Get Ahead In 2006

Why wait until the new year to get things in order? There's no time like the present to start planning for the future.

Please, Sir, Can I Have Some More?

Some say the best way to get a raise is to find a new job. But with unemployment rates dropping to 6.6% in October, the lowest in three decades, you probably don't need to find a new boss to bump your salary in 2006. Competition for high-performing talent is fierce, so if you're a rising star, the year ahead is an ideal time to ask for more money. But be sure to have a plan.

First, ensure you deserve a raise. Make a list of what you did in the past 12 months to create positive change, improve your employer's bottom line, manage unruly employees or avert disaster. Next, determine the going rate for someone with equivalent experience in your industry (scour online salary surveys, ask professional acquaintances, read classified ads, or ask your company's HR department), and decide what you can realistically expect. Don't forget that perks like extra vacation, stock options, child care, or flexible hours can add to your income without altering your base pay.

You may want to wait until your annual review, since you're likely to talk about salary then anyway. If that seems too far away, schedule the conversation immediately after you, say, close a major deal, or sign up a new client. Avoid catching your boss by surprise by sending an e-mail or making an in-person request to set aside some time to discuss compensation.

Finally, make your case. Then let your superior bring up what the company has to offer first (it may exceed your expectations). Be ready to counter comments like “the company doesn't have money in the budget for a raise right now,” with examples of how much revenue you've helped rake in.

Considering today's hot job market, follow these steps and you're bound to earn more than just a measly cost-of-living increase. But if your boss really won't budge, schedule a time to revisit the topic once you have met some more milestones.

Hot Job: Oil & Gas

If you're an oil and gas worker and you don't live in Alberta, you should move. Now. Labour demand is red hot and covers everything from field operations and finance to professional services and management roles in senior technical areas such as engineering and geosciences. “It's probably as good as it gets right now for employment,” says Rory Tyler, senior client partner in the Calgary-based office of global executive search firm Korn/Ferry International. “For a very small junior exploration and production company, a CFO might make as little as $150,000, but they have a huge equity incentive that could create a seven-figure outcome for them over several years.” According to Calgary-based investment bank Tristone Capital, there's more than $7 billion of options value in that city alone, based on some of the existing energy companies and the dozens of new royalty trusts and startups. Salaries are also on the rise. “Virtually every role is getting a higher compensation than it would have a year ago–and we'll likely see that kind of inflation going forward into 2006,” says Tyler. “I don't see any reason why this wouldn't continue for the foreseeable future.” Pack your bags.

Take A Small Risk Every Day

Say you're in a meeting with your boss and other senior executives. You want to contribute but are worried about saying something silly. Force yourself to speak up and provide input. It will build your confidence, make it easier for you to participate in the next meeting and serve you well in the long run.

Another scenario: you have traditionally attended all client meetings. Recently, though, you've been assigned additional responsibilities, and you just can't make every appointment. Take a leap of faith and send your sales team without you.

“You can start with very small risks, like asking your boss for feedback,” says executive leadership coach Lindsay Sukornyk of North Star Coaches. “But the more risks you take, and you're successful with, the more confidence you'll gain.” So while stretching out of your comfort zone can be scary–if you're someone who always relies on notes during a presentation, ad libbing to create a more natural style can be extremely intimidating–trying new approaches builds your skills and advances your reputation as a well-rounded worker. And that positions you perfectly for a move to the next level.

Hot Job: IT

Memories of the “tech wreck” got you down? Not sure you're ready to risk your career on another shaky venture? Not to worry. Tech is back–and in a big way. “Last year was quite busy, and it's even busier now–so it bodes well for IT professionals and technologists,” says Sue Banting, a partner at Toronto-based executive search firm Ray & Berndtson. A healthy economic outlook for 2006 and an increased push for convergence in the cable/telecom sector means business is booming and there's an increased demand for CIOs, IT project managers, wireless networking experts and IT security experts. Also needed: informatics professionals in the health-sciences field. “In terms of transition of information, there's going to be a need for senior managers who understand the technology and know how to lead and motivate and develop and retain people in those areas,” says Michael Stern, president and CEO of Toronto management consulting and executive search firm Michael Stern Associates Inc. Banting says senior project managers can expect to start anywhere from $90,000 to $120,000 (plus bonus) while the CIO of a “good-sized shop” would typically start at about $200,000.

