It may be tomorrow—or years from now.
Even if you have a job you love, you should always be thinking ahead. It might be the last thing on a busy PR pro’s mind, but where do you see yourself in the future?
Maybe your next role is in your current company—or you might have your sights set on another company or an agency. Perhaps you’re considering stepping out on your own.
Whatever the case, what must you do to be ready? Keep these steps in mind:
1. Never stop networking.
Yes, you’re busy. Yes, you’re probably spent at the end of your workday. But yes, you really should try to make it to that networking event after work, at least every once in a while.
There are estimates that somewhere from 70% to 85% of jobs are found through one’s network. Continually build your network and keep in touch with your contacts.
2. Keep your résumé, portfolio and social media accounts updated.
As you take stock of all your skills and peruse job titles that may be a fit, be sure your résumé is up to date. You may want to craft different versions to fit various job titles and career paths.
Also, don’t neglect your work portfolio and social media profiles.
“Similar to having a crisis communications plan in your back pocket for when the unthinkable happens, I’ve always been a proponent of keeping an up-to-date résumé, as well as current LinkedIn profile, online portfolio and active Twitter presence,” says Scott Kaminski, marketing communications and PR manager at Häfele America Co. “You simply never know when where your next opportunity could come from: a chance conversation on a plane, a cold call from a recruiter or talking to the right person at a local PRSA chapter networking event.”
3. Mind your professional development.
Though you may be in your comfort zone in your current role, never stop learning. Take a class, attend a webinar, go to a conference, join a professional organization—the point is, however you do it, keep learning new things.
4. Conduct informational interviews.
Explore other directions you may want to go, even if you’re not ready to go there yet, by setting up informational interviews.
Have a friend who works at a company you’re interested in? See if you can grab coffee to find out more about what it’s like to work there. Know someone who holds a job similar to one you’re considering? Take them out for lunch so you can get a better idea of what their typical day is like. This will help you determine whether that company or role is for you. Who knows? You might even uncover opportunities in the “hidden” job market.
5. Ask to take on responsibilities outside your comfort zone.
“Take risks,” advises Janice Kapner, executive vice president of communications and community engagement at T-Mobile. “Start small, even if it means simply speaking up in a meeting. Or make a lateral move to learn new skills in another department or division in the same company. Raise your hand to contribute to a high-stakes project. Risks come in all shapes and sizes.”
This will help you grow. Whatever you’re interested in, think about what you might do to gain experience in that area.
If your employer doesn’t allow opportunities for this, you can seek out volunteer experiences with professional organizations. PRSA, AMA and others can give you a chance to stretch yourself professionally. This also counts as experience on your résumé—and it helps you expand your network and meet others in your profession.
6. Get used to jobs that don’t include the words “public relations.”
As the world of marketing and communications evolves, so do job titles. Ask a friend who’s searching for a PR role right now, and you may hear that not every position carries a title that includes public relations. These jobs may now fall under titles that include corporate relations, community involvement or public affairs.
How can you prepare? Keep a running list of all the tasks, responsibilities and projects you work on—and the skills they involve. If your role includes some content creation, social media marketing or copywriting, that may come into play in your next job search. The more diverse your skill set, the more positions you’ll be qualified for.
7. Keep a running list of your accomplishments.
We sometimes get so busy that we forget what we’ve achieved.
If you’ve led a successful campaign, published a piece, landed a speaking gig, won an award or earned a certification, mention it. These accomplishments can be meaningful when you prepare résumés or cover letters for future roles. In addition, it should increase your confidence as you take stock of all you’ve done.
Planning your next career move should be part of your professional life. If the average person changes jobs 12 times, a shift is probably coming at some point. However you decide to go about it, keep your future in mind—it could be here before you know it.
Michelle Garrett is a PR consultant and writer at Garrett Public Relations. Follow her on Twitter @PRisUs or connect with her on LinkedIn. A version of this article originally appeared on Muck Rack, a service that enables you to find journalists to pitch, build media lists, get press alerts and create coverage reports with social media data.