Secret Weapons and Underused Resources for Your Career Arsenal
As I stood in line to check in at the welcome table for my neighborhood party last week, I took special notice of the two gentlemen in front of me.
One man turned to his friend and pulled the man's name tag off of his shirt. When asked why he had done that, he replied, "You always wear your name tag above your right breast pocket, so that people see it when they meet you and go to shake your hand."
"Oh that makes perfect sense," said the friend. "When you stretch out your hand to shake someone else's, they see the name tag clear as day." But then he added, "If it's so simple and obvious, why don't more people do it?"
"Maybe no one has told them," was the reply. "I learned it at a job fair at a chamber of commerce event years ago."
I smiled to myself, being familiar with this old meet-and-greet trick, which I too had been told years ago at a chamber of commerce event.
Yet, as this incident reveals, often the simplest and most obvious things are the easiest to overlook -- which can also be a real hindrance to your career.
What's In your workplace arsenal?
When it comes to your career -- whether you are trying to advance it, pursue a new one, or secure one -- it is in your best interest to have an arsenal of secret weapons and tools at your disposal to use when and if you need them. It can be as easy as creating a folder on your desktop with a list of contacts, websites and addresses, or it can be a complex binder with tabs and categories that lists anything that could possibly help you find a job, land a better one, or advance at the one you already have.
Here are five of my favorite underused resources that can help boost your career:
1. Chambers of commerce
A local chamber of commerce can be an incredibly useful resource for both those who are unemployed and those who are employed. For clarity on this topic I spoke with Tony Howard, president and CEO of the Loudoun County Chamber of Commerce in Virginia.
"The mission of the chamber is to provide relationship building (networking), gain exposure (through marketing), knowledge, and leadership. It's a great opportunity to build a network, just for the benefit of knowing people; it's not just about finding customers or making sales," Howard says.
For example, local chambers across the country host job fairs, teaching seminars, training events, and networking events, which all offer great opportunities to meet people, expand your business and just have fun. The Loudoun Chamber has a relationship with The Loudoun Workforce Resource Center that is a one-stop-shop for job seekers of every kind, offering resume help, interview advice, and other career-related resources.
For those we are already employed and situated within their businesses, the Loudoun Chamber also offers a Small Business Development Center that brings in local experts who volunteer their time to help entrepreneurs launch their businesses.
All chambers are individual, self-sustaining organizations and they all require yearly dues; but they are often an overlooked career asset that deserve a second look.
2. SCORE for entrepreneurs
According to Carole Holden, marketing chairwoman for SCORE Chapter 414 in Eustis, Fla., "with the job market so tight, many people are opting to start their own companies and therefore create their own jobs" -- which should make entrepreneurs everywhere take notice of SCORE, "Counselors to America's Small Business."
Operated under the umbrella of the Small Business Administration (SBA), SCORE volunteers provide counseling, mentoring, and resources for people who are planning to start a business, as well as for those who already own a business but may have encountered a challenge they need guidance to overcome. The best part of all: These resources are unlimited and free. "With little or no resources to promote what we do, our chapter is charged with meeting a goal to serve a specific number of clients each year," Holden says. "It makes my heart sink when I meet people who have never heard of the organization. There are over 400 chapters nationwide, so their service is available to almost anyone and counseling is even available online."
3. Free webinars
In addition, there are opportunities to pick up career tips and ideas -- for free -- on the Internet. "I think the No. 1 reason free resources don't get used is that the companies/nonprofits that offer them, do not have the marketing budgets to promote them. Also, for many, their resources are valuable to job seekers, but job seekers are not their target demographic," says J.T. O'Donnell, founder and president of CAREEREALISM.com, a website that offers free, hour-long training seminars from top career experts almost weekly.
Without a budget to actively promote his site, O'Donnell must rely on job seekers finding his resources through research. "The folks that learn about them attend almost all of them and have told us they are shocked we are not charging for them since they are so helpful. We don't want to charge for these because we know how many unemployed folks need this kind of live training that they can do from their home computer."
Mike Anton, a product inventor and consultant, believes that experts are one of the most overlooked resources out there today." In today's day and age it is not impossible to reach out to a CEO of a corporation or even a celebrity (via LinkedIn, Facebook etc.). They may not get you a job directly, but you can always ask them for direction."
This may not be the most conventional idea out there, but that is part of what makes it so great and why you should have it as a resource in your arsenal. In addition to showing some creativity and ingenuity, reaching out through technology and social networking opens different doors in the workplace.
5. Take advantage of free research resources
Caroline Ceniza-Levine is a career expert, writer, speaker and co-founder of SixFigureStart, a career-coaching firm comprised of former Fortune 500 recruiters. She believes that research is one of the most underused resources. "I know from having interviewed candidates that the majority do not do exhaustive research. Yet, much of that research is free."
Public libraries are not only free, but they are "fountain of information," says Ceniza-Levine. Here are the resources to tap at local libraries:
- Check out the Encyclopedia of Associations in the reference section for trade associations by subject and geography to help narrow down your job search.
- See if your local library has a section dedicated to job searches and utilize it.
- See if there are business libraries near you that offer access to the public, as these have trade publications and newsletters on hand that outline information on companies and trends not yet making the mainstream news, says Ceniza-Levine.
Once your library research is complete, Ceniza-Levine also recommends contacting your college or university alma mater to find out what career services may be available for its graduates. Colleges and universities often provide newsletters, workshops on coaching and other forms of support to past students. Do not be afraid to be among those receiving advice from your alma mater, as it could prove to be a secret weapon.
Your arsenal helps you prepare
As you come across these secret weapons and underused resources, keep track of them as you see fit and keep them accessible and organized so that you can easily find what you need, when you need it. Also, realize that like most things in life, these resources change and fluctuate with time, so it is best to continually update your career arsenal.
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