Get That Resumé Up To Date

Make 2006 the year you dust off your resumé. “You should never rewrite your resumé,” says Phil Hunt, executive director of MBA and career services at the Richard Ivey School of Business at the University of Western Ontario. “You should constantly be updating it.” Since we tend to forget about our accomplishments over time, it's best to pull out your resumé once or twice a year and add key events while they're still fresh in your mind.

Hot Job: Online Gaming

Does the title “VP of poker” pique your interest? Then you might want to consider a career in the online gaming industry, where global revenues exploded to nearly US$12 billion last year from an estimated US$3 billion in 2001. “We've added about 200 people worldwide over the past two years with a large part of that being within our [software] development organization,” says Marilyn Shabot, vice-president of human resources at CryptoLogic Inc., a publicly traded online gaming software company based in Toronto. “We're looking for the aces, for the top, top talent.” Business analysts, software developers, network administrators and project managers are all in high demand–so placing your bets here is not a bad idea.

Hot Job: Health Care

Landing a job in the senior ranks of Big Pharma or a large public health-care institution used to be extremely difficult. Both are notoriously insular, and top talent is usually promoted from within. But that's starting to change, says Jim Stonehouse, partner and health-care-practice leader at the Toronto office of executive search firm Ray & Berndtson. The push to establish bioparternships with smaller life-sciences firms and demand for electronic health records means more jobs for business development officers, chief information officers and IT project managers. Another area to watch? Private health care. Stonehouse sees more openings in senior marketing and business development in diagnostic and therapeutic services.

Network News

“You can't manage your career from behind your desk,” says Ivey School of Business MBA and career services executive director Phil Hunt, citing the oft-repeated statistic that only 20% of job openings are advertised, while 80% are filled via word-of-mouth recommendations and personal contacts. “People with successful careers are people who know other people. You have to get out and meet other people.”

Having drinks with colleagues and attending industry functions aren't the only way. If you're a weekend gardener, try introducing yourself to a neighbour who is also planting. If you're at a school function with your children, or watching them play sports, strike up a conversation with another parent. “Networking is just ensuring that you are expanding the number of friends and contacts you have,” says Hunt, who suggests keeping track of new acquaintances by jotting down where they work, their job title and other pertinent information, such as their spouse's and children's names.

Ask others about themselves and, invariably, they'll turn the conversation around to you. Meeting someone once isn't enough. You have to maintain contact. As headhunter Chris Laubitz of Caldwell Partners International in Toronto says: “It is not who you know. It's who knows you.” The more people who know what you're all about, the more chances you have of getting a life-changing knock on your door.

Hot Job: Corporate Fundraising

Corporate fundraising has grown up–big time. And that means large hospitals, universities and cultural institutions are looking for professional, well-connected and highly skilled execs to run their multimillion-dollar foundations. “It used to be years ago that people interested in fundraising just sort of fell into the role. Today, the whole fundraising enterprise has become quite professionalized,” says Jim Stonehouse, partner and health-care-practice leader at the Toronto office of executive search firm Ray & Berndtson. “There is a real shortage of experienced, talented fundraisers in Canada.” Increasingly, foundations are looking to the private sector–particularly at individuals with a sales and marketing background–to find top talent. And whether you specialize in annual giving programs, special events, wills and bequests or the “coveted area” of major gift solicitation, Stonehouse says there are plenty of jobs to go around. “Superstar” fundraisers are often rewarded handsomely for their “value-add”: for example, Ryerson University's vice-president of university advancement, Adam Kahan, brought home $280,224.98 last year.

Shine Your Shingle

Self-employed? If you want to expand your business, make sure you have an eye-catching website. “I always recommend having some presence on the Internet,” says James Gray, president of Freelancers Unlimited, a Toronto-based company that connects self-employed marketing specialists, graphic designers and web gurus, as well as those just looking for temp work, with ad agencies, design studios and others that require short-term contractual help. “It gives you a little credibility, and the appearance of a true professional, offering a definitive service.”

