A fellow Community Manager friend of mine recently asked me to keep an eye out for social media positions for her. When I asked if she was leaving her current position, she said:
“No, I’m happy where I am… I just want to see what’s out there… See where I fit.”
So, although she doesn’t plan to leave her current company, she still wants to look at other positions. To some this may seem like a waste of time. But it’s actually a great practice for young professionals, called “career benchmarking”.
Benchmarking is a common term in many industries. To benchmark means you establish a baseline of quality or ability, against which you contrast your current status. For young professionals, career benchmarking enables you to see where your developing skills set measures up against what employers are looking for when hiring.
You then know where you need to improve in order to better compete.
Here are four simple tips to get you started with benchmarking your early career progress:
Review Internship and Job Postings
On a regular monthly or bi-monthly schedule, thoroughly review postings related to your industry and current position. Make this a regular habit even though, like my friend, you may not currently be looking for a new position. During your review:
- Concentrate on the “skills” section of the posts. For this exercise, don’t worry about the “fluff” like company culture description, benefits etc.
- Review postings for positions equal to what you currently hold, and the next level higher
By reviewing these postings you’ll see how you measure up against employers’ expectations, and what skills and experience you work to further develop.
Regularly Update Your Resume
How often you update your resume will depend on the rate at which you acquire new skills. Each time you can add something relevant to your skill set, update your resume. Most find it easiest to update their resume while new accomplishments are top of mind, rather than months later. Also, an up-to-date resume will afford you the advantage of being ready in case during your posting review you happen across the ideal next position… one for which you would consider leaving your current job.
During your posting reviews you may find new ways that companies are using your skills set. Keep an eye on these trends – and add related keywords to your resume.
Read Industry-related Blogs
Some blogs focus on teaching individual skills; others cover industry trends as a whole. To stay current within your profession and industry, consistently study several of both types of blogs. Just as important as say, knowing HTML5 is to a programmer, or this year’s hot spring colors are to someone in the fashion industry, is having a sense of the direction that your industry is headed. With this knowledge in hand, you can often anticipate the skills you’ll need before they’re in demand – putting you one-step ahead of your less well-informed competitors.
Develop a Skills Checklist
As you research relevant blogs and job posts, create a checklist to track the main skills (and skill levels) employers deem necessary. This “living document” will ebb and flow as you add necessary skill development and check-off those skills you acquire. For the Skill Development section, it’s important to set target dates by which you will have developed these new skills. Without these targets, developing many of these skills will remain in the less-than-helpful “I’ll get to it someday…” status.
Career benchmarking requires a little of effort, diligence and commitment. Once you develop a habit of regularly benchmarking yourself, however, the effort should become a routine aspect of your ongoing career development.
In the process, you’ll obtain more confidence in your skills, you’ll have a clearer career direction. Most important, you’ll know your next necessary steps should a change be necessary – or if you find that perfect next step toward your dream job.
About the Author: Dave Ellis is an original member of the YouTern team and is instrumental to its success… in fact, he’s so awesome there wouldn’t be a YouTern without him (and he might have written this bio himself). Dave serves as YouTern’s Content Manager and Social Media Community Manager, and enjoys his role as the company’s “Man Behind the Curtain”. In his spare time, Dave volunteers, rescuing and rehabilitating sea lions and baby elephant seals. Connect with Dave on LinkedIn and follow him on Twitter!