Beyond the basics: 10 things you can do outside the office to develop your career

The average person apparently spends 8.8 hours a day at work, equating to around 9000 hours a year, and in a 24/7 industry like communications those figures can run significantly longer. For that reason it can sometimes feel daunting to take on extra responsibilities and interests outside of work hours, but there are a few simple ways in which this time, if used correctly, can advance your career even more than time spent at the coalface.

Here are a few things you can do which can give you a welcome extra dimension as a candidate, improve your underlying skills and capacities, and give your career a shot in the arm. And while this advice comes from the perspective of a recruiter, it’s worth bearing in mind even if you’re not contemplating a move; this kind of personal and professional development is likely to come in handy whatever your circumstances.

1. Volunteer

Volunteering takes many forms; it can mean working at street level for a larger charity, but small organisations often need more help at a strategic level, or in managing comms to help get the word out and publicise their cause. For the volunteer it’s a fantastic source of personal and professional development and what’s more, it’s been known for centuries (and now proved by science) that charity is the best and most enduring route to personal happiness.

2. Become a Trustee or Non-Executive Director

Lending your expertise to smaller companies can be an incredible way to add value to your own career and help interesting companies make their mark on the world. For many organisations just starting out, it’s essential to have an experienced and independent voice to help guide their successes and rein in their excesses, providing elements of creativity and strategy when the core team can be overwhelmed by the day-to-day grind.

3. Find a Mentor

Mentorships are a time-honoured but absolutely effective way to boost your knowledge of your chosen field and leverage the experience of your elders. As well as providing essential background knowledge, a good relationship with a mentor can provide a shortcut to networking opportunities that might otherwise take years to develop.

4. Become a Mentor

By the same token, you don’t need to be an industry grandee to provide useful advice to people getting started in your field. Being a mentor is often a simple and rewarding pleasure, and looks fantastic on your CV when applying to new roles

5. Go to Networking Events

Networking doesn’t come naturally to everyone, in fact it’s a rare skill, but all you need to bear in mind is that most of the people you meet are likely to feel the same way. All it takes is a quick introduction to get over that initial hurdle. Networking is really the backbone of business all around the world, and even a single meeting with a peer can become a huge benefit down the line. Most industry bodies run regular networking events, so it’s a great idea to sign up and set yourself a goal for attending a few every year.

6. Social Media Networking

If it’s difficult to attend networking events in person, social media can be a great substitute. Twitter and LinkedIn in particular can be valuable sources of new relationships, and can help you keep up with the latest developments and thinking in your industry. If you reach the point where you’re engaging with your peers regularly, followers will soon… well, follow, and influence is very much the new currency in comms.

7. Set Up Networking Events

Finally on the subject of networking, if you can’t find an event in which you’re interested in participating, why not create something that suits you? Whether it’s a book club, a regular 5-a-side match or just a pub quiz night, networking events are easy to set up and populate. Socially fulfilling and a great way of establishing yourself in a new city or organisation, they can also yield great professional dividends and insight.

8. Update your LinkedIn

LinkedIn is no one’s favourite social network, but it’s established itself as an invaluable tool for recruiters – it’s often among the first places we look for new talent. If you’re interested in being considered for exciting new opportunities as they arise, it’s a simple matter to put a bit of work into your LinkedIn profile. For an extra level of shine, make sure it has high quality photographs, accept a few connections and maybe even post a few articles – it all goes towards making your profile more visible and attractive in recruiter searches.

9. Become an Expert

Recruiters are always looking for candidates with that extra level of dimension and commitment, and it’s hard to demonstrate that better than by becoming a thought leader in your own field. Whether you have an incredibly niche passion in your industry or just want to share some general thoughts on your working life, it’s a great way to show recruiters and employers that you can bring a certain level of expertise to your job.

10. Live a Life Outside Work

Finally, and speaking of extra dimensions, don’t be afraid to bring your extracurricular activities to bear in your CV. It could be writing a novel, running a marathon, or really any type of personal project, and it might not be directly related to your job, but it says something very positive about a candidate if they’ve used their personal time to achieve something meaningful. As with many of the other points on this list, you’ll probably find it enriches your life outside of work as well. We all enjoy some Netflix at the end of a hard day and there’s nothing wrong with that, but don’t let it stop you from living the life you want.

Maddie Burton, Managing Consultant, Birchwood Knight


18th June 2019

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