West Meets East

Looking to get your Asia ticket punched? “If you're an engineer or even a financial person or a manufacturing person, and you think that your career is blocked here in Canada and you're mobile and adventuresome, you're going to be interested in the right opportunity in Asia Pacific,” says George Enns, chairman of Toronto-based global search firm, Enns Partners Inc. In the past few years, he has recruited almost a dozen senior and middle managers to work at a multibillion-dollar industrial manufacturing company in Hong Kong and at a large privately owned textile factory there. Fuelled by China's red-hot economy, demand for experts in finance, sales, supply-chain management and senior management is sky-high. If you're a westerner with some global management experience under your belt–and you speak Mandarin–even better. Multinationals are willing to pay a hefty premium for the right fit, and will often throw in allowances for living expenses, schooling for your kids and back-and-forth travel expenses. According to Mercer Human Resource Consulting's October 2005 Global Compensation Planning Report, India is expected to top the Asian countries in pay increases in 2006, at 11.3%.

Board Game

Hoping to expand your roster of A-list contacts in the biz world? You should consider joining the board of a small to medium-sized company or a not-for-profit organization. “Many senior corporate people are on not-for-profit boards, so you automatically widen your whole world,” says Beverly Topping, president and CEO of the Toronto-based Institute of Corporate Directors. “You should also find out who else is on the board and make sure they're people you respect and admire.” By joining a junior board early on in your career, you're also positioning yourself for a more senior appointment down the road.

Trading Up

When an electrician shows up at your house driving a Lexus–as was the case recently for Workopolis president Patrick Sullivan–you might start to wonder just how lucrative a career in the skilled trades can be. Very, says Sullivan, who adds that job postings in this category are up a whopping 264% over last year as plumbers, electricians, contractors, forklift operators and foremen begin to approach retirement age. “The average age of a plumber in Ontario is 46,” says Sullivan. “These people are starting to disappear and will start to retire over time. We are facing some real shortages.” And with a housing boom that shows few signs of slowing, it's likely demand will continue to be very strong through 2006. More good news: according to Sullivan, Workopolis job postings are up across the board. “Headed into 2006 we expect some very strong numbers,” he says. “All of our customers tell us they'll be doing more hiring in 2006 than they did this year.”

Europe Bound?

If the view from your Bay Street tower is a bit bland, perhaps you'd like to trade it in for a perch overlooking London's Thames River. “In the U.K., we're seeing the financial services market really turning up again, and so there's quite a lot of demand for people who have got skills in corporate finance, structuring deals and mergers and acquisitions,” says Garry Adams, a worldwide partner with Mercer Human Resource Consulting who is based in the British capital. “The other area where there's a huge demand for talent is in the major law firms, for people with strong commercial law backgrounds or skills that are relevant to financial services.”

Demand for folks with IT skills in customer-relationship management software, quality initiatives and web programming is also up across the U.K. and Europe, according to Adams. Other hot job markets? The Middle East and eastern Europe. In April of last year, for example, the president of the United Arab Emirates ordered a 25% salary hike for UAE nationals and a 15% pay hike for all expatriates. And in the former East Bloc, which saw eight member states join the European Union in May 2004, job growth at civil and construction engineering firms is up, fuelled by infrastructure upgrade projects.

Entrepreneurial Lessons: Book Value

Love her or hate her, it's impossible to deny that Martha Stewart is a fantastically successful entrepreneur. And her business smarts are now packaged in a surprisingly thoughtful and compelling new book, The Martha Rules: 10 Essentials for Achieving Success as You Start, Build or Manage a Business. For those who eschew the corporate ladder in favour of running their own show, this 195-page tome, authored by Stewart herself, could spell the difference between profit and loss.

Stewart's suggestions aren't groundbreaking. Even the lowliest apprentice would know that running a business plan by objective outside analysts, not just close friends, is a good thing. But Stewart has done a bang-up job of collecting a variety of helpful tips and presenting them in an easy-to-understand way. She includes examples from numerous sectors, without resorting to a condescending tone. Her chapter on building an A-team is especially insightful, with hints on hiring (e.g., consider several options, check references, make sure all involved employees meet the candidate), firing, partnering, and assembling an advisory board.

Please, Sir, Can I Have Some More?–Part 2

Oh, and just in case you've forgotten about that raise you were going to ask for, here's a little more ammo to use on the boss: According to Mercer Human Resource Consulting, the projected average pay increase in Canada in 2006 will be 3.6%, 1.7 percentage points above the inflation rate, which is expected to clock in at 1.9%. If you're lucky enough to be merely average, you'll certainly get ahead without really trying next year. In the United States, by comparison, salary increases are expected to be exactly the same, but inflation will run at 2.6%. So, good luck.

