12 New Year’s Resolutions For Your Career
If improving your career – advancing to management, making more money, being more fulfilled – is on the agenda for 2016, why not dedicate each month to a different area of professional development? This way, you don’t have just one possibly overwhelming goal, but rather 12 smaller steps that you only have to maintain for 30 days.You can even reorder the below suggestions based on what most interests you now:
Month 1: Planning
Resolve to spend time planning. Write down your yearly targets for your current job or for your overall career (after all, your current job may or may not be a priority). Schedule 15 minutes each week to plan your short-term agenda so you work on things that matter. Schedule longer monthly and quarterly check-ins so you can update your priorities as needed. Spend the month developing good time and priority management skills by focusing on planning.
Month 2: Marketing – Material
Finally update your resume and LinkedIn profile. Write a short bio for yourself, so if one of your friends wants to refer you somewhere, you are ready with some highlights they can share. Check in with people who could be references for you – you don’t want to lose touch and then scramble at the last minute if you need to change jobs. Update your email signature – if you have been published or mentioned in the news, you may want to link to that. Don’t forget your overall look and carriage – practice your hand shake, practice making direct eye contact, review your wardrobe (is it updated? Is it appropriate for your level and industry?). Spend the month refining the tools you use to promote yourself.
Month 3: Marketing – Activity
Having material to share is a good foundation but marketing yourself is an ongoing process, not just a one-time activity. Update your status on LinkedIn. Comment on someone else’s update. Schedule time for when you’ll be active on social media in a way that helps your career – it could be connecting to people, it could be curating content to reflect your expertise, or it could be posting career updates. Practice a concise, engaging answer to, “What are you working on?” so that if you run into a senior executive from another group you know what to say if the question comes up. Practice a concise, engaging answer to, “Tell me about yourself” so that you’re not at a loss in the next conference or professional event. Spend the month on self-promotion activities – push yourself if that feels uncomfortable.
Month 4: Learning
Read your industry trade publication so you stay up to date. Read a general news publication or something outside your industry so you gain a different perspective. Attend a class, conference or lecture in something you don’t know. If you’re a sports enthusiast, consider visiting a cultural attraction or spending a day making art (adult coloring books are taking off for a reason). If you’re a creative, go on a hike or work out with a friend. Spend the month experimenting and focusing on new things.
Month 5: Networking
Have a breakfast, lunch, coffee, or dinner with someone you don’t normally see. Join a LinkedIn group or other online discussion. Attend a conference or professional event, and don’t leave till you’ve connected with at least three new people. Schedule specific days and times when you’ll reconnect with people you haven’t seen in the last 90 days. Spend time with that colleague who is an amazing people person – observe how they interact and communicate, and see what approaches you might adopt for yourself. Return recruiter phone calls, and make friends with someone in HR – it’s always good to have career experts in your corner. Spend the month meeting people, expanding existing connections, and rekindling past connections.
[Related: 5 Ways to Make Networking Effective and Fun]
Month 6: Interviewing
Even if you’re not actively looking for a job, knowing how to answer common interview questions is great for self-reflection and to get an audit of your career. Tackle the typical interview questions. If you work on one a day, you’ll have 30 days of practicing how to talk about yourself in a positive light: Tell me about yourself; what is your biggest accomplishment; what is your biggest weakness; why should I hire you; tell me about this project _____ (if you get comfortable talking about your body of work now, you’ll feel more prepared not just for an interview, but for your next performance review, your next professional function, even your next social event where someone will invariably ask you what’s up at work). Spend the month practicing and refining this important skill.
Month 7: Organizing
Curate your contact list – discard entries for people you have no intention of keeping up with, update information for people you mean to keep up with. Stock up on office supplies, and reorganize your desk to support the projects that are current priorities. Review your calendar to ensure that activities and habits you plan to carry throughout the year (planning time, social media activity, networking meals) are actually scheduled so you don’t forget. Spend the month getting your space in order.
Month 8: Motivating
Keep a journal to track good things in your life – it could be a small serendipity like easily catching a cab in the rain; or a big win at work. Write a thank you letter to someone who has helped you. Write a love letter to your significant other or parent or child. Find inspirational quotes or energetic music that get you going. Motivation is not just in endless supply. Ideally you develop routines and triggers to help get you started. Spend the month experimenting with ways to get inspired and keep your spirits high.
Month 9: Troubleshooting
What is left undone on your To Do list? What annual goals are behind schedule? Make a list of all the areas where you’re stuck. Identify a small step or a resource that can help get you moving again. Read biographies of turnaround leaders or against-all-odds stories. Check your insurance policies to make sure you have appropriate coverage. Check your credit report to catch errors at least once a year. Place a Google Alert on your name so you can monitor your brand. Spend the month focusing on problem areas and looking for specific solutions to those issues.
Month 10: Negotiating
Role play a performance review, raise request or offer negotiation. Take a class or read a book on negotiating technique. Much of negotiating is being able to ask for what you want, so practice asking for things – ask for feedback, ask for a discount. Another important skill in negotiating is being able to actively listen and empathize with your counter party’s concerns, so practice empathy – argue both sides of a controversial issue, observe people in the day-to-day and imagine at least three different motivations for their behavior. Spend this month practicing and refining how you can ask for what you want and get it.
[Related: Tips to Becoming a Successful Negotiator]
Month 11: Replenishing
Plot out the next 12 months of vacation – holidays, personal days, and longer trips – and develop a plan for spacing out the time and for focusing on activities that you really value. Make a wish list of activities you really value – a travel bucket list, one-off activities you can do when you find yourself with extra time (e.g., books you want to read, movies you want to watch), little luxuries you may overlook but would actually be easy to work in a monthly or quarterly basis (e.g., massage, hike, dinner with friends). Work on daily habits that promote self-care: sleep, water, exercise. Spend this month taking good care of yourself.
Month 12: Building
Taking good care of yourself is necessary to combat life’s daily stresses. You also want to have a firm foundation on an ongoing basis. Get a physical so you know what health issues need tending. Meet with your tax and/or financial planner so you have a clear picture of your financial situation – you want to know if you need to prioritize a raise request in your career planning! Schedule these annual check-in appointments for the following year so they never get overlooked in the busyness of everyday. Review your work benefits so you ensure you’re taking advantage of everything you’re entitled to, and you can make adjustments if there are gaps. Check in with your closest family and friends so that you proactively spend time with them and not just when work allows. Spend the month securing your overall foundation – health, wealth, relationships.
This article previously appeared on Forbes.
Caroline Ceniza-Levine is a career and business coach with SixFigureStart®. Follow Caroline on Forbes Leadership for instant notification of new career advice columns: http://blogs.forbes.com/people/carolinecenizalevine/.
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"Jump Ship: 10 Steps To Starting A New Career"
Co-founder of SixFigureStart (coaching) and Costa Rica FIRE (real estate), I am the author of "Jump Ship: 10 Steps To Starting A New Career". I have coached professionals from Amazon, Goldman Sachs, Google, McKinsey, Tesla, and other leading firms, teach at Columbia University and created the online courses, "Behind The Scenes In The Hiring Process" and "Making FIRE Possible". Continue Reading
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