Making changes in your life to improve yourself and your career can happen at any time; they should also happen at any time you notice yourself going off track. If you are not given to self-reflection, the advent of the new year is a good time to remember to do it.
Reflection at year’s end with self-promises to make changes is a good practice. In that vein, there are a few things you can do to help your career in the next 12 months.
1. Establish Expertise
Whether you are wanting to increase your influence or are just starting to assert your knowledge, one of best ways to do this is through a blog. This is not the easiest task on this list, but it will establish your expertise in your chosen field.
By writing regularly on relevant topics, not only will you demonstrate your knowledge, but also point of view, passion, and commitment. Even better, you won’t be impressing just your bosses, but also competitors (future new employers?).
There are three different ways you could do this. If your company has a website, you could write for them. However, you will most likely be required to speak only the company line, or write only on editor-assigned subjects.
A second way would be to guest post on relevant sites. Once again, you will only get topics published that the sites want to see, plus you have the added burden of having to sell yourself and your writing to the sites.
The final option is to start your own blog. Even if you have no coding skills, it is not difficult these days to set up a blog site using WordPress. WordPress is an easy-to-use blogging platform and there are hosting companies that specialize in WordPress. By pursuing this option you are able to showcase your skills and point of view.
2. Communication and Leadership Skills
Every list of people’s top ten fears includes public speaking. Few people consider themselves excellent speakers, and yet, no matter your career path, you need to effectively speak to strangers, co-workers and bosses.
There are life coaches and classes that can help you, however, one of the most effective avenues for improvement is Toastmasters International. This non-profit, educational organization has been helping people all over the world develop speaking and leadership skills since 1924. They will help you meet your goals and let your employer know when you achieve them. You won’t find an easier way to improve these necessary skills.
3. Create Meaning in Your Job
Most of us, at some point in our career, question our path, our job, and the meaning of it all. If you are in this place now, set aside some time to think about what you want.
Is this dissatisfaction new? If so, what has changed? Has the job changed, are you stagnating, or have you changed?
Once you discover the source, you can look for a solution. If you feel a need to help others, you could start volunteering. Perhaps you need to look for a new job that will afford you new intellectual or skill challenges.
However, sometimes it is just an overall malaise. You like your job, your bosses, and your co-workers, but it just doesn’t seem quite enough. At times like these, you need to take a look at your reasons for working.
Most likely, you work because you need to. You have to pay the bills, you need money to do other things. Now is the time to focus on these reasons. Write down all the things your job lets you do: it lets you have a nice place to live; it lets you eat; it provides you with vacation funds; it gives you money for retirement. By focusing on the positives of why you work, it will give you new purpose.
If this doesn’t help, then you might need to revisit what else could be causing your dissatisfaction.
Sometimes, there is no way around it. If you want to go to the next level in your career, you need more education. You may need to get a bachelor’s, or an MBA, or maybe just a certification. If this is the case, make a resolution this year to get enrolled or at least start the process. With the advent of online learning, there are many options to fit in your classes with your work schedule.
Other times, it isn’t so clear. Ongoing education isn’t mandated, but your co-workers are taking classes. Does that mean you need to as well? The question is really, are your co-workers gaining skills or knowledge that helps them be more effective at work? If not, then you probably don’t need to worry about it.
However, education is never wasted. Whether you take an art history class to learn more about French painters or study Spanish using Duolingo, you are exercising your brain.
You are being introduced to new ideas, satisfying curiosity, developing a new skill. Even if they are not work-related, they will make you a happier, more thoughtful person, which probably means you will be a better employee.
Finally, we come to your environment. Unfortunately, some of us are not able to do much about this in the workplace. If you work in an office, do what personalizing you can. A plant can help improve air quality and bring a touch of nature, especially during the cold winter months. A family picture can help you remember why you are working.
For those who either work at home, or have their own office, take a look around. Consider the lighting, the color(s) on your walls, the ergonomics of your chair and keyboard, storage or lack of, and even consider the temperature and air quality. All will make a difference in how you feel when you come to work. Natural light or full spectrum lighting will help you stay alert.
Blue walls will help you focus; green will help you stay calm and balanced; and yellow will help your energy level and optimism. If you are uncomfortable with the temperature in your space, it will distract you. See if you can bring a fan or heater as needed.
If your space is full of clutter, it will be hard to stay organized and will limit efficiency. If you work for a company, see about increasing your office storage furniture or find an empty storage space you can use. If you work from home or have a small office, your solution might have to be more drastic: a brutal elimination of all things unnecessary, or possibly a storage unit.
Work is a large part of our life. Our career is something we invest years into creating and building. Take time this new year to exam where you are at and what you can do in the new year to move yourself forward.