Investing Tip: Fun And Profit

Ever thought about investing in collectibles? The conditions seem ripe to profit from them, says Harold Seigel, a Florida-based predictor of trends in the value of commodities, collectibles and currencies. “When people are concerned about the world economy, inflation in the U.S. and problems in the Middle East, they tend to go to hard assets as a safety kind of investment,” explains the star of the weekly Canadian radio show The World Financial Report. He believes rare gold and silver coins will do extremely well in the coming years.

Investing in collectibles is risky. For starters, selling them can be challenging, even with services like eBay. Such assets can also take a long time to appreciate. What's more, you often need expert knowledge to profit from these types of items. Still, as Seigel puts its: “With collectibles, you can enjoy their beauty, show them to friends and pass them on to the children or grandchildren.” There's some value in that.

Investing Tip: Performance Artists

Looking to add some winning stocks to your portfolio? Consider these: Rogers Communications (TSX: RCI.NV.B), parent of Canadian Business, KLA-Tencor (Nasdaq: KLAC), Active Power (Nasdaq: ACPW), Sempra Energy (NYSE: SRE), General Growth Properties (NYSE: GGP), Simon Property Group (NYSE: SPG), and Eldorado Gold (TSX: ELD). RBC Capital Markets analysts recently rated these companies as Top Picks–stocks that should significantly outperform their sector peers over the next 12 months.

Investing Tip: Yellow Fever

With gold prices near their highest level in almost 18 years, investors should take another look at adding the yellow metal to their portfolios. All the hallmarks of a gold rally are in place, including declining production, political uncertainty in the Middle East, volatility in the oil market and fears of creeping inflation. Even the recent proposed merger of Barrick Gold Corp. and Placer Dome Inc. could push gold prices higher, as the new company could reduce the amount of future gold production it dumps onto the market.

High gold prices have yet to help the shares of many gold producers that are struggling with declining production and higher costs. But with the price of bullion poised to move from the current US$485 per ounce to as much as US$700 per ounce over the next year, that could all change, says John Ing, president of Toronto-based Maison Placements Canada Inc. “Once the price of gold moves up, gold producers–and gold investors–will finally be able to make some money,” says Ing.

Investing Tip: Hot Property

Getting a pad in Vancouver could offer much more than just a place to crash after hitting the slopes at Whistler. Re/Max expects house prices in that city to increase 10% in 2006. What's more, Christine Martysiewicz, a Re/Max spokesperson, says, “As B.C. starts to gear up to host the Olympics in 2010, the province's housing market can only gain momentum.” On the other side of the country, some signs suggest those looking to sell a house in Ottawa may want to do it soon. Bob Dugan, chief economist at the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp., says the nation's capital could soon go from a Sellers to a Balanced classification. Translation: Ottawa house appreciation may slow to the rate of inflation and properties could spend more time on the market.

Investing Tip: Bargain Bin

We picked the following undervalued stocks with the help of a value screen we developed for our annual Investor 500 issue. Will they turn out to be home runs? Well, you might want to consider this: in 2004, that same screen helped us pick a basket of stocks that put investors in the ballpark of profitable returns (average one-year return: 24.8%; percentage of stocks that had a positive return over the period: 80%). Still, do a bit more of your own scouting work before you consider adding any of these prospects to your portfolio.

Sherritt International (TSX: S)

Kingsway Financial Services (TSX: KFS)

Empire Co. (TSX: EMP.NV.A)

LionOre Mining International (TSX: LIM)

CanWest Global Communications (TSX: CGS.SV)

Algoma Steel (TSX: AGA)

Mullen Group Income Fund (TSX: MTL.UN)


Investing Tip: Turning Japanese

Looking for a bit more foreign content in your portfolio? Well, now may be a perfect time to invest in the Land of the Rising Sun. “Japan is in a major new bull market, and I rank it the most attractive of the G7 markets next only to Canada,” says Donald Coxe, global portfolio strategist at BMO Financial Group in Chicago. His optimism stems from the September re-election of Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, the move to privatize the Postal Savings System, and the country's evolving relationship with China.

So how can you profit? Mutual fund guru Gordon Pape believes pure Japanese funds are too volatile for ordinary investors. So he recommends buying units in the Mackenzie Cundill Value Fund C. “It is a well- balanced global fund with significant Japanese exposure,” Pape explains (38.57% as of Oct. 31). He also says the fund shows above-average returns over multiple time periods and better-than-average risk for its category.

