today we are going to talk about just one thing.
It is important to look back at your past and figure out what you could have done better or differently, but sometimes you just need to take action and move forward. If you take even a few of the actions listed in this post, you'll be more likely to:
- Always have stable income.
- Enjoy your career.
- Never be unemployed.
Heck, even if you only do one of the below actions your career and life will be better off.
You can do just one, can't you? ;)
Action #1: Reconnect With Past Mentors (10 - 20 Minutes)
- Think of Your Past Mentors: Whether you've had formal or informal mentors for your career, think of who had the biggest positive impact on you, and pick 2 or 3 to reach out to.
- Brainstorm Questions to Ask Them: When you contact a mentor you are doing so for two reasons: 1) to rekindle the friendship and 2) ask their opinion on something. Make sure you don't contact them for pointless reasons.
- Write Them An Email: A good way to re-connect is via email. This also allows the other party a chance to remember who you are if it has been a while.
How this can help you avoid unemployment: By staying in touch with old mentors when you aren't looking for a job, you won't seem as desperate when you ask them if they know of any opportunities when you are looking for a job.
Additional Resource: Why You Need a Mentor
Action #2: Study Branding (60 Minutes)
- Stalk Out Brands You Are Attracted To: Are you a fanatic for Apple, Coca-Cola, or Audi? Research how they do their branding across the web. Check out their websites, Facebook pages, advertisements, etc.
- Learn What a Unique Selling Proposition Is: Read this Ultimate Guide to Finding Your Unique Selling Proposition by Corbett Barr and think about what makes you different.
- Learn How to Stand Out: Watch this 30 minute video presentation by Pat Flynn about How to Stand Out and come up with your very own personal brand to share on your resumé and in job interviews.
How this can help you avoid unemployment: By understanding how business branding works, you can begin to incorporate these strategies into branding your personal career.
Additional Resource: 10 Examples of Killer Unique Selling Propositions on the Web by Corbett Barr
Action #3: Make People Want to Follow You on Twitter (15-20 Minutes)
- Have a Complete Profile: Include a detailed bio linking to things you are involved with.
- Use a Good Picture of Yourself: If you spend much time on Twitter you'll see people with pictures of themselves that are hard to see their face on or are just a symbol of a brand they like. Use a good picture that shows mainly your face and that looks good at the regular twitter sizes (50x50, 130x130).
- Regularly Tweet About Worthwhile Things: Occasionally you can tweet about being out at a bar, your favorite sports team, or a picture of a delicious scone, but if that is all you tweet about, nobody is going to want to keep following you. Share thoughtful articles, quotes, and your opinions. Be interesting.
- (Most Importantly) Interact With People: A lot of people on Twitter just blast stuff about themselves all the time; spamming out links to their stuff or what they think about things. Instead, share what other people do, respond to questions they pose, and act like a real person.
How this can help you avoid unemployment: With a strong network of people on twitter, a potential job search can reach thousands of people. I'm not saying you'll get a 140 character job offer tweeted to you, but it does increase your chances.
Additional Resource: How to Use Twitter Without Twitter Owning You by Tim Ferriss
Action #4: Set Up or Refresh Your LinkedIn Profile (45 – 60 Minutes)
- Update or Create a Profile: Completely fill out your profile using your resume, link up your blog through wordpress, add a video, and use the key phrases you want to rank for in searches. Make your profile stand out by being completely filled out. (Check out my LinkedIn profile for an example.)
- Connect With People You Know: Send personalized friend requests to people you have worked with, gone to school with, met online, or know in person. After you are connected with them, write genuine recommendations for them. These will show up on their profile and they will most likely write you one in return.
- Join Groups: Look for and join active groups on LinkedIn that your connections are a part of. You can also look at what groups some of your "heroes" are active in.
- Start Sharing: Find articles that interest you or even ones you wrote yourself and share them in the groups that you are member of. To do this for multiple groups at a time, first share something on LinkedIn. Then, click Share on your update and type in the groups you are a part of that you'd like to share your update with directly. Your update will then show up in the news feed for the group and if people are signed up for email updates, your status or link may show up in their inbox.
