Experts weigh in with practical ways you can advance your career.
By: Kate Ashford, Monster contributor
Your career is your career – we are all free agents these days. Its completely up to you to manage your career. And in order to manage it correctly, you need to understand your value, contributions, and development areas. After that, you’ll want to take steps to document your successes, and work on your development areas.
We know that everyone is busy, but these exercises only take about 10-15 minutes per day – not a huge investment of time for a rather impactful set of activities.
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It’s coming—January 1 is looming, along with all the promises that come with the stroke of midnight. So many things to commit to doing, or maybe even, stop doing. But one thing is for sure: This is the year you’re really going to focus your energy on your professional life.
Experts have several suggestions for things you can do to put yourself in a better position this year.
As you approach this list, don’t be vague. Say to yourself, “Who’s doing what by when?” suggests Todd Cherches, CEO and co-founder of executive coaching firm BigBlueGumball. “SMART goals are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time oriented. You need to make a plan.”
Take that strategy and apply it to the suggestions below:
Keep a journal
“Before you start your day, spend five minutes visualizing what your day is going to look like,” Cherches says. “Start with a picture in your mind and get it out of your head and on to paper.”
At the end of the day, spend five minutes looking back at what you wrote. “If your significant other said, ‘How was work today?’ what would you say?” Cherches says. “What made it good or great or not so good? The importance is that five minutes at the beginning and five minutes at the end of the day to plan and to reflect.” This can help you remember your goals and stay mentally organized.
Have regular meetings with your boss
For a lot of people, January is performance evaluation season, which is a good reminder to get yourself on your boss’s calendar more often.
“I see people and managers being busier and busier, and you have these quarterly reviews, and you have no idea how you’re doing,” says Anna Cosic, a leadership and career coach based in Brooklyn, New York. “Have regular one-on-ones to make sure you’re aligned with their priorities, but also so you have that running conversation about how you’re doing and what you’re doing.”
Try scheduling a 20-minute chat every two weeks, or set a calendar reminder to pop into your boss’s office or grab a coffee on a regular basis.
Connect with other people
Make this the year you proactively reach out to people in your network and strengthen old connections. Doing this puts you in a good position later if you need help.
“So many people reach out on LinkedIn when they need something from someone, but they don’t build a relationship, or they don’t think of saying, ‘Hey, I saw this article,’” Cherches says. “Touching base with people is great.”
Have lunch once a week with someone you haven’t seen in a while. Choose a few people who have made an impact on you and endorse them or write a recommendation on LinkedIn. “New Year’s is a good time to make a list of people you want to reconnect with and touch base with,” Cherches says.
Expand and enhance your knowledge
No one knows everything they need to know about everything; there’s always a way to improve yourself.
“Identify one or two actions you can take—industry meetings you can attend, publications that will offer insight about the future,” says Roy Cohen, a career counselor and executive coach in New York City. “The best way you can do that is by acquiring some point of view, and that comes through due diligence.”
You might also take a course to learn or improve a skill that’s useful in your current position, or that will help you get the next one.
Improve your personal branding
When your name pops up in a meeting, and people think of you, what’s the first thing that comes to mind? Would they say, “Oh, Jill! She did such a good job on that last project.” That’s your personal brand.
If you’re not intentional about this, people will build their impression of you based on their perceptions of the things you say and the things you do. “If you’re looking to advance internally in an organization, all of those things add up when you’re being considered for a position,” Cosic says.
Make it a point to actively manage the way people think of you by being deliberate when it comes to talking about your achievements and results. “If you’re not talking about it, chances are no one else is either,” Cosic says. “A lot of the women I work with just never even thought about this.”
Evaluate your big projects
Look at the main things on your plate, the things you do in your job that take up the most time and energy. Are they helping you work toward the next step you want to take?
“These days, we’re so busy, we’re just answering emails and doing what’s asked of us,” Cosic says. “Very few of us take the time to sit down and think, ‘If I do an amazing job on all of these things, will it help me take that next step?”
Ideally, the things you’re putting blood, sweat, and tears into are building blocks that are the foundation for a long and successful career. If they’re not, start looking for the projects that will be. Says Cosic: “It doesn’t help if you do a great job on things that don’t matter.”
Stay focused all year
The beginning of the year is a great time for setting goals and making contacts, but there’s plenty more things you can do year-round to bump up your professional profile.
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