Career success 2024: your guide — Adobe Acrobat

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Charting your career roadmap for 2024

The arrival of 2024 presents an opportunity to reflect and evaluate your current career situation. Whether you want to grow within your company or spread your wings to a bigger and better opportunity, the labor market might be primed for taking the next step in your career.

Companies are still increasing salary budgets in 2024, even though predicted growth isn’t as high as it was last year. This is good news for job seekers, as inflation remains high. But it’s important to remember that companies could be more selective and cautious with hiring because of that high inflation rate and the fear of a potential recession.

Taking advantage of those increasing salary budgets and growing within your career will likely require a good chunk of effort in 2024 — especially if companies get more competitive with their hiring decisions. So, how can you take the right first step on your career growth journey?

The best place to start is to create a career roadmap. A personalized roadmap could help you cultivate potential opportunities for growth, fruitful relationships with peers and mentors, and a sense of work-life balance.

We’ve compiled the steps you need to build your career roadmap — complete with unique insights we collected from 500 HR professionals. Their answers can help guide you as you think about how to achieve your goals.

We’ve also created a downloadable career roadmap workbook that you can use to build your growth plan. You can fully customize this workbook based on your current job status, career goals, and areas of development.

Together, these resources can help you stay on course in achieving your career goals in the new year.

Insights from HR professionals

To help you shape their career roadmaps for 2024, we contacted hundreds of HR professionals to determine what the year might look like from their perspective.

This isn’t just information that’s nice to have: It’s valuable data you can use to grow your career. If you know what HR professionals are seeking as they sift through applications and resumes, you know what to highlight on your own. More importantly, it can help you examine your career goals and inform your actions on how to achieve them.

Overall, many of our surveyed HR pros touted the importance of professional development, especially where tech skills and emerging concepts like AI are concerned. But they also stressed that professionals need to stay up to date on economic data, likely to gain a sense of how this data might impact demand for jobs or how widespread hiring will be.

To that end, professionals considering a job change in the next year — either by applying for a promotion or seeking new opportunities — might keep the following in mind:

Any year features challenges for workers, and 2024 is no exception.

Even with those difficulties, our surveyed HR pros said you shouldn’t have to go it alone. If you’re on the job market, consider seeking out companies that offer access to training and development programs. Prioritize supportive, inclusive workplaces with culture that goes beyond in-office amenities.

If workplace flexibility is a major concern for you, take the time to ask questions about accommodations, hybrid or remote schedules, and other ways the company might foster that flexibility.

One of the biggest ways to take control of your career is to form a clear understanding of your workplace before day one.

Infographic of Aligning your goals with key market trends.

Key job market statistics and forecast

Even though the forecasts for wage growth are different from 2023, it doesn’t mean the forecast is bad. It just means you may have to prepare for slightly smaller raises or salary bumps when moving to a new company.

Part of the reason for this slight decline is reduced turnover and a tighter job market. As employees quit or enter jobs at pre-pandemic levels, wage growth might decrease, too.

Even if wages aren’t seeing as much growth as in 2023, the demand for workers is.

Recruiting firm Insight Global recently shared its list of top industries for recruiting in 2024. It’s unsurprising to see sectors like healthcare, cybersecurity, and e-commerce topping the list. The high demand for these roles will continue to lead to more STEM graduates who seek those lucrative positions.

Our HR professionals stressed the importance of staying knowledgeable about two key details: data on the skills and qualifications that are in high demand and the importance of technology and globalization in the job market.

As companies rely more on their DEI initiatives to find underrepresented talent, strong remote work skills can help you stand out. Why? As companies better understand how casting a wider net can help find diverse talent, they look outside their traditional hiring pool. If you’re someone who may not have had access to roles because of a disability or equity issue, remote work can be a real game changer in your career growth.

Building your skills for the future

What skills make the most sense for career development as you look toward the future? Nearly 70 percent of our HR experts emphasized the importance of self-management and time management, especially for remote workers. Most of our experts (78 percent) stressed that time management strategies are the key to balancing new skills with current job responsibilities and personal commitments.

Problem-solving and critical thinking skills will also be in high demand. Nearly 68 percent of respondents valued them. Our HR professionals highly prioritize these soft skills along with communication and collaboration. Why? Employers want employees who can:

These soft skills are also essential because they often help people develop their professional networks and form relationships that could have lasting impacts on their careers.

Job seekers also need to engage in continuous learning. According to one HR pro, continuous learning “fosters a growth mindset and empowers you to navigate career transitions and seize new opportunities.”