How this can help you avoid unemployment: Making genuine connections with new people on LinkedIn as well as keeping contacts with old co-workers will mean there are more doors open to you when you are going through a career change.
Additional Resource: LinkedIn Learning Center
Action #5: Apply for a New Job (60 - 90 Minutes)
- Search for Jobs You're Interested In: Nothing is off limits in this exercise. Never tried to apply for a position you are under qualified for? Now's the time. What do you have to lose?
- Pick At Least 3 Jobs to Apply To: Pick the jobs you like the best (notice that I didn't say jobs you are most likely to get) and apply to three of them.
- Write Cover Letters: If you really want to get a certain job you have to do a little bit more than other applicants to stand out and get an interview. One way to do that is to write a well researched cover letter to attach to your résumé about why you are a great fit for the position.
- Apply to Them Correctly and On Time: Submit them through the proper channels before the deadlines. Simple, but people often mess this step up.
- Follow Up: If you haven't heard back from the employer after a couple weeks, follow up with the contact you have. Sometimes applications get lost in the shuffle. This doesn't mean you should continually prod them for a response though.
How this can help you avoid unemployment: If you are miserable in your current career, you should always be applying for new jobs. You never know when you might find the job that is perfect for you. If you get a job offer you don't need to take it either. A job offer can even help you negotiate a raise, promotion, or more responsibility in your current role.
Additional Resource: Using Social Media to Find a Job by Blogcast FM & Joshua Waldman
Action #6: Pick a New Skill to Learn (45 - 60 Minutes)
- Make a List of Interests: Spend 15 minutes brainstorming everything you are interested in. They don't all have to be "work" related either.
- Pick One You Could Make Money Doing: Are there any on the list that you could make money doing or could help you get a job? Pick one of those to get better at.
- Figure Out the Best Way to Learn It: Should you teach it to yourself using books from the library? Researching free resources online? Start a 7-day free trial at an all-inclusive training website such as Lynda.com? Decide on the best way to learn more and get better at the skill.
- Spend 10 Hours Each Week For a Month Learning The Skill: Pretend like you are in night school and set aside two hours every weeknight for a month to focus on learning your new skill. Or spend five hours each day on the weekend. Pick whatever fits your schedule.
How this can help you avoid unemployment: If you spend time learning a marketable skill you will be more sought after as an employee. You may also become so enthralled with the new skill that you start earning a side income from it. You don't have to be the best at it, just become expert enough.
Additional Resource: 7 Day Free Trial of Lynda.com
Action #7: Make Money Teaching Others How to Do Something You Love (60 - 90 Minutes)
- Decide On What You Could Teach Someone: It might be a sport you played it school, a nerdy skill you picked up in college, or just something as simple as training dogs.
- Figure Out Your "Benefit to the Customer": In order for someone to pay you to do something you'll need to show them how your teaching will benefit them.
- Decide On What To Charge: People often times spend too much time worrying about how much to charge and not enough time just finding their first client. Worried people won't pay that much? Start low until you get some experience. You can always raise your prices later.
- Find Your First Client: Look everywhere until you find your first client. Tell your friends and family. Post on Craig's List. Put up flyers. Do whatever you can to find your first client.
How this can help you avoid unemployment: Once you learn how to market your own skills and make money on the side, your mind will be opened up to the world of entrepreneurship and you may not be so afraid of losing your day job.
Additional Resource: Find Your First Profitable Idea by Ramit Sethi (not an affiliate link)
Action #8: Plan Out the Next Year of Your Career (30 Minutes)
- Write Down the Next 12 Months: January, February, March, April... you get the picture.
- Pick One Major Thing You'll Do Career-wise Each Month: Sample tasks include Negotiate a Raise, Get Promoted, Take Training Classes, Get Better at Presenting in front of people, etc.
- Share a Copy With Your Boss, Spouse, and Mentor: The more people you give it to, the more likely you will hold yourself accountable to accomplishing your goals.
- Make a Visible Reminder at Your Desk: If your goal for the month is to single task, put up a huge poster next to your computer that says "FOCUS".
How this can help you avoid unemployment: By taking an active approach towards your career each month you won't wake up one day wondering where the past year at your dead-end job went. You will also show constant improvement and drive that can lead to new opportunities, promotions, etc.
