How to Effectively Curate Your Career

by Lisa Gaskill

From news to entertainment to social media personas, we are constantly curating the world around us to reflect and refine our personal brand. The idea of curation can also apply to our careers—helping us accumulate relevant, professional experiences that ultimately ladder up to our larger career strategy.

To help curate your own future, start by asking yourself a series of questions:

What do I want my future to look like?

When you’re focused on the day-to-day, it can be challenging to make time to think about the long term. Yet it’s time well spent.

Start with your ultimate career goal, then work your way backward. What does your goal look and feel like? What specific actions do you need to take to reach it? 

How do I pursue my ultimate career goal?  

After you have a clear idea of what you want, it’s time to develop your task list for achieving it. In the time-management book Getting Things Done, David Allen articulates his system for prioritizing tasks.

Create powerful to-do lists based on:

1. Your time. 

Identify those tasks that you can tackle between appointments—like scanning job listings or course catalogs—and those that require you to block out a few hours—like crafting a cover letter or updating your portfolio. Be ready to take advantage of delayed meetings or cancellations by knowing what’s next in your queue of quick tasks.

2. Your energy level. 

Know in advance which tasks will require intense concentration (schedule these as early in the day as possible) and which tasks are necessary but mindless (good for doing at the end of the day when your energy is waning).

3. Your environment. 

Separate tasks that must be performed at your office from those you can do at home.

Planning your work with deliberation allows you to make steady progress toward your goals regardless of your immediate time availability, the amount of energy you have, and in what context you find yourself.

With a little organization, you can say “farewell” to procrastination and “hello” to the next stage of your career.

How do I curate a strong portfolio of skills?

In the past, all you needed was an undergraduate degree. But today, education is never truly finished. In fact, most people find that they need to continue building their knowledge.

In addition to on-the-job training, many professionals look for outside opportunities to boost their skills. From conferences to professional development programs to online courses, you have a multitude of ways to polish your skills—and your résumé.

How can I create a memorable personal brand?

Like a corporate brand, your personal brand is everything you want people to think about when they hear your name. What attributes are distinctly you? Jot down a few words that describe the way you’d like to be seen by others, such as “talented tech whiz” or “savvy marketing guru.”

Then, consider your target market. What types of organizations or professionals do you want your personal brand to resonate with? Where do your skills and their needs align?

Next, market yourself by polishing up your résumé, personal website, social media presence, and elevator pitch. Personalize your pitch, highlighting your distinct skills and experience that make you valuable to each organization or professional you approach.

Finally, put your personal brand into action. Research opportunities to network with members of your target market through personal connections or at meet-ups, conferences, or other professional events.

How do I decide which path to take?

At various points in your life, you’ll be faced with new opportunities that may, or may not, further your career. At that point, think about your ultimate career goal and decide if the new opportunity is in sync with the big picture—Does it allow you to acquire valuable skills? Are you moving into your desired industry? Do the responsibilities align with your professional passions?

Whatever path you take, remember to keep moving. Often in our careers, inertia can set in and hinder progress. It is easy to get too focused on your immediate objectives, and miss the opportunity to change the direction of a stalled career. Be aware and open to new possibilities.

Leave room for surprises

Curation can help your career stay on the path to success; however, the downfall is not being open to experiences that are outside your carefully crafted domain.

Sometimes, of course, the most satisfying careers are born out of surprising twists—such as being assigned to a new department or even being relocated to a city where you don’t know anyone. We all know stories of “how it came to be.” So keep your eye on the prize, but remember to stay flexible. At the end of the day, the beauty of curation is that you get to lead the career—and the life—that you want.

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Leslie S. (not verified) replied:

Great post and advice. Thank you for sharing.

October 11, 20161:20pm

Dinah Mayo Bobee (not verified) replied:

How to Effectively Curate Your Career is extremely helpful. If more can be said about professional development goals for post-tenure faculty, that would be even more valuable. Thank you for sending this concise, yet useful article on introspection and image shaping.

January 19, 201711:26pm


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