8 Actions for your Annual Career Audit

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Do any of these sound familiar?

"I was laid off. I haven't been in the job market for 10+ years. I have no idea what to do."

"I am re-entering the job market after 20 years at the same company. I don't even know where my resume is."

"I've been using the same technologies for the past 10 years. My company wasn't timely with using more recent versions."

"I haven't looked for a job in forever. Job seekers don't search the newspaper for jobs anymore, do they?"

"I haven't updated my resume in my entire time at this company, and I've had 4 positions over the last 7 years."

These are all comments we hear frequently, and I just heard comment/question #4 (newspaper one) from a job seeker in the last few months! None of these reactions should happen to professionals who very suddenly find themselves in unfamiliar territory, i.e. a job search. As a proactive professional, you need to prepare your "disaster recovery" protocol for your career, which includes making sure you are semi-prepared if the unthinkable happens, such as getting laid off from a company and job you love and thought was your "forever career home!"


Each year, many of us reflect on our prior year and even put together resolutions. To some extent, we do "life audits," where we think about things like: what accomplishments am I proud of last year? What did I spend too much time doing? What did I not spend enough time doing that I find fulfillment in? Where did I travel? What new experiences did I try? How did I do with my healthy living and/or exercise goals? Then, we draft our resolutions accordingly.

Why not take a modified approach with our careers? We propose that once a year, or even once a quarter, you do a Career Audit and draft out your plan for the year or quarter. This should include what skills to proactively learn to help you stay marketable as well as updating important "professional marketing materials" you might need to provide if you suddenly find yourself in the job market. This may include your resume, LinkedIn profile, GitHub profile, online portfolio/website, and any other URLs you might provide to a Recruiter/hiring Manager!

Here are the 8 actions we recommend taking during your quarterly/annual 'Career Audit!'

  1. Update resume - Have you ever heard the term "living resume?" It means that your resume is always a current or recently updated version that represents your current skills and contributions! An excellent time to update your resume is right after your annual performance review! Since most reviews happen at the end of the year, January is a great timeframe for updating your resume to include any project highlights, accomplishments, key responsibilities, and technologies you used the year before!
  1. Update LinkedIn profile - We've talked to many Recruiters who say they spend just as much time looking at a candidate's LI profile as their resume. We know some Managers who created their own LinkedIn profiles purely to review the profiles of the candidates they're interviewing. A quality LinkedIn profile is a huge part of your professional brand, and your first impression! It can say a lot about you, and can tell a bit of a different story than your resume. You can give off positive vibes with a quality picture that shows you are warm, confident, nice and professional! It can communicate your key strengths and demonstrate credibility through adding skills, non-proprietary examples of your work, published posts and recommendations. As soon as you update your Resume, take the next step of reviewing your LinkedIn and making updates!
  1. Understand trends - Are you making an effort to understand the current trends around your key role? What tools, technologies, versions of technologies, and/or methodologies are being adopted by companies? For example, the top three JavaScript frameworks we see being listed in the 'Requirements' section for Programmer roles include: Angular, React and Node. This is very important for you to know as a Programmer! You can learn about current trends through a variety of sources, including: asking Recruiters, simply paying attention to the topics being presented at local Meetups/User Groups/Code Camps/SQL Saturdays, reading technology news articles, listening to tech podcasts, reading an annual trends report such as ThoughtWorks Technology Radar or the annual Dice Tech Trends Salary report, or asking members of your local community! You can also sign up for job alerts and spend 5 minutes a month reviewing the technologies listed as 'Required' or 'Preferred' and writing down any technologies that are repeatedly listed.
  1. Build out a training plan for year - Once you understand the trends (#3 above), identify the 2-4+ most relevant technologies, versions of those technologies, tools, or methodologies that would be beneficial to learn! Then, flush out your training agenda. For example, say you identify that PowerBI is a key technology being mentioned in the types of jobs you would be interested in, but you don't have any PowerBI experience or knowledge. You can then add 'Two Hours of PowerBI Training' as a monthly to-do item for yourself for the next three months, and also to download and use PowerBI for at least two personal pet projects.
  1. Collect recommendations - One of the most under-utilized branding strategies is to collect and share recommendations. Collecting powerful testimonials around the work you do can give you an advantage during any interview process! On more than one occasion, we've worked with a hiring Manager who was on the fence between candidates, and sharing LinkedIn recommendations won the candidate we were partnering with over. During your Audit, ask yourself "Who did I do great work for over this past year/quarter? Who did I deliver something for? Who did I mentor/train significantly?" Then ask one or two of those individuals if they would be willing to write you a LinkedIn recommendation!
  1. Take assessments - Whether it's an assessment via a site like Indeed, LinkedIn, Kenexa, etc. or a coding challenge, there is no shortage of sites where you can take an assessment or participate in a challenge! These are great activities for a number of reasons. First, it helps you understand your strengths and, on the flipside, your potential areas for improvement, which you could then build into your Training Plan (#4). Second, they are great practice and preparation for technical interviews. Third, if you do really well, save the results and use as part of your portfolio, providing to Recruiters and/or hiring Managers to compliment your resume and online profiles! You can also add the results to your LinkedIn profile (there's an 'Assessments' section).
  1. Evaluate network and develop networking/community engagement plan - Are you an active member of a local group/association? If not, how are you going to find a group and get engaged? Even if it's attending one Meetup/User Group meeting a quarter, or their annual Code Camp, SQL Saturday, or other big event a lot of groups put on once a year, participating in an event/meeting periodically with a group/association that aligns with your career or technology interests helps expand your network and keeps your skills fresh!
  1. OPTIONAL - Update your Recruiter/s list and say hi - I'll never forget an email I received years ago from a Project Manager I ended up placing. It went something like this "Hey, Erica! I had received an email from you about a year ago, and I had added you to my 'Recruiter POCs List.' I wasn't in the job market when you emailed me, but I saved your information and am now looking for a new role." First off, I was amused that he had a list of Recruiters, with their names, companies, emails, and skill set/s they support. I love that idea, and think every professional should have some sort of 'Recruiter List!' This could be a 'Recruiters' folder in your inbox, which I've heard a lot, or an Excel list. You could also collect business cards for Recruiters you come across, and save them in one spot. Lastly, get connected with us on LinkedIn, and do an Advanced Search via LinkedIn putting 'Recruiter' in the title field and searching by your first degree connections. Whatever the strategy, have some way you are collecting and storing the contact information for Recruiters who reach out to you, or who you meet, and who you think could be partners if and when you start your job search!
Next Steps

