8 Steps To (Finally) Get Serious About Your Professional Life

Simple, non-intimidating career tips and professional advice you can use, starting today. Click through for 8 ways to make your work life better, easier, and more successful! >> yesandyes.org

As you guys have probably guessed, I’m serrrrrrious about my professional life. As evidenced here.
Not everyone needs to be (or should be!) a nose-to-the-grindstone, I-find-worth-through-work sort of human. But for me, building a career + life I love, from scratch, on my own terms through my own hard work has brought me a level of confidence and comfort unlike anything else. Yes! Even more than the comfort I feel while eating carbs and watching Parks and Rec!

If you want to get serious about your professional life, these 8 steps will help!

1. Update your resume

When you’re gainfully employed, it’s easy to let your resume gather dust. But keeping it current and impressive is a great exercise in self-esteem and measuring how far you’ve come. Make things fancy with these resume templates.

2. Set up a LinkedIn account

What? Yes. I can hear you rolling your eyes from all the way over here but I know several people who have been headhunted off of LinkedIn. For exciting jobs that they’d never have thought to apply for! It can’t hurt and it’ll probably help. Also: are we friends on LinkedIn?

3. Google yourself and delete/hide/block accordingly

We’ve all posted questionable photos, written bad idea blog posts, or left less-than-awesome comments signed with our full name. Why not have a google and then delete as needed? And be a bit wiser from here on out? (I’m looking at you, 24-year-old self).

4. Think about where you want to be in five years

And if that feels overwhelming – where do you want to be three years from now? Give yourself the time and space to consider where you’d like your career to go.

Do you want more money? More vacation time? Do you want to switch careers? Would you like to be self-employed? So many of us get caught up in the day-to-day, it’s hard to find the time for big picture imaginings. Five years from now, you’ll be glad you gave yourself this time to think about it.

5. Find a professional mentor

Being a mentor is, hands down, one of the most rewarding decisions I’ve made and, oh, how I’d like to find one of my own.

It’s a bit hard to find a blogging mentor (because I’ve been doing for aaaages) but I’d love to find a super experienced writer or marketer or creative to take me under their wing. You too? Maybe we should check out this organization.

6. Learn a new, beneficial skill

I bet you know exaaaaactly which skills you should be learning and you’ve been avoiding them because of the high learning curve (me, too.)

Google analytics, social media, that new data entry software, a bit of bookkeeping – what is it? Carve out 20 minutes a day to devote to it and before you know it, you’ll be able to add another line to your resume.

7. Stop gossiping at work

Is it incredibly tempting to talk about how the cutie in accounting just broke up with his girlfriend? Or how you saw Betty in marketing out and hammered on Saturday? Of course it is! Is it kind or professional or a good idea? Of course it’s not. Next time you feel yourself getting drawn into gossip, pause.

8. If you hate your job, do something about it

You will spend years of your life at work. It’s probably best if you don’t hate it, right? We can’t all have our dream jobs (and even dream jobs include conference calls and invoices) but you should at least have a job you don’t actively hate.

Talk to friends who have careers that interest you and find out how they got there, what they do, and what they like about it.

If you know what field you’d like to work in, do some job shadowing and informational interviews. Look into education options. Figure out if you hate your career or just this specific job. And then take steps accordingly.

While you’re doing that, know that you can love your life even if you hate your job.

Where are you at professionally? How do you feel about your job? What are you doing to better your career? Leave tips in the comments!

P.S. My story of how I went from a minimum wage newspaper intern to a professional blogger and How to beat self-employment burnout.

photo credit: roman drits // cc

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  1. Pieliekamais

    I'm currently reading Sheryl Sandberg's "Lean in", and I've ordered a book on mindful leadership.
    Also, I'm a super believer in tiny tiny steps (but seldom take them on the dreaded projects, e.g., how to change link color in Blogger, argh! it would probably take less time to google that than to write this comment, but it's where I'm at with learning that skill right now).

  2. The Dame International

    Currently trying to become a professional lifestyle blogger with a dream to build a beautiful life and thrive instead of struggle to survive. I just hired an intuitive life coach for that extra push out of the current mud Im stuck in and feeling excited about finally stepping into the spotlight I belong in!

    • Claire M

      You have such a great blog title/ username I couldn't help but click on it! I just started follow you on Facebook, and I'm sure you'll succeed!

    • Sarah Von Bargen

      Good on you, Dame! Proud of you for taking these steps!

  3. brynndowning.com

    Hi Sarah! For NY/NJ/CT/PA ladies (or anyone else who's commutable to NYC), check out http://www.nywici.org/ New York Women in Communications– lots of networking and mentoring opportunities. I've been really happy about joining, and using their resources.