Establishing your personal brand and network

You’ve committed to goal planning and professional development. Now, it’s time to establish your brand and showcase those skills by building a strong online presence. That starts with your LinkedIn profile. Optimize it well and include the following:

If you can spotlight projects demonstrating your skills and results, even better. That includes sharing micro-credentials like badges or other certification forms on your profile.

Take ownership of your digital presence by buying a website to build a portfolio that shows your best work. When possible, tailor content to target the right opportunities. Keep it clean and simple to enhance your best work.

One final way to develop your online presence is to take it to other platforms. Comment on industry forums, be active on social media (including LinkedIn), or start a podcast or blog and promote it to your network.

Networking works

Networking is another powerful tool, but only when you set clear goals. Are you looking for job opportunities or insights? Is your focus on building connections with industry thought leaders? Determine what you want to do and then leverage social media and industry-specific groups to make it happen.

Instead of sending out dozens of invitations, create personalized introductions for each person you hope to connect with. Active participation and relationship building can help you showcase your expertise. It will also encourage others to seek you out for new opportunities.

It’s one thing to build a strong career plan. It’s another to network with peers and mentors. When it’s time to seek out new opportunities, consider the following tips:

Craft a compelling resume and cover letter

Applying for jobs is much easier with the right resume and cover letter. Put your best foot forward by tailoring your resume to each job you apply for. Highlight relevant skills and experience, and make sure you organically use keywords from the job description. Your resume should be clear and concise, with an easy-to-read format and the right amount of white space.

Clear formatting and keyword insertion are important because they help an employer’s ATS parse your resume for relevant skills and experience. Tables, columns, colors, and photos might be visually appealing but could cause issues if the ATS can’t read them.

As you develop talking points for each role you’ve had, focus on results, not job duties. Include your key achievements and quantify results when you can. Check (and recheck) for spelling and grammar errors.

That same attention to detail should go into your cover letter. Address it to the hiring manager (if possible). Explain in the first paragraph why you’re interested in the job, why you think you’d be a good fit, and that you understand what the company or manager is seeking. This is your chance to hook the hiring manager, so word it wisely. Then, use a body paragraph to connect your skills and experiences with the role. Finally, close by reiterating your interest, fit, and willingness to interview for the job.

Virtual interviews are an increasingly popular way for employers to meet with candidates. To nail your virtual interview, pay attention to the details. Ensure your internet, camera, and microphone work (and have a backup plan in case something glitches). Optimize your space to prevent distractions, and test your lighting and sound before the interview starts. Finally, choose professional attire that matches the general vibe of the company or role you’re interviewing.

Professional attire might mean different things to different companies. Some businesses might prefer you to wear a shirt and tie, even on a virtual interview. Others might be perfectly alright with business casual attire. When in doubt, don’t be afraid to ask for clarification, especially if you have a phone screener prior to your virtual interview.

Focus on the camera during the interview to build rapport. Speak slowly and enunciate well. Keep paper copies of your notes, resume, and job description handy. Interviewers can tell when you’re tabbing through to find information, so try to minimize screen distractions.

This is also your chance to learn more about the company, too. Ask questions about details you may not have easy access to, such as the “day in the life” of the role you want.

Finally, thank the interviewer(s) for their time and express your continued interest in the role and company. Ask about the company’s next steps. This can help you determine if or when it’s appropriate to follow up. You might also send a thank you note to the hiring manager. While it probably won’t influence their immediate hiring decision, it could leave a positive last impression.

Career readiness: Essential skills to master for 2024 and beyond

Infographic of Career readiness: Essential skills to master for 2024 and beyond

Overcoming obstacles along the way

Every person will face obstacles at some point in their professional journey, but how you deal with them makes a big difference. Identify your skills gaps, economic factors, and personal responsibilities. Account for how they might limit your growth options and see what you can do to overcome them. Embrace challenges and approach them with a willingness to learn.

If you do face setbacks, take time to analyze them objectively. What lessons have you learned from them? How can you do things differently in the future?

Cultivate an attitude of positivity with an optimistic outlook on life and your abilities. When you focus on what you can control, you reduce the distractions these issues cause. And when all else fails, seek out a strong mentor or support system that can provide guidance and networking opportunities.

Just over 70 percent of our HR experts stressed the importance of seeking feedback from interviewers or hiring managers and using rejection as an opportunity for personal growth and self-reflection.

Achieving work-life balance

Professional growth is essential, but it shouldn’t come at the expense of your well-being. Balance in your work and life prevents burnout and promotes healthy relationships in the office and at home. Even though more than half of surveyed HR pros suggest it’s one of the workplace’s greatest challenges, they view it as vital to a healthy career.