Don't let the scenarios outlined in the 'Problem' happen to you. Even if you think you'll be at the same company forever, life sometimes has other plans for you. Getting suddenly laid off is stressful enough, but doing a periodic 'Career Audit' and investing even an hour or two each year to ensure your key job seeker marketing materials (i.e. Resume and LinkedIn profile) are updated is a great step!

Our main recommendation is to block off time at the start of each new year (or quarter) to:

  1. Review and make updates to your resume, especially your Technical Skills, Experience, Accomplishments/Awards, Training, and/or Community Involvement sections. What projects did you complete? What responsibilities did you take on? Which technologies, versions, and tools did you use?
  2. Review and make updates to your LinkedIn profile.
  3. Spend 30+ minutes researching trends related to your current/target skill set.
  4. Find some training courses, relevant Meetups, articles, etc. related to the top 2-3+ skills/technologies you want to learn and map them out on a weekly/monthly 'Training Plan.'
  5. Identify at least 1-2 individuals you helped or accomplished something significant for the year before, and ask them if they'd be willing to write you a LinkedIn recommendation.
  6. Take a few online technical assessments or challenges. If you do well, add to your LinkedIn profile and save the results where you have your resume saved, so you can utilize the scores/results if appropriate during your next job search.
  7. Think about your networking and training goals, and determine what your 'Community Involvement' plan should be for the year. For example, if you're trying to further develop your project management skills and Power BI knowledge, identify a local group for both skills and strive to attend one meeting a quarter per topic.
  8. Look at your Recruiter distribution/contact list, and reach out to check in if you feel you might be in the job market that year. If you have a good relationship with any Recruiters, inquire about the trends they're seeing. As you come across individuals in your network who are in the job market, connect them with these Recruiters!

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About the author
MSSQLTips author Erica Woods Erica Woods has nearly a decade in the IT staffing world, an MBA, and is a member of the Professional Association of Resume Writers and Career Coaches.

This author pledges the content of this article is based on professional experience and not AI generated.

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