The economy’s looking up—how’s your career looking?
The labor market is strong. According to the U.S. Department of Labor’s latest jobs report, the national unemployment rate is holding steady at 5.5 percent. And an April 7 report showed that job openings surged 3.4 percent, to 5.1 million, in February—a 14-year high.
That’s all good news—but it doesn’t mean we’re not still feeling effects from the recent recession. Many people are currently making less money than they were five or ten years ago, and others are stuck in a career or job that they don’t love—or even like all that much. In fact, one of the longest-lasting impacts of a recession is the way it affects our personal ideas about career and job prospects. When we start seeing people around us getting laid off, we decide we’re pretty lucky to have any job. And if we get laid off ourselves—and face an extended period of unemployment—we may very well settle for a job that’s less than ideal.
Once the economy starts humming along again, it can be hard to shake that idea of feeling grateful to have any job. That’s why right now—with the recession pretty clearly in the rear-view mirror—is a great time for a career tune-up.
So what’s a career tune-up?
When a car gets a tune-up, a mechanic checks through a list of items to make sure everything’s working smoothly. You can check up on your career in the same way. Get started with the following short list of questions:
Is my job right for me?
If you love your career but not your particular job, don’t let yourself get stuck in a rut. With the average U.S. worker changing jobs about once every four or five years, there’s no need to stay in a job that’s not right for you. Keep your ears open for new opportunities by networking, joining professional associations, and searching for jobs.
Is my career right for me?
Ever heard the statistic that the average worker changes careers seven times over their life? Some researchers say that’s an urban myth—but the fact remains: plenty of people switch careers over the course of their working years. Take stock of how well you fit your current career by taking an assessment or learning about other careers of interest. Also, visit mySkills myFuture to learn about additional careers that use similar skills and experiences to the one required by your current job.
Am I getting paid enough?
It’s always good to know how your salary compares to others in similar jobs. Check out CareerOneStop’s Salary Finder to see national and local average wages for more than 900 occupations.
Am I keeping up to date with the latest trends in my career or industry?
Wherever you are on your career path, it’s always a good idea to keep informed about what others in your industry or occupation are up to. Locate professional associations to see what’s going on in your field.
Should I think about going back to school?
It’s a fact that additional education can boost your career prospects—and your paycheck. This could mean finishing a college degree, earning an advanced degree, or simply enrolling in a short-term training program or earning a certification in your field. Learn more about these options at CareerOneStop’s Training section.
Once you get started with the above questions, you’ll probably think of other ways to check in on your career as well. You can visit CareerOneStop for tools and resources to help you advance in any field. Most of all, remember that a career tune-up is not a once-in-a-lifetime event: make regular assessment and reflection a part of your career journey. You’ll thank yourself!