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10 ways to find a job, keep it and grow a career

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Turn the office buildings of the business park into student desks, economic development projects into final exams and the stats of unemployment, cost of living and median salary into a GPA. Congrats class of Des Moines, you passed again ... with flying colors.

Our fair city kicked off 2015 with Forbes naming Des Moines as the No. 2 "Best City for Jobs in 2015." Seattle rang the bell at No. 1 (which is OK because Seattle is pretty cool), but Des Moines came in ahead of Gilbert, Ariz., a suburb of Phoenix.

The ranking was based on research by WalletHub that included studies by Gallup Healthways and data from Yelp and government agencies on the 150 most populous U.S. cities (who knew Des Moines was that big!). Each city was measured on factors such as employment growth, time spent working, commute time, affordable housing, monthly median starting salary, median annual income and job opportunities.

While it's all well and good that Des Moines may see an uptick in the number of job seekers zoned in on the metro as a place to relocate, you are here now.

Perhaps you want your boss to notice you for the promotion from this first gig out of college. There is a chance you were just laid off from a job in a volatile industry. Maybe — lucky duck — you are thriving in a field you are passionate about, living the dream, scheming how to grow your career from middle manager to CEO.

That is where the people of this highly ranked job city come in with their suit and cape, heroine heels, superpower smarts and confidence on how to grow, dive in and be bold in your career. Do not put your future on hold any longer — begin it now.

1. Court Connections

Consider this your starting point to forging connections with the engaged, enterprising individuals you meet. When you meet someone that inspires you, hone in. Go out of your way to start a conversation (it's OK to ask for advice!), invite her to coffee to discuss a shared topic of interest or write him a note with a genuine statement of appreciation.

If you are job searching, consider this growing collection of bright minds your in-real-life Rolodex. Send those you think would be interested a well-written note of intent. Explain what type of job you are searching for and ask whether they have tips or connections they'd introduce you to.

Joseph Sorenson, Director of Affiliate Relations at the Community Foundation of Greater Des Moines, said Des Moines is a unique, open community when it comes to meeting (in real life) with influencers.

"Connect with people who you admire on how they approach their work and their leadership style," said Sorenson, 25. "Young professionals in Des Moines are fortunate to have the ability to meet with leaders in Des Moines that want to help us be successful."

Sorenson made a connection with Wade Den Hartog, CAP® Director of Charitable Partners at the Community Foundation of Greater Des Moines, through ABI's Leadership Iowa University a few years before graduating from Simpson College in 2012. They stayed in contact, and when Den Hartog learned about an AmeriCorps VISTA position with the Community Foundation, he flagged Sorenson. At the time, Sorenson, who was still in college, was interested in economic development but had not considered organizations outside of the private sector. He applied, worked at the Community Foundation and, after the term was over, the nonprofit offered Sorenson a full-time position.

"Staying in touch with people who you have connected with from previous roles or projects can help open new doors in the future," Sorenson attested.

2. Technology is your friend

Josh Ingalls, Senior HR Business Intelligence Consultant at Principal Financial Group, recently moved to his new HR department title from the recruiting role of Talent Development and Sourcing Manager.

Ingalls, 33, recommends getting friendly with the World Wide Web while in job search mode. Automating a job search through filters and notifications can save time.

"Let technology do some of the work for you. is a great job posting site that aggregates most of the jobs companies post and allows you to create alerts to notify you when jobs you are interested in come open," Ingalls advised.

Other popular general job board sites include LinkedIn, SimplyHired, CareerBuilder and Monster (the golden oldies of the category); consider for tech jobs and for nonprofit gigs.

"Be very intentional about matching the qualifications of the job posting with what is on your resume," Ingalls said. "This is usually the first look a recruiter takes, to see if you have everything they are looking for. And if you make it easy for them to see that you do, then you have a better chance of being selected for the next stage in the process."

Be careful not to fully rely on impersonal capabilities of the Internet, though. It may be convenient (and required) to submit your resume online, but if possible, look for events where you may be able to speak with employees of the companies you are pursuing. (Think of it like dating. You can write all the words you want on Tinder, but you get the best – or worst – impression on a real date.)

"Whenever possible, network with someone at organizations you are interested in and build that relationship to the point where you can learn more about jobs you apply for," Ingalls said. "This can really help you craft your resume and interviewing strategy to the position."

3. Imprint an impression

It is said that one makes a first impression in seven seconds.

Samuel Burt, Recruiting Manager with Robert Half Technology, stressed that those few seconds may determine how you look during an interview, but it is also important to let your current supervisor know you're capable of more.

