The holidays are an opportunity to relax a little, think back on the past twelve months, and set some goals for the year ahead. A list of career goals shouldn’t be a set of bland New Year’s resolutions—you can achieve measurable growth in 2015 by taking a few simple, practical steps. We’ll examine some of those steps below.
1. Look back on the past year
Take a moment to remember the highlights of your year, not just your missteps. You can learn a lot from times you performed particularly strongly. If you set goals for 2014, check back on how you performed—did you achieve what you wanted, and if not, what held you back?
2. Set 2015 goals you can measure
Setting effective goals is vital. First, you need to know your long-term goals—where you ultimately want to take your career. Then you can set shorter-term goals for 2015 that will help you get there. Don’t make the list excessively long—it’s important to prioritize. Set realistic goals you can actually achieve, but make them stretch goals—challenges that motivate you to put in greater effort.
It’s critical that you make your goals measurable, so you know exactly when you’ve succeeded in meeting them. “Network more effectively” is ambiguous, but “Network more effectively by attending three events a month and making twenty new contacts” is concrete. An understanding manager or HR contact can assist in defining achievable goals.
3. Seek out mentoring
Mentors are people with a lot of experience in your field, who can give you advice on troublesome problems and guide you in your career. A good mentor is invaluable, so if you have one, try to meet regularly, and if you don’t, consider finding one.
4. Get to know your colleagues better
You don’t have to be the last to leave every social event. But you’ll be surprised what you learn, and who you connect with, when you make an effort to get to know an unfamiliar colleague—you may get fresh insights, goodwill, or just good conversation.
5. Take a look at your workspace
Begin with what’s right in front of you. A messy desk might be hurting your productivity. A badly-adjusted chair might be breaking your concentration. Your workspace is virtual, too—
if you find yourself drowning in email, for example, there are easy ways to help you manage better.
6. Do something about your bad habits
The trick is to replace bad habits with better habits. If you’re forever putting things off, don’t just tell yourself to do them—find a smarter way to work. Remind yourself to do those tiresome jobs in the morning when you have extra energy, or give yourself a little reward for getting them done.
7. Put your hand up for an internal project
You can make yourself more credible by offering to take on an internal assignment, like organizing a training session or a social event. If you do a great job, you’ll build recognition and respect—and that will go a long way when it comes to resourcing the next big piece of work.
8. Seek out career-enhancing training
Your training shouldn’t end after orientation. Even if it’s not directly related to your job, internal workplace training can be very useful. Externally, short courses in highly transferable skills, such as negotiation, can be listed on your CV and help you to stand out to future employers.
9. Stop ignoring your LinkedIn profile
A study conducted in 2014 found that 94% of recruiters had used LinkedIn to fill vacancies in their organization. So if your profile isn’t up to scratch, chances are you’re missing out. Your profile needs a compelling summary and a complete list of your experience and skills. Get in the habit of reaching out to new contacts and seeking out endorsements and recommendations.
10. Network, no matter what
It is always worth your while. It’s also not as intimidating as it seems. Meeting an old friend in the industry for coffee is networking. So is attending a seminar run by a professional association. Make time to do these things more often, and keep track of your networking activities. Websites like Treatings can also connect you with people who’ve expressed an interest in broadening their networks.
11. Publish an article about your work
There are plenty of outlets for your writing—the company website, as a guest poster on an industry blog, on LinkedIn—any of which will give you authority in your field. Excellent content is the best possible advertisement, so there’s no reason to sell yourself too forcefully.
12. Take regular vacations
It may seem strange to suggest advancing your career by not working. But the evidence is overwhelmingly that vacations increase creativity and motivation, and decrease both present and future stress. Don’t be afraid to use those paid vacation days.
We all know giving back is deeply worthwhile. It’s not just your time that’s valuable to charities, though, it’s also your skills—groups such as Catchafire can help pair you with nonprofits who need your particular talents. Many nonprofits need people for committees or boards, which is great experience if you have leadership aspirations. And since one study found volunteers were 27% more likely to find employment than those without volunteering experience, volunteering might also help you.
14. Follow developments in your industry
This sounds obvious, but it’s easy to forget. What is being written in and about your industry? Are trends taking shape? Are employers increasingly seeking particular skills from people like you? If you take a moment to answer these questions, you’ll position yourself well for your next career move.
15. Check in on your progress regularly
Don’t wait until the 2015 holidays to find out how you’re tracking! Remind yourself every few months to measure your progress against your goals.
We hope these suggestions help you achieve every success next year! Enjoy a wonderful holiday season in the meantime.
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