As an online learner, you are already immersed in a variety of technologies. How are using these tools, and the skills you are developing through their use, to move your career forward?
This post not only provides a list of ways in which you can boost your career development online, but also challenges you to accomplish these tasks before the end of the year.
Whether you just started the Fall semester, or are learning in accelerated academic terms, these activities are designed to help you further your goals as you work toward new job and career opportunities.
- Complete career self-assessments. With a basic Internet search you’ll find a wide array of tests and quizzes that promise insight into your skills, interests, work values, and personality. And many of these are free. Look for sites that are recommended by schools or career counselors and developed by experienced professionals. The assessments listed on sites like The Riley Guide and CareerOneStop are great places to start. Check with your school’s career center for more options. Your career advisors can also help you interpret test results and determine next steps in your career development and exploration.
- Participate in professional conversations. Don’t limit your online discussion activity to the forums in your courses. From LinkedIn Groups to Twitter chats and beyond, there are more options than ever that allow you to join your colleagues in career-related conversations through online communities. Find a new (to you) discussion about a topic of interest and join in!
- Build your online presence. Do you have social media accounts you haven’t accessed in a while? Or maybe one that you registered for, but never set up? Now is the time to take an inventory. Consider deleting accounts you don’t use (and suspect you never will), and updating those that have promise, but haven’t been visited in a while. Maintaining your digital identity is an ongoing process and keeping your accounts up-to-date sends a positive message to recruiters and others who view your profiles.
- Research potential employers. Even if you aren’t actively searching for a new position, researching companies that traditionally hire people in your field is just one way to stay current with the industry and its expectations. Online company guides, such as Vault.com and Monster.com provide details about company size, location, and hiring information. You can also find out a lot about an organization’s culture and current needs from its social networking profiles on LinkedIn and other sites.
- Review job announcements. Just like researching potential employers, keeping an eye on the latest position descriptions can be helpful, even if you aren’t currently looking. Note the specifics listed for both required and preferred qualifications, as well as key words used. How do you measure up? Big job boards like CareerBuilder.com and Indeed.com are great, but also look for sites that cater specifically to your field, and include openings in your geographic area.
- Learn something new. Sign up for an open, online course. Attend a live webinar event. Subscribe to an email newsletter. This one is wide open in terms of the time and level of commitment required. Pick a topic that has come up recently in your courses or workplace, a topic you think you should know more about, and find an opportunity to fill in the gaps.
- Create an ePortfolio. This is a great way to showcase your best work and share it all with a single URL, and can be as simple or complex as makes sense for your use. Use LinkedIn’s features, such as Applications, to build a robust profile with portfolio-like components, or set up a personal website or blog to organize work samples and present documented evidence of your skills and experience. EPortfolios also help you build your online presence.
- Attend a virtual job fair. If you are currently searching for a new position, online career fairs bring hiring employers to you through a variety of technologies including online forums and live web conferences. Ask your career center advisors about events they may be organizing and for recommendations of national/regional career fairs that may feature employers in your field.
- Experience a virtual internship. A recent post about employers’ perceptions of online degrees revealed that experience is a big factor when your resume is reviewed. Internships allow you to gain practical experience in your field of study before you graduate, showing hiring managers that you know what to expect, and what may be expected of you, in the workplace. Virtual internships are available as well as on-ground, and if it’s not a required part of your academic program, look for volunteer and non-credit options. You will also benefit from the professional networking opportunities that take place.
Bonus!! Join a professional association. Ask your colleagues and instructors for recommendations about the most relevant and appropriate organizations for you to join. Student memberships, with reduced fees, are often available, and you may be surprised at what membership privileges are available online – from web-based resource collections and discussion forums, to member directories and networking events. Professional development opportunities and virtual conferences are also popular. If your association has regional chapters, don’t hesitate to step out from behind the computer and meet working professionals in your local area.
This is a long list and a little ambitious to consider all at once. Don’t try to get everything accomplished in a weekend or even a week. Many of these activities should be regular additions to your task list, but all are worth putting on your calendar at least once between now and the end of the year.
Set yourself up for a great 2013, by starting now with these online career development activities. What are your favorite ways to boost career planning and networking online? Share your tips with us here.