How to Grow Yourself Professionally While Job Hunting


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Job seeking doesn’t mean a halt to your professional growth; it may be the best time to develop skills of leadership, software, language or networking
Jenn Danko

Michael Pollock is a big believer in research— but getting his clients to dig through a book to find it is a different story. The president of Pollock Spark, a creative professional consulting firm, says that although job seekers utilize the Internet and social media when looking for work, they are less inclined to enlist a book that may enrich their process. As a result, they often overlook public libraries, which provide some of the best tools to help them grow professionally.

“I say go to libraries and talk to other people who are looking for jobs,” Pollock says. “At libraries, you find a broad range of people and [tap into] the power of those people who have a whole other set of information in their heads.”

Pollock and other career consultants say libraries are good portals for professional growth—whether you are in a professional or creative field, career enrichment opportunities are only a click, seminar or meet-and-greet away.

Enrich and Engage

In central New England, Christine Bolzan, CEO of Gradate Career Coaching, has worked with nearly a dozen local libraries to offer free seminars to job seekers.

“I think in difficult times, people turn to the public library for support,” says the veteran career coach, who has tapped the library to help her deliver one of her most important messages: “Continue to develop your skills while seeking that next position.”

First things first, Bolzan says. Take a step back and examine the skills you may need in order to take your next professional step. “If you lack a specific technical or language skill, or a particular certification, it’s advisable to take a class and remedy that,” she suggests. Consider it an investment in your career; telling a hiring manager you are enrolled in a course will demonstrate your dedication and commitment to the field.

Where should job seekers invest their time? It depends on their field, Pollock says. In the case of creative professionals, film, motion graphic and illustrator software skills are always essential to master. Take an online course if you feel your skills are rusty, he says.

Business-based professionals can consider expanding their horizon by learning a second language with software such as Rosetta Stone . The increasingly multi-cultural landscape of the job market has made Spanish a sought after skill. With more than 400 million Spanish speakers worldwide—including half of the Western Hemisphere—there has never been a more important time to learn it, Bolzan says.

“I taught myself Italian and French just by borrowing [the Rosetta Stone software] from the library,” she says.

Know How to Network

Once you have the skill set, show them off with style, Bolzan says. “Networking may be the single most important skill every job seeker needs to master,” she says.

But successful schmoozing doesn’t come without engaging in the right techniques. Pollock says that your behavior at a networking event—be it a cocktail party, a Meet Up, or luncheon—can help grow both your professional and social swagger.

“Don’t try to get a job there,” Pollock says, “Ask people what they do and soak up as much of that as you can.” Such conversations may lead to an unexplored interest that could take you to the next steps in your career, he says.

Additionally, many libraries hold their own events that allow plenty of leeway for professional growth. “A lot of libraries are holding networking events as a way to share information and practice,” Bolzan says. And if not, some have bulletin boards featuring career-minded gatherings.

Start a Blog

If you’re not enriching yourself in a social setting, consider doing it on screen and keep a blog. Pollock says the act of writing everyday is not only liberating but can help add to the unique history of you and your career. “Part of growing yourself professionally is doing a self-examination and looking back at things that you thought you did well, or other people told you that you did,” he says. “You have to look at your own history and figure out what is unique about you.”

Blogging, whether from a library workstation or from your own home, can showcase a wider range of your interests and knowledge outside of your job search.

“Be out there and be very clear on who you are as a person and what value you are,” Pollock says. “That way, when someone looks at you, they can say, ‘that’s exactly what I need.’”

Recommended Resources

I’m on LinkedIn—Now What???: A Guide to Getting the Most Out of LinkedIn 
By Jason Alba 
What better way to spend some unemployed downtime than by bolstering your professional support network? Jason Alba suggests job seekers stay fresh between jobs by not only joining LinkedIn, but also by using it to its fullest potential as well. With more than 32 million members, the professional possibilities are limitless for those interested in advancing their careers, increasing their business or expanding their opportunities through digital mingling. 

What Should I do with My Life?: The True Story of People Who Answered the Ultimate Question
By Po Bronson
Po Bronson presents a series of individual profiles from around the world of people who have found answers to life’s most difficult questions while in between jobs. By using humor, empathy and insight, Bronson pieces together portraits of people who have transformed their lives during their professional downturn. As a result, they have emerged more enriched, fulfilled and most importantly—fearless.

Work It! How to Get Ahead, Save Your Ass, and Land a Job in Any Economy
By Allison Hemming
Job seekers between the ages of 18 and 35 will find a wealth of information in this chatty read, which urges job seekers to ditch their “McResumes” and show off their skills with style. As the founder of the interim staffing agency Hired Guns, not only has Hemming mastered the art of between-job hobnobbing (her “Pink Slip” parties are now infamous), she has also mastered the techniques it takes to grow amidst job hunting. Hemming also offers tips on how to keep your mind—and wallet—afloat during a downturn.

Rosetta Stone Second Language Software
Get ahead of the employment curve with this language software program. Rosetta Stone offers courses in more than 30 languages from 150 countries by using features such as graphics, sounds and text that are presented in progressively more challenging tutorials. It’s an ideal tool for enriching both mind and resume.

Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without Organizations
By Clay Shirky
Clay Shirky frames the digital hierarchy of blogs, wikis and other Web futurists as an integral device of professional growth. In taking a philosophical, sociological, economic and statistical approach to their existence, Shirky presents both the pros and cons while never discounting their necessity. In the end, readers will realize how viable of a tool the Web can be in enriching anyone’s career, both in and out of the office.


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