8 ways to stay ahead of the career curve in 2012

So 2012 is here! The year is fresh and full of promise and most of us are plotting for it to be a good one by setting new goals. Last January, we posted Six devious tricks for New Year career success, offering tricks to overcome New Year Resolution fails. This year, we’re taking it a step further with some inspiration – practical, philosophical and anecdotal – on how to add some go-faster stripes to your new year career.

1. Get paid to learn

When we interviewed UX ace Chris Atherton recently, she advised:

Chris AthertonGet a paid internship. I interned at Skype for three months, and learned an enormous amount. I learned how a software company runs usability experiments, and that my academic background was actually directly translatable into the business world. But avoid unpaid internships that are basically just free labour.

“Startups that are successful enough to have user experience problems are fertile ground: these companies are still small enough that every person’s voice counts so right away you get to make decisions that really will affect the product.”

2. Become an explorer

A friend of mine takes a two-pronged approach to learning: the first part involves setting a goal to learn a new skill; the second is consistent practice of it – just to see where it leads. She’s learned and experienced things she never could have planned. For example, she’s made money selling her photos despite not having a day’s formal training in photography. That’s the point: she had no idea where her  project was going to lead but by ‘putting it out there’, new opportunities materialised.

So why not try setting goals and projects that will lead you to new things – it may lead you to discover things that aren’t even on your radar screen yet.

3. Follow your gurus

Web editor Ali Turnbull in our recent job series going behind the scenes of her career, told how her business took off when she started using social media to access expertise and the latest thinking in her field:

fit to print's Ali TurnbullFor me, the best benefit of Twitter is the scope for continuing professional development. All those experts out there with blogs and tips for developing your core skills and promoting your business. Free!

“Find people whose style you like and follow them. Listen to their webinars. That’s how I found Kristina Halvorson. I downloaded a free chapter from her Content Strategy for the Web book (#4: content audit) and my business took off in a new trajectory. My other favourite is Gerry McGovern: a) because he talks task-based sense that really calls readers to action; and b) he has a lovely Irish voice.”

4. Say hello world!

USB handshakeAli Turnbull also advises on the value of getting connected: “[Daily marketing] is hard when you have your face buried in a big editing project. That’s why Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn are so useful for keeping and building a daily profile for my business.”

Social media tools are making it quick and easy to connect with others, but the reality is that you only get out of them what you put in. So make this the year of making connections and building an interesting network of people around you. And if you are looking for a new job, connect with us – we often tweet out new content/communication jobs in Europe via @fireheadltd.

 5. Overcome your career demons

Whatever you are struggling with in your career, there will be a book out there to help you overcome it. Books offer an incredibly inexpensive and quick confidence boost, and can open your mind to new possibilities and opportunities. Buy one that extends your skills and knowledge in some way, provides context for your work, helps you overcome personal hurdles or advises on CV presentation and job application skills – and in a couple of hundred pages, you’ll have the information you need to progress.

Here on Firehead, we’ve put together several books lists around the fields we recruit in – so why not start with our Reading posts? Or our Content Strategy starter kit.

6. Talk to TED

Patti Maes ProjectsTED (Technology Entertainment and Design) talks are inspirational short talks  by leading experts from all over the world. More than 1,000 talks have been filmed and are available for free online – just pick one and press play to fire up some fresh new year thinking. For example:

7. If your plane were crashing…

PlaneIn the last point, in the final TED talk, Ric Elias, who was on the plane that crashed into the Hudson River in New York, talks movingly about the urgency he now has in life to experience all the things he has put off. He challenges his audience, if your plane were crashing, what would you get done that you are not doing because you think you will be here forever?

In this new digital age, we have every tool we could possibly need right at our fingertips. This sense of control over your destiny can be really stimulating. But it also comes with an equal dose of responsibility. There are no more excuses: with everything you need accessible to you, it’s up to you to find the initiative – and staying power – from within if you’re going to succeed

8. Get ahead, become a Firehead!

fireheadhqIf you are seeking a new, better, different role in 2012, don’t forget you don’t have to job-hunt alone. We have new jobs and opportunities coming in every week.

Firehead covers a number of specialist content and communications recruitment areas (here’s the full list) – mainly digital content and technical communication roles in the UK and Europe. But there are dedicated niche recruiters for all industries. If you’re in content or tech comm work in Europe and want to get ahead, file your details in our jobs database – and see what happens!

Wishing you a happy and prosperous new year in 2012!

From all at Firehead.