  4. Kati

    Hi! I love this post, it's so helpful! I'm currently working at a job I strongly dislike, but it's hard since I have a family to support and take care of. I'm trying to slowing head in the direction of following my dreams, but sometimes I wish it could just happen over night!! I've started an etsy shop selling vintage and recently started a blog. I would love to become a health coach and share tips and recipes through my blog. I have so many ideas, I often just feel overwhelmed! I would love to have a mentor too! Thanks for the post 🙂

  5. Caitlyn

    Any thoughts on how to handle having someone with your name who posts inappropriate things online? It's a fairly unusual name and it seems that she has dominated the online presence – with her photos of duck lips and partying. She's quite young and I imagine she'll regret this one day, but for now I'm kinda stuck with it. I'm not currently looking for work, but it kind of haunts me that when I do… she'll pop up when they search for me. Should I add a photo to my resume (I work in a professional atmosphere where this isn't really the norm) or perhaps find a way to nicely state something about how there are more than one of us? Add a link to MY facebook account just to differentiate us? (which makes me cringe because I'm kind of a nut about privacy, but at least they'd see that my worst offense is too many pictures of my cats). I suppose they could extrapolate from my resume that I graduated too long ago and have too much work experience to be in my late teens/early twenties… but I fear they will just see her posts and move on to the next resume.

    • Sarah Von Bargen

      Maybe give yourself a middle initial in all your online stuff? Like Caitlyn J. Smith? I think it would also be fine if you provided them with links to your profiles, it makes you look proactive and then you'll never have to worry that they'll find her instead!

    • Caitlyn

      Great ideas – especially the middle initial – not sure why I didn't think of that! Thanks for replying!

  6. Call it Adventure

    Looove this, and love your take-control attitude. Such good reminders for me, especially right now!

  7. Anonymous

    I'm a retail store manager and quite enjoy the challenges of my job… and I never in a million years would have thought this would be the job that would become my career. But I hated multiple desk jobs/poor company culture. I'd always had a love for fitness, which eventually brought me to the company I now work for. I really did follow my passion, as cliche as it may sound. I also discovered passion and excitement for things along the way (developing people, great customer service, etc), which I think is good advice for people who are fresh out of college, or haven't found a career yet. Dig into those things that intrigue you. Ask lots of questions from those around you.

    Also-patience! I worked hard, and never felt entitled to anything, as I climbed the ladder. It's easy to want to move up quickly, but there's so much value in "time in role", or embracing exactly where you're at. There were times when I felt I was ready for the next role, but it wasn't open. I became an expert in the current role, and took on anything extra that was given to me, essentially, acting into the next role, which is the key to any career.

    Lastly, watch your grammar and how you write emails. I don't care how casual, fun and carefree a company's culture may seem (epitome of mine), it's difficult to take someone seriously if they can't complete a sentence or capitalize a single letter.

  8. Amanda B.

    I currently have a job that I love and am working on and dreaming about what the next version of that job (I work in youth ministry and run my own camp.) One of the best investments I've made is working with a brand development coach. It really was a small investment for how much I have gotten out of the process. I have learned so much about goal-setting from her. By starting with my 3 and 5 year goals, and then breaking down each of those goals into smaller steps, I've been able to really track where I want to be and not lose focus and momentum. I also look at that goal list/next steps list weekly–some weeks are super busy with my "real" job but I can usually find at least one thing to tackle and cross off my list. Each baby step moves me closer to achieving my big goals.
    The other thing I've learned is that if you are passionate about becoming an expert in any given field and do the work to learn about that field, you can decide you are an expert. You don't have to wait until you are published or for someone else to tell you that you are–just be it! Keep track of how many hours of reading, research or continuing education you have in a subject (even if it isn't focused toward a degree) and put that on your resume. It shows that you are serious about improving yourself and staying current in your field.

    • Sarah L

      Hi Amanda,
      I'm very interested in the brand coach you mentioned. Would you mind sharing some details? Was it an online relationship, or did you meet face-to-face? How long was the process? I've been trying to develop a "brand" for myself using materials I've found online and I'm definitely struggling, so I would really love to hear about your experience with formal coaching. Thank you in advance for anything you're willing to share!

  9. Lisa E. @ Lisa vs. the Loans

    I love the last point – if you hate your job, do something about it! Complaining doesn't get you ANYWHERE. I also like how you pointed out that even dream jobs have tedious tasks.

  10. Anonymous

    Oh boy, that's the term for me: ACTIVELY hating my job. Which is exactly what I'm doing. Haha.

    It's tough to leave and move on to something else when I'm working 60-hour weeks and struggling financially, but I know there's some way out. I will find it! This is a good reminder.

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