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This first edition of “Check It Out – Check It Off” is all about your career. To help you prepare for 2009 career decisions, three career development experts offer nine ideas to add creativity to job development or a job change.

Sarah Dollander is vice president of Business Development at Lee Hecht Harrison, an executive coaching and outplacement firm in Charlotte.

Sherry Sutton operates Think2Profit in Charlotte and has a national reputation in women's coaching.

Phil Plott of Charlotte's PlottACareer has years of experience as a corporate recruiter and now is an executive recruiter and career coach. He advises professionals and college students on how to effectively manage the job search process.

Reshape your job identity

Individuals in the Charlotte region's highly educated work force often build an identity around a narrowly focused job. The shortcoming for someone who is highly specialized is that he or she may look too narrowly for future opportunities, limiting the market. These days, however, Dollander says she sees something healthy, which is less of “this is what I do” and more of “here is what I can do.”

ACTION: Talk to three people who have made a career jump in your field and write down how their lessons can apply to you. Dollander

Analyze successful leaders/fast trackers

Want to advance in your company? Consider who “makes it” through their good work. What common assignments or tracks do they have? Key field assignments? A stint in sales? It's important to analyze the ramp for the expressway for success.

ACTION: Do informational interviews with your corporate talent development representative or two people who have recently been promoted into leadership positions. Plott

Build your defenses with knowledge

Do you know where your abilities fit in other organizations? Don't assume that your specific corporate job is an insight into “the market” for what you do. Your job only says what your company pays and where it places that job. Learn how your skills are placed and used in organizations other than your own.

ACTION: Talk to three people with skills like yours in different kinds of organizations. Where are they in the company? What do they do there? Sutton

Build your defenses with skills

Warren Buffett is credited with saying the best defense against a bad economy is an individual's ability to generate income. After you know what the market wants, match the needs. Improve your skills – classes, technology, professional development. Match the skills to focused opportunities in special work assignments, projects or mentorship opportunities.

ACTION: Decide on two new strategic skills to add to your knowledge base and find a teacher for those skills. Dollander

Make a friend in sales

There's something special about salespeople. They “have to kill to eat,” which puts a sharp edge on their knowledge of the industry. They surmise customer trends before anyone else.

ACTION: Identify one of the best salespeople in the organization and schedule breakfast, coffee or lunch. Better yet, can you shadow that person for a day? Sutton

Step forward when others stand still

Bosses remember employees who volunteer to organize a company event or lead the annual community service campaign.

ACTION: Volunteer for a high profile assignment or highly visible team to gain experience, meet new people and demonstrate your skills. Plott

Learn to work with people you do not like

This is not asking you to socialize with co-workers you may not like, but push yourself to take the “high road” when it comes to finishing a task/project that the company needs done. Countless hours of productivity are lost because of undermining or hidden agendas.

ACTION: If you have been assigned to a team where you do not like or respect the others on the team, make it a point to keep your head. If you allow your feelings to dominate you are less likely to be a productive team member. Sutton

Redeploy yourself

Fear can bring career mobility to a screeching halt (stay heads down, don't rattle the cage!) You are accountable for managing your own career, not HR or your boss. So take control.

ACTION: Go to your internal job posting page and find the three departments with job openings that can tap your skills. Make two columns on a piece of paper. On the left, write the skills that job needs. On the right, how you fill that need. Practice rewriting your resume to highlight those skills. In other words, practice how to expand your thinking and meet the job market. Dollander

Inventory your hidden skill sets

Pharmaceutical salesperson Carson Tate was repeatedly asked how she got so much done, and she realized her hidden talent was making others more efficient. Now Carson's “Working Simply” business is a premier professional organizer in Charlotte.

ACTION: Understand your strengths. Ask 10 people you trust and who know you well (friends, family, business associates) to confidentially tell you their perceptions of your personal strengths. What sets you apart from other people? How are you using your talents to pursue your dreams? Plott

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