24 hours ago, I was furiously scrambling to get all my work done before hopping onto a plane from Heathrow to spend time with family this Christmas holiday. With a few hours left to spare, I managed to tick off the last work-related task on my to-do list. However, I had one more task to complete, which had nothing to do with work: clean the shower at home. Ahh yes, the housekeeping chore I’d been meaning to get to for weeks, but just never quite mustered up the energy to complete. Although I’m a former FMCG marketer who once worked on a cleaning brand, housekeeping is an area in my life where procrastination creeps in a bit more than I would care to admit.
The same procrastination can creep in when it comes to “career housekeeping”—those things we should be doing to maintain our professional career profiles that can sometimes drop to the bottom of our priority list. December is a busy time. You’ve been consumed with polishing off your brand campaign, reconciling the year-end budget, finishing the last of your customer meetings, and completing your annual review. Now, you can see a light at the end of the tunnel with the holidays around the corner. Finally, a chance to mentally check out, to take a break from work, to reconnect with family and friends, to recharge and rest. The holidays are a perfect time to do this. You can kick back and just relax now, right?
Not quite. While the temptation is to just shut everything down, the extra days away from the office actually present a unique opportunity to do a little brand maintenance of your own, the kind focused on your own career, personal brand, professional profile, network, and knowledge. The career maintenance every professional marketer must do to remain competitive. I’m not suggesting you sacrifice sacred quality time with your family to do these things. I am, however, recommending you dig deep and spare five hours between now and when you return to work to do the following...
Hour 1: Capture your key accomplishments
I’ve never met anyone who adores updating bullet points on his or her CV. Whilst you may not need your CV again until you’re actively looking for a new job, you can’t always predict when this situation will arise when you need to turn your CV around very quickly. So don’t put off getting those bullets up-to-date. Before you return to work after the holidays, capture a running list of your accomplishments from the year right now while they’re still fresh in your mind and the tangible results of your efforts still salient. Reaching back several months or even years into the annals of your projects to recall the quantifiable impact you had is more difficult and takes more time in the end.
Hour 2: Reconnect with your network
The days leading up to the holidays give you a perfect excuse to drop an email to those in your professional network, reestablish contact, and provide updates on the work you’ve been focused on recently. At the end of the year, I often come across clients who are reevaluating their career direction, considering a career change, or looking for fresh perspective on how they can more effective in their roles. Your professional network can be an invaluable resource of job leads, career mentorship, and helpful advice. Keep your network warm with a quick phone call or email to wish them the best in the new year, update them on what you’ve been working on, or even share some interesting content you feel is useful to them. It only takes a few minutes. A great place to start is with former managers, colleagues, or contacts you’ve made at a recent networking event.
Hour 3: Update your recruitment contacts
If you have recruiter contacts, year end is a good time to drop them a note, especially since recruitment tends to pick back up in January. Say hello, share a couple key accomplishments or skills you’ve been developing, and allude to the major projects you’re looking forward to leading in the upcoming year. Even if you’re not looking to move, maintaining positive relations with marketing recruiters is a critical component of any aspiring marketers’ network, especially as you progress in your career. Pick a couple recruiters you’ve not been in touch with during the past 90 days and drop them a note. If you don’t know any recruiters, now is a great time to establish a relationship with at least one who specialises in your sector. Client-side marketers, if you’re looking for good recruitment firms, I’ve had positive experiences as both a client and candidate with Stopgap, Tarsh Lazare, and Jarlett de Grouchy, just to name a few, although plenty of other solid ones exist.
Hour 4: Ensure your LinkedIn profile is current
With more and more employers and recruiters relying on social media to procure talent, it behooves you to ensure your LinkedIn profile is up-to-date. Endless articles exist on how to improve your LinkedIn profile. For the purposes of your holiday career housekeeping, ensure you at least have all of the basics updated on your profile:
- Summary career positioning statement (industry, role, key functional experience and interests)
- Current professional headshot
- All role titles and employment dates
- Summary of key responsibilities for each role
- Education, degrees, dates, professional certifications
- Bonus: at least 1 recommendation under each company for which you’ve worked
Hour 5: Read one chapter of a business book
Amidst retweeted ideas, Facebook posts, and an endless array of online articles, I still find some of the best inspiration for fresh thinking in business management books. Whether you’re feeling stuck on a particular issue related to growth on your brand of feeling like you’ve stagnated in your own career efforts, picking up a copy of a best selling business book can help inject new-found inspiration and actionable insights into your situation. The book doesn’t have to directly relate to marketing. Reading the latest research on broader business topics or best practices on strategic leadership allows you to broaden your content knowledge and perspectives, invaluable to any marketing leader. If you aren’t sure where to start, one of my favorite business books of all time is Great By Choice by Jim Collins, where he shares ideas like the “20 Mile March” and “Firing Bullets then Cannonballs,” concepts applicable not only to your brand building efforts, but also in your own life. If you’re just not a book person, the Harvard Business Review blog is another great resource for the latest thinking in business.
While spending a few hours of your holiday doing these career-related maintenance may not be what you had in mind as you look ahead to your days off, forcing yourself to quickly complete these five tasks before you return to work allows you to bank all you’ve done in the past year and ensure your professional profile is current, relevant, and top-of-mind moving into the new year. And if you’re like me, taking the time to do a little career housekeeping can also serve as a convenient excuse for putting off less pleasant housekeeping chores—like cleaning the shower.
With over eight years of client-side brand management & marketing experience at Fortune 500 FMCG and start-up companies in the US & UK, managing brands that include Glad, Liquid-Plumr, Gü Puds, and Häagen-Dazs, Joseph Liu helps professionals & small business owners relaunch their careers with resources to help them navigate career change and more powerfully market their personal brands at josephpliu.com. He's also the host of the Career Relaunch podcast, featuring inspiring stories of career change.