The current economic market has made job hunting a vital set of skills for increasing numbers of people. But even in the best of economic times, it pays to understand what you can do to make yourself more appealing in the marketplace.

Current career trends suggest that an individual will change careers at least 7 times during a lifetime. This reality presents us with the opportunity to fulfill several of our aspirations. No longer do we have to choose only one road. Instead, we can visualize a broader map, and believe that we will likely come across those other roads somewhere down the line.

Increasing marketability is a sure way of being more prepared for a career change. The following are ten strategies for sharpening skills and increasing marketability:

  1. Visualize. Set aside some time to think about where you are in life, and where you want to be. Are you happy? What parts of your career excite you, and what frustrates you? Where do you want to be in five years? In ten? Give yourself permission to dream.
  2. Take Inventory. What activities are you currently doing, both on the job and in your leisure time? What skills do they require? How would you rate your skills? Which ones need improving? How could you sharpen them? Which skills do you enjoy using, and which skills do you wish you used more often?
  3. Update your resume. Regularly update your resume. Visiting a local career center or scanning current resume books can keep your resume looking polished. You also may want to have resumes that highlight different skills. For example, you might have one specifically for management positions, and another for advertising positions. Also, keep hard copies of your resume close at hand and give it out freely.
  4. Attend Workshops. Take advantage of workshops offered by your employer. Dare to go to a training that doesn’t “exactly fit” your job. For example, if your job requires computer skills, in addition to computer-related workshops, consider attending a workshop on leadership. If your organization doesn’t offer workshops, consider taking a course at a local community college.
  5. Cross-train. Make your current job more interesting and enhance your skills at the same time by varying your job responsibilities. Continuously hone your skills that are transferable to other positions, corporations, and even career fields. Always be quick to volunteer for opportunities to learn different skills.
  6. Join committees. Committees are a great way to network and to improve skills. Vary the committees on which you serve. Chair a committee. Choose to be on a committee that will challenge you intellectually, emotionally, skill-wise, etc. In other words, make a decision to grow.
  7. Do something different. Been doing the same thing for years? Maybe now is the time for change. Try something you’ve always wanted to do, but for whatever reason, haven’t yet. You’ll learn more about yourself, enhance skills, make contacts, and feel alive again.
  8. Make new contacts, strengthen the old.Networking is the main way people get interviews. View every opportunity as a networking one. The goal isn’t to determine, “What can this person do for me,” but finding out what you and the other person have to offer each other. Form and maintain relationships at work, through your family, in social organizations, and in your community. Remember, you will need to nurture relationships through staying in touch with your contacts, sending cards, be alert to interesting articles, and other “thinking of you” activities.
  9. Volunteer. Volunteering can expand your network and enhance skills. It’s also an easy way to try out some of your career aspirations. Considering a career change that will take you out of the corporate world and into the lives of kids? Try volunteering at your local school. There’s no career risk, just a chance to grow, learn about yourself and give back to your community.
  10. Create a Marketability Plan. Perhaps the most important suggestion is to create a marketability plan for yourself. Take a good, hard look at yourself. Ask yourself the tough questions. “If I were an employer, would I hire me?” Make a plan to increase your marketability. Which of these activities could you commit to trying in the next month? Set a goal and a time-line, and get started!

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Dr. Osborn is an Assistant Professor of counselor education and Career Counseling Track Coordinator for the Counselor Education Program at the University of South Florida in Tampa.