Career Management with Elisabeth: 8 Ways to Take Charge of Your Career in 2014

We’re excited to introduce a new feature on our blog “Career Management” with Elisabeth Zimowski, the MPA@UNC career services director. Each month, Elisabeth will share career management advice for professionals looking to change or advance their careers. From resume and interview tips, to professional development and networking opportunities, Elisabeth will provide her insights on best practices in career management. In her inaugural post, Elisabeth shares tips that will help turn your career around in the New Year.


For many people, the end of one year and the beginning of another is a time of reflection and taking stock of what is going well in their life and what they would like to change. Career change is one of the most common areas people seek to improve in their lives. Pursuing a graduate degree can be a great opportunity for people to redirect their careers, explore and further develop their strengths, and make new connections in areas that were previously closed off to them.

If you are hoping to further develop your career, consider the following points for creating your own personalized action plan:

  1. Identify what it is that is driving the change. Are you unhappy with your roles and responsibilities in your current job? Try to identify specifically what you don’t like. Do you need more autonomy, more flexibility, or more pay? Are you a high performer, but realize you won’t be able to go much further without a graduate degree in your field? Are you in the career you thought you wanted when you were 18, but realize that it just doesn’t fit who you are anymore? It is important to spend time on this step, because articulating for yourself what you want to change will give you the momentum and stamina to persist through the challenges of career change.
  2. Start networking. Reach out to colleagues and friends, even those you have lost touch with. Use the New Year as your reason for getting in touch. Tell them your New Year’s resolution is to do a better job at keeping in touch. In appropriate situations, share your desire to redirect your career and ask for advice and guidance.
  3. Revise your resume. Most people only think about their resume when they need to apply for a job. Be proactive instead, and assess your recent accomplishments and activities critically. Update, revise, and polish your resume before you need it.
  4. Talk to your boss or other trusted mentor at work. Schedule a meeting specifically to discuss your career goals. They can’t help you if they don’t know what you need.
  5. Consider earning a graduate degree. Generalized management degrees such as the MPA degree can prepare you for leadership in many fields. High-quality online degree programs make it possible for you to pursue a prestigious degree while continuing to work. Identify programs you would like to apply to and reach out for additional information and assistance getting started. Online graduate programs usually have a rolling admissions cycle, which lets you begin the application process at any time instead of waiting for the annual fall admissions cycle.
  6. Prepare for and take the GRE. The GRE test is a standard admissions requirement for most graduate programs. Many people who have been out of school for even a short time struggle with these tests. Studying and test preparation courses can assist you greatly in improving your score, but you need to begin taking them right away in order to complete your application materials in a timely manner.
  7. Talk to alumni of your target programs, current students, and potential employers. Where to go to graduate school is a major decision—you will be investing a significant amount of time and resources in your degree—it is essential to have a focused plan for what you intend to do with your degree.
  8. Write it down: take some time to commit your plan to paper. There is power in identifying your goals, mapping out a plan, and holding yourself accountable for following it. Seek out resources to assist you with this. Contact your undergraduate institution and ask what career services they offer to alumni, or check with your local workforce development center or public library; many of these places offer career development resources for little to no cost.

For more advice to help reboot your career in the New Year, check out these five tips to make your resume stand out.


About Elisabeth:

Elisabeth Zimowski leads the MPA@UNC Career Services program, developing and delivering career management content for MPA@UNC students at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s School of Government. She provides personalized career coaching, professional development, and job search assistance to students focused on careers in local, state, and federal governments, nonprofits, and organizations that support public interest. She holds a BA in English Literature from the University of Tennessee and an MA in Higher Education and Student Affairs from the Ohio State University. She has a range of coaching and leadership development experience in both higher education and the corporate sector, including management level positions in career services at the Ohio State University in both the College of Engineering and the Fisher College of Business and leading a regional campus recruiting program for Dell Inc.