How to “Future-Proof” Your Career

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As a contract employee, it’s especially important to stay ahead of the curve. Though some contract assignments lead to permanent jobs, others — even the long term ones — eventually come to an end. When that happens, you’ll want to be ready for the next opportunity that comes your way. To help you prepare, we asked Sr. Professional Account Recruiting Manager, Kate Keller and Sr. Professional Account Recruiting Manager, Julie Lewis, two members of Aerotek’s recruiter panel, for their best advice on how to “future-proof” your career. Here are some of their time-tested tips.

Connect with colleagues
Every contract assignment presents opportunities to build your network of professional contacts. Be mindful of making a great impression and try to learn from everyone you meet.

“Engage coworkers in conversations about their industries,” says Keller. “Ask about their challenges, successes and anything else that will start a conversation and make people excited to share their opinions and knowledge.”

“Go beyond your workplace by engaging with colleagues or prospective colleagues online,” she adds. “Join groups on LinkedIn and actively participate in virtual discussions. This is a great way to stay on top of new trends, and make additional contacts.”

Keep skills current
When working a full-time contract position, it can be challenging to add new skills to your portfolio. Yet, it’s worth making the effort. Julie Lewis recommends staying up-to-date by taking advantage of skills training offered at your workplace, reading industry publications, blogs and articles and surfing the websites of professional associations.

“In some fields, staying current means learning new software. In others, it’s about staying abreast of new rules and regulations,” says Lewis.

“Computer skills are more and more critical regardless of what field you are in,” she says. “For example, field technicians often use their laptops to troubleshoot and diagnose problems, document work and update schedules. Administrators do all or most of their work on computers and warehouse positions often require extensive use of inventory tracking software and the use of materials resource planning systems. Mechanics often receive, review and sign off on their work orders using computer technology,” says Lewis.

Be proactive

Interested in learning another arm of the business? “Don’t wait to be asked,” says Lewis. “Do the job to get the job,” by taking on related responsibilities. Who knows? It might lead to another opportunity at the same company. If nothing else, you’ll learn new skills that can be put to work, wherever you go next.

We’ve all heard rumors that robots are coming to take our jobs. While this seems overblown, it is fair to say that technology is changing the way business is done on a daily basis. In order to ensure your career path is clear, it’s up to you to think ahead. As the editorial team at Mindtool points out:

“While your job description may not be relevant in the future, you can ensure the skills you bring to the table are. With some forethought and planning, you can take control of your future career today. The key is not so much how skilled you are at predicting what will happen, it is how attuned you are to the early indications of change. When you realize that change is constant and you are constantly planning so you stay ahead of the game, you will find yourself in a great position to recognize and capitalize on opportunities that present themselves.”

Keep in touch
Is your contract coming to an end? Be sure you make an effort to keep in touch with the people you’ve met during your assignment.

“If you’re still on the job, start stockpiling contact information in your personal devices – you won’t have autofill or the handy internal directory for email addresses once you leave the premises,” Forbes contributor, Caroline Seniza-Levine points out.

“Let people know you’d like to stay in touch, and ask how they’d prefer to do so (e.g., LinkedIn, email, catch-up coffee) …”

If you’ve already moved on, reach out to former coworkers online or by phone before too much time has elapsed. That way, they’ll be more likely to think of you if they learn of another opportunity that might be a good fit. These professional contacts may also come in handy if you need a reference somewhere down the line.

Reach out to recruiters
Strong relationships with recruiters will help to guarantee you never have to face unemployment for long periods of time. Use of a staffing agency provides you with more control over your career.

“I believe every professional should feel comfortable reaching out to recruiters for help whenever they need it,” says Keller. “As the staffing industry continues to grow, I think jobseekers will rely on us more and more. As people have positive experiences with staffing agencies, I am hopeful that they will come to view recruiters as a huge and necessary part of their job searches.”

Aerotek recruiter panelists, Kate Keller and Julie Lewis contributed to this article.

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