The Right Stuff: Telecom

Be nimble and flexible–or risk being left in your competitor's dust. So says 38-year-old Glen LeBlanc, who was recently promoted to senior vice-president and CFO of Aliant Inc., Atlantic Canada's leading wireless and phone service provider. “This industry has gone through absolutely enormous change,” he says of telecom. “Relying on what you learned yesterday is generally not going to be enough to take you forward tomorrow.” As the person responsible for watching over the balance sheet of a $3.7-billion company, LeBlanc says it's important to be able to act “on a dime.” He adds: “Tomorrow, if the latest and greatest technology came out, I need to have the cash to invest in it, and if that technology's not here, I need to have the cash to give back to my shareholders.” Oh, and never be afraid to hire someone who knows more than you, because as LeBlanc points out, if they win, you win, too.

The Right Stuff: Retail

Name your game and stick with it, Canadian Tire president and CEO Wayne Sales advises. “In the early '90s, there were a lot of people who thought we should emulate other retail formats around the world. We felt our real strength in the business was having three areas under one roof,” he says of his company's focus on automotive parts, accessories and service, sports and leisure products, and merchandise for the home. So far, so good. Since Sales, 55, took over Canadian Tire's top job in August of 2000, the company's stock has risen about 200%, and 2005 third-quarter profits are up across all divisions. Considering it hasn't exactly been a banner year for some other notable Canadian retailers–Sears Canada and HBC, to name but two–it might be worth stocking up on some of Sales' advice.

The Right Stuff: Automotive

Know your customer better than your competition,” advises William Osborne, who became the president and CEO of the Ford Motor Co. of Canada Ltd. in November. To keep pace with the changing tastes of car owners, his company invites people to come in with their vehicles and talk about them. The auto manufacturer also regularly studies demographic information. But Osborne, 45, gets what he calls his “real jewels” about customers at Ford dealerships, where he'll chat up everyone from the service manager to car shoppers. On top of knowing what people want, he says, you need to surprise them with innovation. The CEO points to the 2006 Ford Explorer as an example. It's not only more fuel-efficient, but it also cranks out 50 more horsepower than the previous model. Those kinds of surprises can set you apart from your competition, he says.

The Right Stuff: Oil & Gas

According to Kathy Sendall, Petro-Canada's senior vice-president of natural gas for North America and the incoming chair of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, if you want to excel in the oil and gas industry, risk should be your middle name. “We drill wells that cost tens of millions of dollars that have a one-in-10 chance of success,” says Sendall, also an engineer. “The people that are successful in this business have an entrepreneurial, pioneering spirit that embraces that risk.”

J. Blair Goertzen, who was named president and chief operating officer of Calgary-based Enerflex Systems Ltd. in April, agrees. With 25 years of experience in the energy services industry under his belt, Goertzen says “a strong constitution” is critical if you want to succeed in the oilpatch. “When it's good, it's really good,” he adds, “but when it's bad, it's extremely bad. There is no in between.”

The Right Stuff: Broadcasting

Phyllis Yaffe once took a pass on The Sopranos. But fuggedaboudit. The 56-year-old CEO of Alliance Atlantis Communications Inc. did end up buying the CSI franchise, a move she says “makes up for every mistake we ever made in the entire history of television at Alliance Atlantis 10 times over.” Kidding aside, Yaffe says getting ahead in broadcasting requires equal parts business savvy and instinct. “Broadcasting in Canada is regulated [by the CRTC], but it's complex,” she explains. “It has a lot of different functions that relate to different areas outside the business. If you don't get that–if you rail against that–you will always be limited in how you see yourself being more useful to the company.” Expose yourself to as many different parts of the business as possible, Yaffe advises–and never be afraid to take a risk.

The Right Stuff: Finance

The customer rules. That's something RBC Financial Group chief operating officer Barbara Stymiest says individuals looking to get ahead in the dog-eat-dog world of investment banking must never forget. “If you can't understand the impact of what you do on your end client, you need to rethink whether it's worth doing and if you're being effective,” says Stymiest, 49, who joined RBC last November after serving as CEO at the TSX Group.

Despite Ottawa's uncertain position over bank mergers and the lack of a national securities regulator, charting a course for a $55.8-billion financial institution, she adds, boils down to a steadfast focus on becoming “the undisputed leader in financial services in Canada” and building on its strengths in banking, wealth management, U.S. capital markets and global financial services operations.

