Start your career check-up now!

With Christmas sales and decorations rolling out before even Halloween, you may be wise to follow the lead of retailers and conduct a career check-up now instead of waiting for New Year’s.

Besides getting a jump on those waiting to make job-related resolutions for the New Year, there is another important reason for making an early start: the upcoming election.

Many employers are waiting for the results of the election to decide which direction their companies will go – expand, contract or stay the same. For you, that means that your employer and others may be hiring and promoting, cutting back and laying off, or remaining flat. This may present opportunities for career advancement and getting a new job, or added pressure to hold on to a current job.

Those who wait until the end of the year to examine their careers and performance may miss out on post-election prospects or may even be out of a job by then without a plan.

Although most people make some type of job-related New Year’s resolutions, only about one in four conducts a thorough career check-up each year, according to OI Partners, Inc.   I recommend the following elements in a career check-up:

1. Assess the viability of your current job. Your assessment should include business-related and personal performance evaluations. How secure do you feel in your job? Will there be opportunities for growth or do you anticipate cutbacks? How are your own job performance and relationships with your boss and colleagues? You may have to escalate a job search if your security is low or make urgent adjustments if your performance has been lacking.

2. Gauge your own marketability. What is the demand for your skills and how are industries and job functions in which you have experience performing in this economy? Study job postings for occupations in which you already have experience to determine what the marketplace is for your talents.

3. Evaluate your employment brand and skills portfolio. Are you up-to-date on the latest technology and new developments in your field? Have you strengthened your employment brand and value proposition – the skills and accomplishments that differentiate you from others and add value to employers? Those with the best employment brands and skills portfolios will be most in demand.

4. Examine your personal preferences. Are you happy in your job and with working for your employer? Do you like your line of work or want to change fields? Do you want to cut back to part-time, expand to full-time, or go back to school to learn another field or get an advanced degree?

5. Build and update your professional network. About seven out of 10 people get their next jobs through networking. Continually expand and target your career network and keep them updated on any developments or changes in your employment. Serve as a resource to your networking contacts, too, by exchanging job leads and information and making referrals and endorsements.

6. Expand your social media presence. Many employers are now recruiting directly from social networks such as LinkedIn, so it’s vital that you amplify your online presence. Make sure your LinkedIn profile is essentially your resume and is continually updated. Showcase yourself as an expert in your field with an impactful headline and description and searchable key words that reveal the breadth and depth of your experience and skills. Develop a Facebook page devoted to your career and reach out to networking contacts via Facebook and Twitter.