"The old saying, 'Dress for the job you want, not the job you have,' still holds true," said Burt, 37. "This doesn't necessarily mean wearing a suit every day, but it does mean taking a look at the office environment and dressing one step above. Your attire should always be clean, wrinkle-free and professional."

Regardless of whether if you nailed the interview, don't forget that a handwritten note of thanks goes a long way. It means your name ends up on someone's desk, and keeps you top of mind during the hiring process.

4. Accept the challenges

A golden tip for career growth: Never shy away from accepting a challenge.

"Challenges provide great learning experiences," said Sorenson, of the Community Foundation. "Think of it as an opportunity to showcase your abilities." (His next challenge: the next Young Nonprofit Professionals Network Board President.)

And don't be afraid to ask your managers for more work when you can handle it.

"Your goal is to be the shining star your manager just cannot live without," said recruiting manager Burt.

5. Illustrate commitment to a cause

No one likes a job hopper.

"Companies invest time and money in new employees," said Madelyn Hakes, Business Development Manager at Modis. "And candidates who have had five different jobs in the last five years raise questions."

If there is more to your job-hopping story, be sure to explain in your cover letter why you have moved from role to role. Give examples of your commitment in other areas of your life, such as a long-term volunteer role.

Once you have the job, commitment should not cease.

"Stepping up at my job has allowed me to expand my knowledge base," said Susan Hatten, Senior Executive of Strategic Partnerships at Holmes Murphy & Associates. "Stretch yourself to take on new projects as they come about. Put yourself out there in the communities you serve through a board or committee capacity."

Your behavior and time management also count toward how colleagues perceive you.

"Don't be the last person in the door in the morning or the first to leave at night," Burt said. "This demonstrates to your boss that you are committed to the job and have the ambition to succeed."

6. Be open to change

Hakes, 28, said that moving on up the career ladder is not a one-way street. Whether you seek to move within your company or find a job with a different company, you must be flexible and willing to make changes in your day-to-day duties.

"Don't wait around for a position you are 100 percent comfortable with in order to move forward in your career," Hakes said. "Have confidence in your abilities and know that you will rise to the challenge."

Hakes rose to her role in sales after three years in the recruiting field. She emphasized that taking on a new role in a different department within your company, even if it is a lateral move, can shift your perspective and reignite a zest for work.

7. Inflate your value

"In whatever role I had, I made sure that I was always adding value to the situation — from a conversation, to a relationship or getting involved on a board of directors," said Hatten, 32.

Building connections, she said, will help you get involved with organizations outside your main job, which helps with resume building. But it's certainly not just another glory or tick on your resume.

These opportunities demonstrate your commitment to other causes and your community. In addition, they can help you understand the big-picture perspective in your job.

8. Investigative research

Finding the "right" role at the "right" company is a mix of you, them, opportunity and the universe aligning to make it happen. The company will invest time and energy into you, and they want you to like them as much as you want them to like you.

When you score an interview, demonstrate your interest in the company by doing research upfront. That way, you'll be ready for the "Do you have any questions for us?" query at the end of the interview.

Burt recommends reviewing the company's digital presence and asking people in your network what they know about the company.

Ingalls added that you cannot gather all the information about prospective happiness at a job from a few points on a job description. Attempt to get the feel of the company from communication and interactions during the hiring process.

"If you have a great boss, work with exceptional people and your overall goal is to accomplish something you identify with personally and professionally, you will very likely be satisfied independent of what the actual tasks are that you will be doing," he said. "Also, very few jobs sound great when you really lay out the daily tasks in a few short bullets, so don't let that push you away from a great opportunity."

9. Develop your network

Hatten, who is involved with Junior League and is a founding member of Lead Like a Lady, recommends finding your place in the world of professional development groups.

"Both organizations are wonderful for women, especially, as we're trying to grow careers and spheres of influence," she said. "But you have to find what works for you. Discover which types of organizations will surround you with the people who will be most helpful to you."

For Sorenson, YNPN is more than just being involved with a group of like-minded individuals. It is about investing in the future personally and professionally.

"I think building relationships in groups like YNPN or other professional development groups can help you identify partnerships," Sorenson said. "You get a sense for what other organizations are doing and build rapport with others that may lead to collaboration in the future."

10. Take a walk on the balance beam

And finally, don't forget balance. Balance, of course, looks and feels different for everyone. Consider what sort of working conditions and time considerations you need when applying for a job.

For Hatten, life balance means she takes time for an early morning workout – her mental conditioning for the day.

Sorenson recharges his batteries by going out with his wife, being with friends and playing sports like golf and racquetball.

No matter what role you find yourself in – despite long hours, constant emails, multiple meetings – be sure you find a job that allows you to make time –at the right times – for the important people in your life.