Whether you’re still in college, new to the job world, or ten years deep in your dream job, we can all find a way to improve our long term career prospects, strengthen potential job applications, and just keep growing as individuals. 

As thus, I have created a seven day challenge to help you improve your career, regardless of what that career is. It’s seven days–a week–but you can do it at your own pace. I simply recommend not trying to do it all at once, but also not forgetting any steps along the way. Perhaps one task takes more than a day–that’s fine. But don’t forget the next task too! Perhaps you’re busy, so you decide to do one task each Saturday, instead of seven consecutive days. That’s fine. Make this work for you instead of it being a chore to complete.

I am lucky that I found the career I feel called to very early. I don’t anticipate switching careers, but I do hope to move up, and around, within my field, and even within the company I work for. In fact, I already have my sights on one promotion, that I hope is imminent, but I know I have my whole life ahead of me to keep growing in the field! Whether you’re set in one career path for life, still shopping around a bit, or simply open to change, consider this a chance to be intentional about what you are doing for yourself and your work. 

Let’s break it down. 

Day 1: Find a book from a leader in your field to read

Reading is fundamental for a reason–but you should be reading within your field and outside of it.  On day one, try finding a book by a leader in your field, someone who does what you might want to do, or someone who is an old pro. You don’t have to read the whole book in one day–though you’re more than welcome to–but use this as a chance to get started. Pick out a book,  get your hands on it (whether it’s electronic, audio, or physical!), and read a few pages. Get a feel for what you’re going to learn. Is it a memoir of failures and successes, or more of a how to guide? Is it going to leave you inspired or tired? 

This book doesn’t have to change your life. It probably won’t. But I hope it will open your eyes to parts of your career field or group of interests that you might not otherwise have thought about.If you’re interested in politics, read a memoir of someone who lost their first race. If you’re interested in writing, read the collected letters of an author. If you’re interested in being a teacher, read about some of the teachers who have gone above and beyond for their students. You don’t have to be in the career fully to learn from these–so college students, get reading too!

Day 2: Join a Facebook group related to your career field or career interests

I know, I know, social media can be a real downer, and Facebook is often a bit “old school,” but one of its shining merits are GROUPS. Yes, groups of people, strangers, individuals uniting over a shared interest. You can find, or create, a Facebook group for just about anything. Politics, on either side of the aisle, knitters, taxidermists, Bachelor enthusiasts, school librarians, or painters. Seek out a Facebook group to join–you might have to join a few before you find one that you love–and browse it. See what other people have posted–are they asking hard hitting questions? Are they using each other as a resource and a sounding board? I am a member of several librarian Facebook groups–some for librarians in general, some for public libraries, and some for school libraries, which I don’t even work in, but I know I can learn from what they’re doing! 

If you’re still trying to break into a certain field, this is also a great way to stay abreast of what the world is actually like, catch job postings, and ask questions that might help you be a better applicant in the future. 

Day 3:  Write down 10 questions you don’t have answers to yet related to your field/career

No one knows it all–we all have something we could learn, regardless of if we’ve been in the field for a decade or a day–and we all have things we could teach others, new and old. On day 3 of this challenge, sit down and really think. Hand write (trust me) ten questions you have about your career field or the path you want to go down. It’s okay to not have the answers, and it’s okay if you think there might not be a singular answer.You don’t even have to ask someone these questions right away. The key is to have these questions thought out so that you can investigate them yourselves, with managers, with mentors, or through reading, eventually. But you can’t get the answers if you don’t know what the questions are. Know yourself with these questions, and be as broad or specific as you need to be, based on where you stand in the field. These can be personal and general questions–anything from ethical issues to salary questions. 

For example, some of my questions include “Is there a ceiling of how far I can go in children’s librarianship versus adult librarianship?” and “What would I do if I had to face a banned book challenge that I, in some way,understood the grounds for?” 

In politics, you may ask yourself, “Would I be willing to work for someone I disagreed with politically?” “What kind of monetary limits come with working on Capitol Hill?” and “Would it benefit me to learn another language?

In teaching, you may ask yourself,”What’s the process like moving from one state to another?” and “How much say do I have over switching what grade I teach?” and “What are the warning signs of a child with dyslexia in the classroom?” 

Day 4:  Find a relevant webinar & schedule when you will participate

You never have to stop learning–and you never should. I promise you, regardless of your career field, there’s a webinar, online course, or Ted Talk you can learn from. On day 4, find one and schedule a time to do it if you can’t do it today. I’m talking register for that Zoom conference, put it on the G-Cal,whatever you need to do to ensure it gets done. In librarianship,I am offered dozens of webinars a month on serving homeless patrons, selecting graphic novels for tweens, weeding college prep collections, navigating salary negotiations, etc. Your FB group may also have suggestions. There are also always easy, free, self-paced online courses on universal topics like asking for a raise, customer service, software like Excel and Google Analytics, and more.

Day 5:  Update your resume

I shouldn’t need to explain why this is important, but just know it is.Even if you’re not thinking about applying for a new job. Update your resume so it is as current as possible. Print it out and have someone else read it to check for typos and grammatical errors. Try and keep at one page, unless you’re doing a CV or are some spectacular person. I personally have my “job resume” and a separate resume of my publication history. If you write/publish, this may be useful for you.If you’re in the arts, you may have a separate resume for that. 

Day 6: Make a 5 Year Plan

Where do you want to be in five years? Do you want to move in the foreseeable future? Is there upward mobility within your company? Think both big and small when you’re making your five year plan, and find action items whenever possible. What would it take for a promotion? Do you need another degree,or to attend a certain conference? Is there a skill you lack–like the ability to manipulate a spreadsheet or run Google Analytics–a skill you can learn in the interim? Do you want to speak at a major conference? Make goals, a plan,and focus on the potential you have. It’ll help keep you motivated, even if your plans go off the tracks, and you’ll know what you need to work on. Don’t worry too much about this being set in stone–you’re writing this to help you understand your goals and aspirations. No one else has to know if you don’t want them to know. 

Day 7:  Update your LinkedIn 

Since you updated your resume on day 5, you already have all the information you need to update your LinkedIn. Make it match your resume as much as possible. You can also use the “cut” portions of your resume (old jobs, college partnerships, etc) on your LinkedIn. Connect with people in your field, from school, and update your picture to be presentable and professional. 

Aryssa D
FFL Cabinet Member