10 things you can do to improve your career in 10 minutes or less
In less time than it takes to fold your laundry, you can be making strides in your career.
You’ve got 10 minutes before your next meeting—or class, or episode of Westworld. You could blast out a few sets of crunches so your abs will be ripped by bikini season; scroll aimlessly through Snapchat; Facebook-stalk your ex; or watch puppy videos on YouTube... Or, you could do something quick and painless to improve your career.
Believe it or not, there’s a lot you can accomplish in 10 minutes. Monster spoke with experts to find their top ways to boost your career and job search success in less time than it takes to make a bowl of pasta.
Plan your day
You do it before a yoga class, why not on the way to work? Set your intentions. On your way to work, school or your internship, take the time to prioritize your to-do list.
Dennis Geoghegan, founder of the professional development site Expert Program Management, recommends asking two questions: “Are there any easy wins I can accomplish today?” and “What is the number one thing I need to do today?”
“These two questions should only take a couple of minutes to answer but will help you deliver real results in your current role, boosting your career progression,” says Geoghegan.
Read industry news
“Too often, professionals do their jobs in a vacuum and fail to regularly see how they fit into the big picture,” says Lori Scherwin founder of the New York-based career coaching company Strategize That.
“You'll be better informed and geared up if you have an understanding of the factors driving your industry or what challenges may be on your bosses’ (or their bosses’) minds,” she says.
She recommends reading trade publications, industry-specific articles and articles relevant to your role. To make it super-easy, set Google alerts for the ones you think are most useful, or create a Twitter list so you can quickly scan the most relevant headlines in a flash.
Email someone in your network
If you only reach out to people when you need something from them, the relationship could start to feel transactional and forced. Try to build better professional relationships by staying in regular contact with those contacts so you’re not just reaching out when you need a favor.
“It takes less than five minutes to send an email saying hello and ask how they are doing,” says Scherwin. “This way, you'll be more connected and more comfortable reaching out again in the future if you do need something—it'll feel more natural,” she says.
Share your accomplishments
Keep track of your wins by creating a brag sheet—and updating it often. The purpose of this is so you don’t forget all the good you’re doing at work, and can easily mention it to higher-ups. And don’t wait until your annual review to share your wins.
“It is very likely that your boss has little more than a vague idea as to how busy you really are and what you are either working on or have accomplished,” says Roy Cohen, a New York-based career coach.
“If you wait till your annual performance review, he or she may have already formed an impression that is reflected in both your salary increase and bonus. And the numbers may not match what you believe you deserve.”
Create your elevator pitch
“Your elevator pitch is what you will say to describe yourself and your background to networking contacts and employers,” says Cheryl Palmer, founder of the D.C.-based career-coaching firm Call to Career.
Your elevator pitch should be concise, persuasive and something that you can repeat with ease.
Once you’ve honed it, Palmer recommends recording yourself so you can hear how you come across, and make changes so you sound genuine and conversational instead of rehearsed and robotic.
Connect with a mentor
“Speaking with a mentor can help you identify your blind spots, get candid feedback on how you can accelerate your career progress, and give you an opportunity to get a fresh point of view on your career trajectory,” says Joseph Liu, a London-based career and personal-branding consultant.
And just like you want to keep this career-boosting task to 10 minutes or less, your mentor will appreciate you being as brief as possible too. Come prepared with detailed questions so you use the time as efficiently as possible.
Get feedback on your resume
Your resume is your first point of contact with a company. You want it to make a great first impression to help you land a job interview, so use your free time to reach out to a mentor, professor or confidante to give your resume a review.
“It's very difficult to be objective about yourself and your experience,” says Palmer. “You may not be presenting yourself in the best possible light on paper, but it's hard to know that without objective feedback,” says Palmer. Take 10 (or fewer) minutes to send out your resume to your trusted advisors.
Read job postings
This one serves two purposes. Obviously, if you’re looking for a job, you need to be looking at job ads; sometimes breaking the task down to 10-minute chunks makes it more manageable.
“Check job posting boards for examples of jobs you envision for yourself and the key qualifications and experience you need,” says Cohen. “The information you gather will serve as a baseline for what companies are looking for and where you currently stand.”
Brainstorm your dream job
Whether you’re just starting out or you’re in a career slump, “What do you want to do with your life?” is a question that’s often asked and hard to answer.
Brenda Hoehn, a Missouri-based life coach, recommends a 10-minute exercise for discovering your dream job: Write down the qualities of your ideal job, such as company culture, compensation, work-life balance and stress level. Don’t limit yourself to a particular title or company—think about what would make you happy. If it’s working with people, put that down. If it’s flexible hours, write that. Then, do some online searching for jobs that fit those descriptions.
“A position that you may not have originally thought was something that you wanted may appear and have everything that you would have ever asked for and more! Be open to possibilities,” says Hoehn.
Take a break
Rihanna is right: You have to work, work, work, work, work, work. But you also need to press pause sometimes. Studies have shown that allowing for some downtime can actually improve productivity.
When your workload seems overwhelming or if you’re faced with a block, don’t try to power through. Take a minute (or 10) to relax. “If you are getting frustrated, stopping for even a moment can help put the situation in perspective,” says Scherwin. “You'll feel better directed and will work more effectively as a result thereafter.”