Many people picture a big break as something that happens to them. A recruiter finds you. An interviewer loves you. And because of someone else, you get the opportunity you always dreamed of.
Maybe one day the hiring manager of your dreams will call you, but if you just sit there waiting and do nothing, odds are he won't.
So, stop waiting to be discovered. You can do things (starting now) that are much more effective. Some of them are actionable, and others will take some time and reflection, but they’ll all help you advance your career. Here are 12 options to kick things off.
1. Buy Your Domain on the Internet
This might not seem like much, but it’s a big step. Owning your digital presence isn’t just a nice idea: It’s the difference between standing out and being overlooked.
Having a website gives a physical imprint that allows you to be found, to have a respectable email address, and to distinguish yourself from other people with your same name.
2. Build a Site That Showcases Your Skills and Accomplishments
Having a resume is great. Having a vibrant social presence is even better. Unfortunately, neither guarantee you a big break simply by existing.
An impressive website can demonstrate your specific talents and skills in a way that directly show how you provide value, in a focused way. With sites like Squarespace, it’s easier than ever to create a cohesive explanation of the value you bring.
3. Audit Your Brand
You know what’s almost as bad as being a ghost? Having a brand that isn't consistent. Who you are should be obvious, and if it’s not, it can cost you job opportunities.
So, those Instagram pictures of you from vacation may be safe for work, but if you want to use the account to spread business tips, it’s inconsistent. If something doesn’t line up with what you want to be saying, then you have to let it go. Taking the time to clean, adapt, and adjust your brand will keep you on top of what you are saying about yourself, which can lead to opportunities in the long term.
4. Ask 3 of Your Closest Friends to Evaluate You
Knowing your strengths and areas for improvement can be the difference between securing an interview or being passed over, to connecting with people at a networking event or leaving with no new business cards.
Feedback is a gift, but it can be scary to open up to some tough truths from your friends. So, if you ask for it, make sure you’re ready to receive it. And thank them for taking the time to help you out!
5. Join an Offline Community
Nothing beats meeting someone face to face. And here’s something to remember: You don’t have to join an organization that’s stated purpose is to help you find a new job. Just meeting new people can lead to a break. Brands like The Phat Startup have created a community that melds two things together—in their case merging hip-hop and entrepreneurship—as a means to bring people together and make sure everybody wins.
If you’re not sure what exists around you, check out Meetup and find something local in your city.
6. Identify Career Role Models and Take Their Advice
If you’re trying to learn what it might take to get your “big break,” you need to spend time with the folks who have already had theirs. Thankfully, nowadays, you don’t have to find a way to get on people’s schedules to learn from them: You can simply follow them on social.
7. Collaborate With People With Similar Interests and Different Backgrounds
You have a ton of tech skills, but you’re not a great writer. Your old friend is killing it when it comes to content, but her site is a little lackluster.
A lot of people might look at this situation and think you should barter—and that’s a great option. But you know what would be even better? If you learned from each other. Maybe you could spend an afternoon teaching her some basic HTML and bringing her website into the 21st century. Then, maybe she could take some time to not just work on your materials, but discuss a few things you could do to make your writing stronger overall.
8. Read (a Lot)
Warren Buffett spends more than three-quarters of his workday reading or thinking. Not typing, not tweeting, and certainly not scrolling through Instagram. What if you spent even a few hours a week reading?
What could you learn? What new idea could you unearth buried deep inside a book? Or even in an article online? Don’t overlook the information in front of you, especially as you continue to build toward your goal. They can teach you things you might not expect.
9. Find an Organizational System That Works for You
Time is non-renewable resource, and you need to maximize all of it. While you do have the same amount of hours in the day as Sheryl Sandberg, you probably don’t have the systems in place that she does. Apps like IFTTT can help you do routine things like set up Google alerts for jobs, check when your favorite company is in the news, or even remind you to follow up with a new contact you met at that happy hour last week.
10. Develop Industry Knowledge (Beyond Your Subject Expertise)
If you want to move ahead in an industry, you need to think broadly. Say you’re interested in the branding consumer goods industry: You should learn about what branding means in the changing landscape of media, and how companies big and small are adapting to it. You should look at trends and relevant data and find who the titans of industry are.
What are the new ideas? Where are things going? Who is driving innovation forward? Knowing a lot about a subject is great, but understanding how those ideas come about, how to generate more of them, and how to execute makes you invaluable.
11. Identify Your Core Values
Picture your ideal day, and then ask yourself the following questions: What does it look like? What kinds of people are you collaborating with? What are you working toward? Why are you working toward that?
By taking a break from thinking about your dream job and instead focusing on your ideal day, you’ll further get away from the idea of having to find the perfect opportunity—and closer to finding one that’ll actually make you happy.
12. Learn a Skill—Any Skill
Skills are currency, and the more you have, the more indispensible you are. Maybe you want to learn something that directly translates to what you do each and every day, because it’ll help you be more productive. Maybe you want to pick up something in a different field, so you can see your work in a new light—that’s also adding great value.
So, sign up for a class or workshop or webinar, or even commit to reading up on one. Then, set a goal to put your skill to use—and add it to your resume—within a matter of weeks.
Maybe your big break will happen, but maybe it won’t. Either way, you can’t go wrong by trying out these 12 things, because regardless of where you’re at in your career, they can only help.
Now go get active. The world needs the best of what you have.