4 smart moves to jump-start your career

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Sure, the economy and the job market aren't exactly taking off. But that doesn’t mean you should sit idle.

Indeed, now's the time to evaluate and then jump-start your marketability and, ultimately, your career.

Whether you love or hate your job, you should evaluate what about your work works for you (and what doesn't) and give yourself a professional makeover.

Follow these 4 smart moves to supercharge your professional self, and you will not only remain active and relevant in the job market, but you will also give yourself a sharper professional edge.

Smart move 1. Brand yourself.

Think of your favorite soft drink.

You probably thought of a bright label, a logo or a font before you imagined the bubbly cola goodness inside.

Now think of your favorite singers or actors.

Do they regularly produce hits? Are they entertaining? Do they elicit shock or surprise?

Indeed, there’s no secret to their branded success. It's due largely to consistency and a carefully crafted series of characteristics.

Now think of your own professional self.

What do others always say about you? What do they never say? What do you wish they would say?

It’s easier to create or take control of your brand than you’d think.

When I teach personal branding at NYU, I tell my graduate students to choose a brand or celebrity they admire, break down the traits that are most consistent and admirable and then model those traits for their own brands.

Pay attention to what others say about you, or most respect about you, and consider those your personal brand hallmarks. Build from there.

Smart move 2. Take a lunch break.

Before the Internet, people caught up on corporate comings and goings literally around the water cooler and kept up with friends face-to-face instead of Facebook-to-Facebook.

They didn’t rely on vague updates or quirky comments to stay in the loop, but rather maintained an ongoing conversation with friends, colleagues and prospects.

While it’s easier than ever to stay in touch with friends, it’s also easier to lose track of viable opportunities for networking or valuable professional feedback.

If you've let your personal networking slide, it's time to get back into the loop.

Once a week, use the phone instead of sending an instant message, reconnect with a friend at a sporting event or invite a co-worker out to lunch.

You’ll find that you pick up subtle nuances that might be lost over email or invaluable tips to improve not only your performance but the ways that others perceive you.

Smart move 3. Prune your address book.

The holidays used to be your only opportunity for sending out a note to all of your contacts.

These days, we’re constantly communicating with others in very immediate mediums -- until we aren’t.

Days or weeks go by, and we lose touch with others. Then, when we’re ready to make a mass announcement or crucial mailing, we discover that half our contacts have moved, taken new jobs or have a new cell phone number or email address.

When work slows down slightly, take the time to send out either a mass email (always using the BCC function) to your contacts asking them for their updated contact information or informing them of your own.

In this way, you’ll find out what others are up to, if you have new ways to connect professionally or -- in a best-case scenario -- you can let them know what you’re doing right now.

Delete contacts with stale email addresses or those who have proven not to be viable or reliable.

Smart move 4. Know your strengths.

Every technological breakthrough brings with it new ways to improve or to publicly humiliate your professional self.

Twitter can be an excellent way to provide short, timely updates about yourself and your business. But it also can get you in trouble if you aren't using it wisely. See former Congressman Anthony Weiner.

Indeed, it can be tempting to jump on the latest social networking trends, but what if you’re better at being verbose than you are at coming up with pithy updates?

If your strengths lie in personal interactions, don’t feel pressured to excel at online networking. If you’re shy in groups, consider pumping up your LinkedIn profile instead of signing up for a local conference.

While it’s a great idea to challenge yourself professionally, it’s an even better idea to know what works for you, become your best and continue to dazzle others with your strengths instead of causing them to snicker at your weaknesses.

Rachel C. Weingarten is author of the book "Career and Corporate Cool: How to Look, Dress and Act the Part at Every Stage of your Career."

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