Additional Resource: How to Conduct Your Own Annual Review by Chris Guillebeau
Action #9: Start Mind-Mapping Your Ideas (15 - 30 Minutes)
- Create Your First Mind Map on Paper: Take a single project in your head (e.g. something big you are working on at work or home) and start mind-mapping everything having to do with it.
- Start Using A Digital Mind Map Software: You can create mind maps on a computer way faster than paper versions and you can also access them in more places.
- Take Your Mind Map With You Everywhere: I use the free Mind Meister mobile app so that wherever I am I can add to my mind maps as long as I have my iPhone with me. (Also available for iPad & Android.)
How this can help you avoid unemployment: Take the lead at work with your coworkers by creating a mind map when you research new projects and instantly become the leader of R&D meetings & discussions, making you a more important part of the company. The more time you spend in front of people leading and directing, the better employee you will be.
Additional Resource: Mind Meister
Action #10: Call a Former Boss (5 - 10 Minutes)
- Think of Your Favorite Former Boss: Yes, you may have worked for people you didn't get along with, but you must have worked for one good person, right?
- Give Them a Call: Catch up, reminisce about old times, and let them pick your brain about how you used to do that one task that everyone else can't figure out how to do.
- Don't Ask for Anything: Don't just call when you need something. Call because you want to keep the connection alive.
How this can help you avoid unemployment: Who knows, maybe your old boss will hear of a job that is a perfect fit for you or their group may be expanding when yours is collapsing. Keeping connections with old managers can never be bad.
Additional Resource: How to Win Friends & Influence People by Dale Carnegie
Action #11: Look at Yourself in 5 Years (45 - 60 Minutes)
- Close Your Eyes And Fast Forward 5 Years into the Future: Anything can happen in five years. Think about what your ideal life would be five years from now if EVERYTHING went well. If you don't dream that something big can happen, it never will.
- Write Down Everything You Think Of: If you don't write down your biggest life goals, how will you remember them?
- Put This List Somewhere You'll Look At Least Once a Week: By putting this list in a place that you'll constantly read it (be that in your car, on your bathroom mirror, or in your wallet) you'll constantly be reminded to keep working on all of the different areas of your life.
- Continually Work Towards a Career That Can Make All These Come True: If your job is limiting these things from coming true, maybe you need a career or lifestyle change.
How this can help you avoid unemployment: By looking towards the ideal future for yourself, you'll be more likely to make a career change towards your passion before you get sent packing for just "doing enough to get by" at your job.
Additional Resource: Annual Review: Looking Forward to 2012
Action #12: Plan a Vacation (60 Minutes)
- Figure Out the Best Time to Go: Take time off of work during the non-busy season and schedule it far in advance.
- Decide Where to Go & What to Do: The best part! Go somewhere that will be a complete sabbatical. Relax, avoid the internet, and recuperate.
- Start A Savings Fund: Use a separate bank account to save up for the trip and pay for it with cash. If you are in debt, just plan a stay-cation and explore the town you live in.
- Tell Everyone About It: If you tell everyone you know that you are going to Bali for two weeks in April, you'll be more likely to actually do it.
How this can help you avoid unemployment: Work can be the most stressful part of your life. If you have vacation days, use them. If you don't have vacation days and really need a break, ask for an unpaid vacation. When y ou get back from vacation you'll be reenergized to complete some of the other actions on this list.
Additional Resource: Seriously, You Need a Vacation
Action #13: Join A Cause (15 - 30 Minutes)
- Brainstorm Causes You Care About: World Hunger, Giving Video Games to Children in Hospitals, Whatever.
- Find a Way to Get Involved Locally: Look online for a local chapter of a charity or cause that meets regularly, has an event coming up or even give blood. Just find a way to get involved in person.
- Donate Your Time: Make it a routine to continually give at least small chunk of your time each week to a good cause.
- Donate Your Money: You will always be richer than some people and poorer than other people. Trickle down some of the fortune that you are blessed to have.