The Right Stuff: Advertising

Make your clients feel like you're in love with them,” says advertising guru Frank Palmer, the chairman and CEO of Vancouver-based DDB Canada. He isn't recommending anything of an unprofessional nature. Rather, Palmer says you should delight clients with pleasant surprises, like giving them 10 great ideas, when they only asked for two. (Chances are, you'll get more work, Palmer points out.) The 65-year-old advertising veteran adds that agency people should be constantly thinking about ways to improve a client's business–even in places like the shower.

On top of that, Palmer says, an ad shop needs to be known for something. Ten or so years ago, DDB Canada decided to become the best in the business. In June, the shop took home the most awards of any Canadian agency at the Cannes Lions International Advertising Festival.

Career Development: A Smart Start

1. Gain Expertise

“Most people who are relatively early on in their careers don't know what they want to do,” says Jeff Rosin, managing director at executive search firm Korn/Ferry International's Toronto office. But, according to Chris Laubitz, a veteran executive recruiter with the Caldwell Partners International in Toronto, if your goal is to become a leader, you better prepare yourself from Day 1. “In the early stages of your career,” Laubitz advises, “invest in the development of your technical functional skills.” Whether you're hired as a marketer, a financial analyst or an information technology specialist, “become the best you can be.” What's more, don't slack. If you get a reputation as an underperformer early on, it can be tough to shake it later on.

2. Get A Mentor

If you're just starting a career, finding a mentor can be a major boon. Sage advice from those who have gone before you can prove invaluable, often preventing you from making costly mistakes. That said, unless your company has a formal mentoring program, nailing down a mentor can seem daunting. Remember, though, that if you suss out somebody who is 10 to 15 years ahead of you on your path, and then request a meeting, the individual is bound to be flattered.

“I meet with my mentors monthly to quarterly,” says Don Prior, an executive recruiter with Caldwell Partners International's Vancouver office. “I formalized the relationship, and make a point of spending time with them, outside the office in a neutral setting, to talk about what I'm doing, what I could do better, what I'm doing well.” Executive leadership coach Lindsay Sukornyk says you may want several mentors. “It doesn't have to be a formal commitment,” she notes. “It can be as simple as a single coffee date. Be open to negotiating a relationship that works for both of you.”

3. Define Your Passion

It may sound trite, but determining what you are passionate about early on is key. “To have a really successful career,” says Phil Hunt, executive director of MBA and career services at the Richard Ivey School of Business, “you need to be where you're happy. There is a direct link between people who enjoy what they do and productivity.”

Even so, identifying what gets your adrenalin going can be tricky. You'll avoid false starts (like, say, struggling with financial data when you'd excel as a salesperson) if you think things through. “I tell students to go sit under an apple tree, be brutally honest with themselves, and figure it out,” says Hunt. If you're looking for a slightly more methodical approach, try using CareerLeader, an online software package recommended by many biz schools. Friends and family can often provide excellent feedback, too.

Career Development: Onward & Upward

1. Volunteer

By the time you're in your 30s, and solidly mid-career, keep the trajectory pointing upward by volunteering with a non-profit community association, arts organization or educational institute. “As a headhunter,” says Tim Hamilton, of Calgary-based Hamilton Hall Soles Ray & Berndtson, “I really like to see people having extracurricular activities. It shows they are a broader person, committed to growing their own knowledge and experience, and putting something back into their community.” What's more, adds Hamilton, “it shows me that they have the discipline and ability to juggle a variety of tasks.” Volunteering also provides chances to collaborate with corporate leaders who are far more senior than you–an ideal situation for observing how top management behaves, not to mention a great networking opportunity. And sitting on the board of a non-profit is a great way to get experience as a director.

2. Should I Stay Or Should I Go?

Snapping at colleagues more than you used to? Letting details slide? If you're feeling apathetic about your job, be proactive. Something as simple as changing your hours, taking on a new project or telling your manager that you're ready for a new challenge could be all you need to feel satisfied again. If you like the fundamentals of your position, and have spent years building relationships across your company, reviving flagging enthusiasm mid-career is worthwhile. However, if your attempts to improve the situation are rebuffed at every turn, maybe it's time to find a new employer. A fresh start may be the best way to re-energize.

Answer the following questions to help decide whether you should stick around or jump ship in search of better opportunities:

Do you like the corporate culture where you are?

