The Way We Work
February 15, 2011 by Guest Blogger

By: Steve Bynghall

As a freelancer, your career is in your own hands. It’s both important and rewarding to continue to develop your skills and move forward, but when you are very busy it isn’t always easy to get the head space to consider things properly.

Here are some tips that can get you thinking about your next career steps:

1. Set structured time aside to consider your next move. Those who are directly employed, especially in larger organization, have appraisals and formulated training programs.  It’s worth copying the nine-to-fivers and giving some structure to the whole process of thinking about your career. Put some time to give this real thought on your calendar -- perhaps even one day a week over the course of a month -- and pick a quiet time of year when you are not going to be swamped with work projects.

2. Consider where you want to be. It may have been the type of exercise you carried out when you originally decided to become a freelancer, but to figure out next steps you need to consider the place you want to be.  You may want better earnings but you also should also consider the non-financial benefits of any type of work.  Is it interesting?  Does it give you flexibility? What’s important to you and your family?

3. Find the gaps in your skill set. Are there any gaps in your set of skills? You may have already received some feedback from an employer which identified where you could improve.  There may be jobs that you wish you could bid for, but you’re missing particular experience or qualifications. Pinpoint these holes in your resume as opportunities to better yourself.

4. Focus in on your strengths. It’s always worth thinking about what you are good at, especially if you are not using your full potential in your current role.  A popular book Now, Discover Your Strengths, written by Marcus Buckingham and Donald Clifton is a good starting point.

improving your skills two5. Talk to other people about your career. Discussing your career, particularly with peers in the same field can always stimulate ideas.  Of course talking to friends and family who know you well can also tease out what you really want to do with your work life.  For a different perspective, if you have a great working relationship, you may even want to discuss it with some of your employers.

6. Do your research. The time-consuming element of working out any potential career move, however small, is doing your research.  A Google search may well be your starting point but eventually you will probably need to focus in on a specialist source by contacting a professional association, reading relevant books or magazines, surfing subject-specific blogs and forums or visiting an educational institution that specializes in your field.

 

7. Consider all your options for improvement. Career development can take many shapes so it’s worth thinking about different types of options.  Here are few examples:

  • improving your skills threeTry an e-learning module
  • Learn or improve a language
  • Take a new oDesk test
  • Enroll for a part-time course which fits around your work
  • Go back to school and earn a new degree
  • Keep on top of subjects through RSS feeds, Google alerts, reading forums regularly or subscribing to a magazine
  • Set up a regular meeting with a colleague to discuss the latest developments in your industry and pool your knowledge!

It’s worth thinking about your career regularly and you may want to repeat the exercise at the same point next year, a little like an annual review.  It may also be worth doing mini-appraisals after each major project.  Remember, it is your career and it never hurts to keep moving!

What are the steps you carry out to consider improving your skills?  If you have any thoughts or tips let us know in the comments below!