How this can help you avoid unemployment: By helping those that are less fortunate than you, you may realize how lucky you are to have a job, your health, and your comforts. Not only will you be helping those in need, you will be extra motivated to not take what you have for granted.
Additional Resource: Idealist.org - A huge directory of charities and non-profits
Action #14: Do Free Work (60 - 90 Minutes)
- Find Someone Doing Something Awesome: Think of an author, entrepreneur, or mentor that is doing something extremely awesome that might need some help.
- Brainstorm How You Can Help Them: Pick 3 concrete ways you can make their life easier, better, or simpler.
- Fully Develop and Document Your Ideas: Don't just say, "I want to help in any way." Instead, say "I will manage your social media campaign for the launch of your new product on three different networks (X, Y, & Z)."
- Reach Out to Them & Ask If You Can Help Them: Send them an email briefly explaining your ideas and that you'll work for free.
How this can help you avoid unemployment: Working for free may turn into a lucrative paid position. It has happened to me and it has happened to many others. (Check out the TED talk below for the best way to do this.)
Additional Resource: The New Way to Work - TEDxCMU Talk by Charlie Hoehn
Action #15: Design Your "Dream Job" (45 - 60 Minutes)
- Day Dream: Think about all the potential things you enjoy doing and how they could become your "dream job".
- Be Realistic: Yeah, it would be nice to be rich and not have to work at all, but even in the best case scenario you'll need to work until you become ridiculously rich.
- Design Your Dream Job: Think about every part of it. Do you work from home or in an office? What are you doing? Do you work in a group or by yourself? Do you do the same thing each month or do you do something fresh and new all the time?
- Find It: Look all over for you ideal job and see what the qualifications are to get it. Then work on getting the experience and skills required to do that job.
How this can help you avoid unemployment: If you don't know what your dream job is, you are behind the game.
Additional Resource: How to Create Your Dream Job by Sean Ogle
Action #16: Learn to Negotiate (60 - 90 Minutes)
- Find Something to Negotiate About: It could be a new job offer, a raise, buying something at a garage sale or simply just buying a television at a store.
- Actually Learn How to Negotiate: Once you have that item in mind, it is easier to learn about negotiating. Use Ramit Sethi's multiple free guides to learn the best ways to negotiate.
- Don't Stop Until You Win: This doesn't mean that you need to get 100% of what you were after, but at least get the other party to concede something that wasn't part of the original offer.
How this can help you avoid unemployment: A lot of money is left on the table for people that don't negotiate anything. I recommend you pick the battles that will have the biggest impact in your life financially though ("big wins" like your job, cars, houses, etc.) instead of haggling over ten cents at the flea market.
Additional Resource: How to Negotiate by Ramit Sethi
Action #17: Talk With Your Current Boss About Your Future (30 - 60 Minutes)
- Schedule a 30 or 60 Minute Meeting With Your Boss: Let your boss know you want to sit down and discuss the future of your career with them. Since you are their employee they will be very interested in it. (If you work for yourself, you can skip or "mock" do this one.)
- Tell Your Plans: Take what you've put together in actions #8 and #11 to show your boss you are thinking ahead.
- Ask Them Their Opinion: They can give you thoughts from a birds-eye perspective that you are probably blind to.
How this can help you avoid unemployment: Being on the same page as your boss is sometimes half the battle. When they know why you are looking for other jobs or seeking a promotion you are more likely to get their thumbs-up.
Additional Resource: Write a Letter to Your Future Self: FutureMe.org
Action #18: Never Eat Alone (30 - 45 Minutes)
- Eat Lunches Away From Your Desk: Agree to never "work through your lunch" again. You know you waste that time surfing the Internet anyway.
- Make a List of 10 People to Connect With Where You Work: This list gives you two weeks worth of people to eat lunch with.
- Invite Each of Them to Lunch With You: If you are too intimidated to eat one-on-one with somebody, invite a small group.
- Prepare Subjects of Discussion: Avoid awkward silences by having plenty of potential topics of discussion ready ahead of time.
How this can help you avoid unemployment: Instead of being known as the hermit that eats lunch with their headphones on everyday or wanders off alone and doesn't seem to care about anyone you'll become the person at work that is friends with everyone. You will learn a lot from all the people you work with if you get them outside of a "work" mood.