To reduce the risk of burnout, set clear boundaries early on. Communicate your limits and expectations to everyone, including your colleagues and supervisors. Prioritize tasks based on urgency and importance. Pushing back on unrealistic expectations and saying no is perfectly acceptable.

Scheduling breaks into your routine to recharge is also acceptable. This can be a 20-minute walk, some time to read, or even a phone call with a friend. Communicate your break times to colleagues to manage expectations and ensure they know when you’re available.

Your boundaries may change as your relationship to your work does. Regularly assess your workload and adjust your boundaries accordingly. You can be as flexible as you’re comfortable being. Just ensure those adjustments align with your overall well-being and goals.

Financial planning for your goals

Sometimes, your goals might require financial investment, and that’s OK. Certifications, classes, and professional development often have associated costs. Buying software to help you achieve your dreams of filmmaking or graphic design can be expensive, but worthwhile.

Allocate a specific budget for your passion projects, but ensure it aligns with your overall financial goals. Track your expenses and evaluate their impact on your financial stability. If you have the capacity, consider ways to monetize your passion projects, or at least have them pay for themselves.

In some cases, you might even be eligible for financial assistance via grants or community investment. Research your eligibility and, if time allows, apply for these to help reduce your financial stress and support your career growth and personal endeavors.

Continuous learning opportunities

Our surveyed HR experts think continuous learning is an excellent way to show your commitment to professional growth. Professionals have more ways than ever before to take on new skills and showcase those proficiencies. Consider the following options:

Defining your career goals and roadmap

The first step for career success in 2024 and beyond is knowing where you are and where you’d like to go. That includes taking a step back and looking at where you see yourself three, six, or even 12 months down the road.

Identify your current career status

Reflect on your present job role, responsibilities, achievements, and challenges. Are you content with your current position? Examine the aspects of your job that you enjoy and the ones that may not be your cup of tea. These areas can help identify things you’d like to change about your existing role and provide guidance if you decide to look elsewhere.

Your current career status doesn’t just involve your job title. It also involves your strengths, weaknesses, passions, and areas of disinterest.

Define your career goals

Figure out which professional milestones you want to reach by the end of the year. Depending on your job, this could be a promotion or a raise. You may even want to transition to a different industry or master a new skill. A good mix of short- and long-term career goals can help provide a better picture of where you want to be.

When setting your career goals, make them SMART. SMART goals are:

A SMART goal isn’t something like, “I want to get better at my job.” Instead, it’s “I want to earn a specific certification by the end of the year.” It might also be, “I would like to become a manager before August 2024.”

Assess skill gaps and areas for improvement

Think about what you can do well and the things you can’t. That could include hard skills like technical parts of your job or new methods and advancements in your field. It might also include soft skills like leadership or communication. Consider the following methods of skill assessment to paint a full picture:

Identifying skill gaps is essential. It lets you take proactive steps toward bridging them through courses, workshops, or mentorship. As you learn new skills, you might be able to leverage them for better pay or career growth.

Craft your career roadmap

Once you’ve defined your career goals and identified your skill gaps and areas of improvement, it’s time to build a plan to make your goals a reality. Jot down the goal-setting details you considered in your career development workbook.

If you already have an existing Excel sheet or task manager app, that can work too. Don’t forget to set realistic milestones and timelines to achieve your goals. You must also consider external factors like industry trends and job market insights.

Putting all these elements together creates a strong career development plan. If you need a framework to help organize these details, download our career development roadmap. It can provide inspiration and help you outline the steps you need to take in 2024 to reach your professional goals.

As you complete your goals, reflect on them. Did you accomplish everything you wanted? Are there any opportunities remaining to carry over to the next year? If there were obstacles or hurdles, think about things you can do to adapt to continue to see professional growth.

Your career development goals might look different from someone else’s, and that’s perfectly okay. You should expect it. Your career roadmap likely includes a wide range of goals, strengths, and weaknesses.

Your career roadmap can change even more as you gain experience. Whether you’re an experienced professional or finding your first job, creating a career that you’re proud of is a lifelong effort. Success might look different depending on your priorities.

Plot out your career plan with our workbook

Our career development plan workbook is your step-by-step guide to designing an in-depth map for the trajectory of your work future. You’ll start by getting clear on your ideal career for 2024, your three top priorities in a new role, and your overall career vision. From there, you’ll reflect on your current career status to gain a better understanding of your starting point.

Finally, you’ll write an action plan outlining the steps necessary to get you where you want to go. This plan will cover short and long-term career goals and identify current skills gaps and areas for improvement. It even takes external factors like industry trends into account.

Take charge of your career today and craft a personalized roadmap for your success

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