Is the scope of your job wide enough?

What about the pace of change?

Are there opportunities to seek out coaching and mentoring?

Are you getting a chance to be visible and active?

Are you energized about what you are doing and whom you do it with?

3. Take A Class

Satisfy your intellectual curiosity and keep yourself up-to-date with industry trends by signing up for a class at your local university. Most business schools offer continuing education programs, and, often, employers will pay for you to upgrade your skills. Hopefully your boss will note your eager-beaver status, too, and reward you accordingly.

4. Take Stock

Career management shouldn't be accidental. Get into the habit of formally taking stock of where you are–and where you're headed–at least once a year. (If you can do it every six months, even better.) Then be proactive about making changes that will help you gain more skills, build new relationships and move your career forward.

Personal Development: Get A Life

Committed to your career, but craving more family time? You're not alone. According to a 2001 study by Catalyst, a non-profit association dedicated to advancing women in business, 64% of professionals planning to jump ship to a new employer say finding a work environment that is more supportive of their family and personal commitments is critical.

If you're among those desperate to improve your work-life balance, try searching the recently launched online job board at President Sarah Fowles–who strongly believes it's the quality of your work that counts, not the hours logged at the office–founded the site to connect family-friendly employers with professional women returning to the workforce after having children or hoping to switch positions to facilitate spending more time with their youngsters. (Bonus: dads can use the website, too.) Advertised positions include everything from senior content production co-ordinator for Best Buy Canada to financial planner with Debt Freedom Canada to store manager at Staples Business Depot. Most jobs posted offer flexible hours, and many have telecommuting options.

Personal Development: A Clean Sweep

No more excuses. Get off your butt and get healthy. “When you want to be at the top of your game in the business world, it's a huge advantage to be physically fit,” says Lisa Koens, membership director and sales and marketing manager at the Fitness Institute, a Toronto-based fitness club that caters to high- flying Bay Street execs. In addition to being a fantastic stress-buster, exercising for 45 minutes three times a week will help you look and feel better. Strap on those running shoes.

If you're spending Saturday afternoons mopping your floors when you'd be better off running errands, visiting with friends or resting up for the tough week ahead, hire a housekeeper. “As you get busier with your career,” says executive leadership coach Lindsay Sukornyk, “you have to think more strategically about how you spend your time.” Paying somebody else to scrub your toilet might be worth it.

Career Development: Golden Years

1. Hire RIght

Late in your career, you can boost your reputation company-wide by ensuring that the team you manage is wildly productive. A simple way to do that is to make sure you've got a stellar group of bright, hard-working, motivated folks working for you. The first step to ensuring that: hiring well.

On his human resources website,, management consultant John Reh suggests that when you're conducting an interview, you want to determine (a) whether the candidate has the skills to do the job (b) how the person functions under pressure and (c) how well they will fit into your corporate community.

To assess technical finesse, Reh suggests asking questions such as, “When you were the marketing manager for ABC company, what were the steps you took when planning the annual marketing budget?” or, “I see you program in JavaScript and C++. How would you link an indexed field variable to display on mouse-over?”

Once you're satisfied that basic skills are up to snuff, test how a candidate reacts under pressure with a tougher question, like, “Which co-worker at your last job did you get along with least well? What did you do about it?” Finally, suss out a candidate's personality, and gauge how his or her work habits might jibe with the rest of your employees.

2. Win With Politics

If you've paid your dues and been offered increasingly demanding roles, moving into a C-suite position is the obvious next step. There isn't room for everybody at the top, though. According to executive leadership coach Lindsay Sukornyk of Toronto-based North Star Coaches, “It becomes not just what you know, but who you know.”

Make sure you get the nod for a corner office by deftly playing the office-politics game. Smart strategies: periodically ask higher-ups for counsel; take on important tasks and make sure co-workers know you did the legwork (e.g., request feedback from colleagues on a draft of a report you're writing, ensuring your boss or rival doesn't steal credit); don't spread rumours; and never, ever make your boss look bad.

Know who in your company wields real power and build your relationship with them. Don't align yourself too tightly with any one faction. You want to be part of multiple networks and communicate frequently with folks across your organization.

Finally, spend less time talking and more time listening. It minimizes the chance of saying something stupid or ill-advised, while people who like to talk (and think highly of those who listen) will grow increasingly fond of you.