Additional Resource: Never Eat Alone by Keith Ferrazi
Action #19: Update Your Résumé (45 - 60 Minutes)
- Find Your Old Resumé: Hopefully you still have the word document somewhere. If not, recreate a hard copy version.
- Follow a Good Template: Make your résumé easy to read and make it look like this.
- Get Rid of "Proficient at Microsoft Office": Eliminate skills or experience that are obsolete or that everyone has.
- Limit Your Résumé to One Page: Long winded résumés get thrown aside. Keep yours short and sweet. (Unless you've been working 20+ years.)
- Consider Creating a Multimedia Résumé: If a single piece of paper isn't going to show how you're different, create a video or web version of your experience and skills (like the additional resource listed below).
How this can help you avoid unemployment: Always having an up to date version of your résumé ready keeps you focused on where your career is headed and gives you the ability to always apply for new jobs (see: #5).
Additional Resource: The Anti-Resume Manifesto by David Crandall
Action #20: Plan Your Ideal Day (15 - 30 Minutes)
- Wake Up First Thing One Day and Plan a Perfect Day: Do you exercise? Do you spend all day with your family? Don't hesitate to write anything down.
- Use Timestamps: Obviously your ideal day won't always go according to plan, but it is good idea to make sure you can actually fit in everything on your list.
- Plan for 1 Ideal Day Every Month: It could be the first Saturday of the month or if you planned a workday, the first Wednesday of the month.
- Realize That Your Ideal Day Could Be Everyday: Your ideal day really can be everyday if you work hard enough to get there. All it takes are baby steps.
How this can help you avoid unemployment: Once you realize that your "ideal day" doesn't have to wait until you retire at 65 you might realize that you should be focusing your energies towards creating a lifestyle business instead of forty years working for the man.
Additional Resource: 4 Ways To Design a Happiness Inducing Employment Arrangement by Corbett Barr
Action #21: Stay At Work Late Doing Extra Work (60 - 90 Minutes)
- Ask Your Boss What the 1 Big Thing That He Wants Done Is: Then stay late at work and do it.
- Go Above and Beyond: Don't just do a mediocre job. People know when you half-ass something.
- Don't Do It For the Overtime Pay: A lot people work long hours just so they can get overtime pay. Don't even charge this time as overtime.
- Put it On Your Boss's Desk/Inbox Before You Leave: Before you go home, complete the task. Send your boss a detailed email explaining how you fixed the problem or leave a simple report on their desk.
- Apologize to Your Friends, Family, or Dog: Let your loved ones know that you stayed late to give more than anyone else to your job and why you did so.
How this can help you avoid unemployment: If layoffs happen in your company your boss will have a solid piece of evidence for why you shouldn't be the one to get the boot: you go above and beyond even when you aren't asked to.
Additional Resource: Why You Shouldn't Give 110% on Everything
Action #22: Start a Blog That Matters (5 Minutes)
- Make the Decision to Start a Blog That Matters: Anyone can create a blog in 5 minutes, but very few people will create blogs that matter.
- Make an Investment in Your Future: Pick up a copy of the How to Start a Blog That Matters course that Corbett Barr and I are launching today. With it you'll get a 13 week action plan full of the most important lessons you need to start a blog or take an existing blog to the next level.
- Make the Commitment to Matter: Instead of blogging about your dog, what you ate today, or what people wore to the latest awards show, start a blog that matters.
How this can help you avoid unemployment: This blog was the main reason why I got my current job. Blogs have the power to change people's lives. Will you let it change yours?
Additional Resource: Today we're launching the How to Start a Blog That Matters course. If you are interested in starting your own blog or re-launching one you already have, read what the course has to offer here.
You don't have to do every single action on this list to improve your life.
Just pick a few that stand out and do them today.
Make the time to make your life better.
If you found this post valuable I'd really appreciate a share using the buttons below the post.
(Thanks to Adam Baker for the inspiration and the format of this post. I borrowed it from his post titled, "24 Quick Actions You Can Do Today to Change Your Financial Life Forever". You can find other great "quick actions" post by Corbett Barr and Scott Dinsmore.)