Reflection and planning for the new year

Thankfully, the election is behind us so now we can all get back to our lives.  The end of the year – in between your holiday preparations, festivities, travel and celebrations – is a great time to do some reflecting and planning for you and your career.

Something psychological tends to happen between Christmas and New Year’s Day –  we tend to officially “close the book” on the current year and put it behind us.  While I think that’s a healthy outlook in some respects, I also think that taking time to reflect on those activities that defined the year – the ones we enjoyed as well as the moments we’d like to forget – help us to recalibrate and get pointed in the proper direction for the coming year.  Like a compass that needs to be adjusted occasionally, our daily duties and stressors may take us off course, so an annual reset is a good idea.  Here are some of the items you should take time to think about:

1. Accomplishments and Legacies

This is your gold star sheet.  I suggest using OneNote or another project space tool for this activity.  Make a list of all the great stuff you accomplished; the accolades, the awards, the recognitions from your team, the promotions and the project successes.  Don’t be shy – someone has to record your legacies – if you don’t, who will?

2. Additions to your toolbelt

These items might be skills, hacks, newly developed knowledge, thought leadership – all very important.  Just as important are those lessons you’ve learned through human error.  Journal these moments, projects stories and other documentation for your future use.  Chances are you’ve learned a lot more than you might have initially thought, and it’s good for us to recognize that we are constantly evolving in our positions.  If you are not learning new things and adding to your skillset, it may be time to seek a more challenging role, or one with greater responsibility.

3. Rate yourself

If you’ve gone through this process before then you’ll rate yourself against the goals you set in the previous year.  If this is your first time, then rate yourself based on #1 and #2 above.  On a scale of 1-5 how did you do?  Are you happy with that performance?

4. Create or update your “Career Top 10″

This is a list of characteristics of a job that will make you deliriously happy going to work every day.  Typically, this is an inventory of all your favorite activities from throughout your career.  Try and do this without current job emotion so that you are as objective as possible.  “My top ten career happiness list.”

5. Rate your current position

Using each item in your top ten list, rate your current role on a 5 point scale, with 5 meaning your current career completely fulfills this item, and 1 meaning it does not fulfill it at all.  If you don’t score 30 or higher, it may be time to reassess your current position.  My personal minimum acceptable score is 42 – but I insist on spending my 40+ hours per week in a happy, passionate state.  How about you?

6. Set goals for the New Year

Don’t get too crazy here.  I would prefer you have a goal list of not more than 5 distinct, realistic and measurable items.  This way you have a reasonable shot at working, taking care of family, yourself, your personal financial situation, your community, have a life and still move your career forward.  Write them down – that way you’re accountable.  If your current job didn’t rate as highly as you’d like, or you didn’t have as many accomplishments as you wish you would have, use this stage to start planning the steps you need to take to get yourself to a more fulfilling place.  This may include taking a class to learn new skills, seeking out a mentor in your current company, networking with 10 new people, or sending a resume to 5 places you would love to work.  Like I said, keep it in control, and set goals you know you can reach.

7. Give yourself a standing ovation!

The fact that you’ve actually taken a deliberate step to be strategic about your career deserves applause.  Now, calendar a date with yourself for 12 months from now to do it again.  Just wait!  It will be a bunch of fun to reflect with historical data and see what you have accomplished!

This discipline can have a huge impact on your career trajectory, your professional success and your personal confidence.  After all, if we don’t reflect on the road so far, how can we hope to make it better in the future?  For more ideas on strategic career management, visit us here!