What are your predictions for the year? I don’t know about you, but my year is already starting out in a wild and crazy way (more news on that soon)….
I love New Year’s because it’s such a perfect opportunity to reflect on the year that has passed; I can look back on how far I’ve come, think about what I accomplished, what I didn’t, and make decisions about where I want to go in the future. I like setting goals and I like accomplishing them, so New Year’s is the perfect holiday for someone like me. For me – and I think for a lot of other people who like making resolutions – the New Year serves as an opportunity to give yourself a kind of personal 1:1 performance review.
For your performance review at work, you sit with your boss and go over your successes, failures, and goals in the workplace. On New Year’s, most people tend to think about their personal lives – relationships (maybe setting up that online dating profile?), dreams (mine include traveling to Spain and Thailand), health (who couldn’t stand to get a bit more exercise and eat a few more vegetables). But for both types of reviews, you are evaluating your performance on the goals you set last year, and assessing how you can keep on improving in the future.
Which got me thinking – what are some good New Year’s resolutions just for my (and your) career?
Work is where we spend so much of every year, so if you are thinking of ways to improve your life and yourself by next New Year’s Eve, it makes sense that your career should factor into those goals. I thought it would be fun to put together a list of career resolutions that might get you started thinking of your own, and help you get what you want from your work in the coming year.
Of course, this is by no means a complete list, but below are some of my best ideas for career resolutions for 2013.
- Get outside your “job”.
Some of the best experiences of my professional life have come from doing things that were outside my job description. Speaking at conferences, mentoring, connecting with people via my blog, Twitter, etc. – none of these things are exactly “required” of a CTO.
But they are the things that have brought some of the most meaningful experiences and connections in my professional life. The people I meet through these non-required spheres have helped me advance my career in ways I could not have imagined otherwise.
How can you get more involved in your career? Well, there are the things listed above, but there are so many ways to really dive in and take control of your future. Try joining a professional network; become known for what you do and be a recognizable face among your peers. Don’t just show up to work and do your job; get involved with it and proactively look for ways to improve it.
- Take on a new project.
If you want to advance your career by being promoted within your department or move to a new role in a different department, one of the best ways to achieve that is to step out of your normal duties and try something new. Even if you aren’t looking for a promotion or new job now, trying something different can pull you out of a work rut and by providing an interesting challenge that can re-ignite your passion for your job!
If you have the opportunity to work with another team on a project, why not go for it? You’ll get to meet new people and develop a broader understanding of how your company works as a whole – which is important knowledge to have if you aspire to move into a management position.
Trying something new also gives you a chance to showcase your talents to people who may not know much about you, which is always a good thing. Because the more people who know how awesome you are, the more opportunities you’ll have down the road.
- Make friends.
Have you been skipping out on office happy hours or keeping your headphones in at your desk all day?
Now is a great time to turn it around and start getting to know the people you work with. Your boss, your peers, and even people you never work with directly – set a goal to get to know them, take them out for lunch, or just chat with them over coffee in the break room. You’ll be happier in a space where you don’t feel isolated from the group, and creating relationships with your coworkers will make it easier for you to do your job too. Why? Because taking an interest in other people builds trust, and trust in an invaluable resource for getting things done.
Why not brush up on some tips for being more likable, and then say “hello” to the first coworker you see this week. Strike up a conversation, make a new friend, repeat.
- Stop being competitive.
Have you been trying to make it to the top all by yourself? It’ll be a much harder climb if you don’t have any backup. So start making connections with your peers and stop trying to get it all done by yourself. I am surprised again and again by the power of people working together to do things far greater than what may be achieved by an individual.
Trying to get to the top by holding other people down is counterproductive and ultimately destructive to your own success. The more you help other people, the more they help you back. So build connections with and for other people, and see your opportunities for success multiply.
- Nurture your network.
Having a strong network is an essential part of a successful career. But it’s really easy to add someone on LinkedIn and forget they exist, right? Resolve to stop letting people you meet at conferences and meetups slip away. Make it a point to always follow up and nurture your professional relationships.
It’s a good idea to create a system in which you regularly check in with people you just met and existing contacts you want to stay in touch with. Whether this means sending out a weekly newsletter (ahem) or creating a recurring schedule of coffee dates, lunches, and phone calls, a really strong network is worth only as much as you put into it.
- Define your terms.
What does success mean to you? New Year’s is a great time to think about what exactly you’re working towards and why you’re doing it. Think about what your life looks like when you’ve achieved the career of your dreams. Are you running your own business? Do you work from home? Travel? Are you leading a team? Designing a product?
It’s important to stop and reflect on what success looks like to you, so you can calibrate and put yourself on course to reach that point. Don’t be vague. Think in specific terms about what you want to accomplish, and then make a plan to get there.(PS. Write it all down too! Putting things in writing always makes them more concrete, and forces you to define a real goal and plan. Plus you can check back in with it next December 31st – or sooner.)
- Decide when to quit.
New Year’s resolutions are often additive (i.e. adding positive behaviors to your routine), but don’t forget to think about eliminating negatives too. What negative forces do you want to remove from your career in 2013? This can be anything from quitting office gossip to quitting your actual job. Quitting something requires just as much preparation and thought as starting something new, and can sometimes even be much scarier.Focus on the long-term benefits of quitting a job or a behavior, and don’t just quit something hoping for a quick, immediate benefit, which almost always backfires. Instead, focus on why quitting is necessary and make a calculated decision to walk away – and then do it.
Making sure you follow through on your resolutions
Everybody knows the statistics on the success (or more accurately, failure) of so many New Year’s resolutions, and how many of them are already forgotten by the first few weeks of February. But not everyone else fails at keeping resolutions. What is it that makes successful resolvers so successful?
Well, part of it has to do with simple determination. But it also has to do with the kinds of goals you set.
This post from Forbes talks about the shallowness and lack of specificity present in most New Year’s resolutions. “Save more money” and “get promoted” are nice ideas, but they aren’t really a plan. The best and most satisfying resolutions have to do with concrete achievements and fundamental change. And this post talks about leveraging small goals, because these mini-achievements keep your brain happy and fuel the fires of success.
So when you’re coming up with your career resolutions, think about change and self-improvement in the long-term. Dig deep and come up with strategies that won’t just help you get promoted, for example, but will make you great at your new job too.
I hope this has maybe sparked some New Year’s resolution creativity in some of you, and I would love to hear what career and personal goals you all have set for the new year (which you can send me or, for the brave, post them in the comments). I’m so excited to see what the New Year holds, and so thankful for all of you coming along with me too.
Heres to 2013 – it is going to be great year!