As a recruiter for many years, I was surprised each time I spoke with a working professional who didn't think it was important to have an updated résumé or contacts with industry recruiters. The reasoning was “I have a job, and I'm happy, so why bother?” Even in a very robust economy, that mind-set is shortsighted. Proactively managing your career is much easier and bears more fruit than reactively managing your career, and when put in those terms, I'm sure most would agree. I'm writing this article to remind every professional how important it is to take time to think about your career and actively guide it to a point that meets your goals.
The concept of managing your career rather than letting circumstances manage you is relatively new. Twenty years ago, employment was a different animal with most working at only one or two companies throughout their entire career. That notion has changed dramatically, and the recession is only magnifying it.
If you simply sit back and think “I'm happy now and can see myself loving this job for the rest of my working days,” then you should think again. If you're very lucky that may become a reality, but chances are it won't. The employer/employee relationship has eroded from being akin to a healthy marriage to texting someone for a booty call. That's crude, and there are exceptions of course, but I think it highlights most situations.
With this in mind, my advice to all you employed folks (and those who will be employed again) is as follows:
Evaluate your one-year and five-year goals annually. Did anything change in your personal life to affect your professional life? Is there another path that would be more satisfying and still allow you to earn a decent living? Would you like to live in a different city or state eventually? Questions like these will help keep your mind sharp to career-related opportunities as they unfold.
Update either your résumé or portfolio once per year or when your position and responsibilities change, whichever comes first (like an oil change).
Make an effort to connect with current and past colleagues on all the social networking sites. In my opinion, LinkedIn is the most important profile to keep udpated because it's essentially a résumé, and since it's an accepted practice to keep a profile there, you can confidentially make your credentials available for recruiters or hiring managers to see -- this is key when you're employed and don't want your current company to think you're looking elsewhere, but still want to evaluate a new opportunity that could be a once in a lifetime chance.
If you want to step it up even more, keeping your name front and center to influential people in your industry helps greatly, too. That is where Twitter and Facebook come in. Connect with important people, and be a presence either through blogging or thoughtful responses to others' posts.
The bottom line is that the only one who will take care of you is you. Retirement and pension plans are dwindling, so being cognizant of how to make the best use of your working years is the smart and responsible thing to do -- regardless of whether you're “happy now and not looking."