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5 ways to rebuild your career capital


(MoneyWatch) I regularly read a blog called Wandering Scientist, which recounts the life of an anonymous project manager at a biotech company. "Cloud," the blogger, wrote recently that she had spent years building up her career capital, and had been able to call upon that career capital after becoming a parent. If she needed to leave on the early side, she left early, knowing that she had a reputation as a hard worker. She had also covered for her colleagues in the past.

Of course, if you're drawing down that capital a lot, eventually you'll run out. You need to refill your bank account. Cloud wrote that since her children were getting a little older, she wanted to do just that. But how?

It's a question many people face, for lots of different reasons. Maybe you have more time now that your kids are out of the house. Or maybe you drew on your career capital while you were out with an extended illness, or were caring for an ill family member, or were training for a marathon. We all go through periods of time when we aren't making new deposits. If you intend to quit it doesn't matter. But if you're looking at a good, long, career, you want to get that balance back up again. Here are a few suggestions for replenishing your capital:

1. Pay back immediate chits. If certain people helped you out a lot, ask what you can do to return the favor. It may not take much -- recent gifts loom larger in the mind than ancient ones -- but a few instances of lifting someone's load will go a long way.

2. Propose a new project. Simply telling people you're available may land you with a project that's not ideal for your long term career trajectory. Meet with your supervisor and pitch something that will have you working more hours because you want to work those hours.

3. Go to industry events. Networking is often the first thing to go when people hit crunch time. Now that you've got extra energy, go to that breakfast speech. Go early and meet everyone else over coffee. Attend that conference across the country that requires you to take three days out of your busy life. Better yet, volunteer to help with the conference, so you'll meet lots of people with influence in your industry while you're there.

4. Learn a new skill. The right one can open up all sorts of opportunities. Learning to write publishable op-eds or articles could make you an industry expert. Media training could enable you to do radio or TV interviews on behalf of your company. Social media skills could open new avenues for marketing. Brushing up on whatever language you studied in college could let you work with people who speak that language.

5. Read more. It's amazing how many people in fields that rely on new discoveries don't read the major peer-reviewed journals (think Nature, Science, etc.) associated with those fields. This doesn't take much time, but reading something industry-related instead of, say, People magazine, on your commute will give you a lot more to talk about.

All of these ideas will boost your career capital quickly if you've drawn it down. What have you done to refill the well when it's gone dry?

Photo courtesy flickr user Images_of_Money

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