Peaceful Dumplings know that success doesn’t equal happiness, but that true wellness requires occupational fulfillment and satisfaction. So how was 2013 for you, in terms of career growth? Perhaps you are a Millennial trying to find a way up the professional world; a mid-level professional juggling work life with a young family; or a recent grad in search of a fulfilling and upwardly mobile career path. No matter what industry you’re in, or how many years of experience you have, you can still make 2014 your career-making year–the “leap year” when you make a jump, rather than a measly one step.
But if you want to achieve that much progress this year, you can’t just keep what you’ve always been doing. We’re living in extraordinarily challenging times that demand ever more skills, qualifications, and networking chops. This means it’s impossible to stand out just from the qualifications on your resume. In fact, now more than ever, success will be determined by everything that lies outside of paper. Here are five ways you can make 2014 your career-making year.
1. Be authentic: How did an impoverished African American girl born to a teenage single mom, who often went without shoes, grow up to become a billionaire media mogul and one of America’s most trusted people? The answer: authenticity. This is a word that gets used–and misused–quite a lot, and everyone seems to say it’s desirable without telling you what it is. Authenticity means that you stay true to yourself around the clock, no matter when and where you are, what you’re doing, or who you’re with. It’s embodying the same values, radiating your passions, applying your zeal, and expressing your personality in all aspects of your life, personal and professional. Authenticity rewards you with trust and good will from others, as well as internal motivation from yourself. And in this day of Personal Branding, it’s the only way to thrive. You can’t fake it at work that you secretly hate and return to your genuine, well-rounded self at home, then expect extraordinary success. Just ask Oprah.
2. Your job does not define you. You define your job: This one is related to #1. When you’re not your true self at work, you are letting your job define you. It should be the other way around: you should be the one shaping and defining your job based on how you think and what motivates you. Think about what’s missing in your current work life. If it is a lack of intellectual stimulation, start teaching yourself a new tech skill or language. If it’s a lack of independence or autonomy, start a side project that builds your credibility in the field. Take matters into your own hands to change what you do, either at your workplace or after hours. Those experiences will change you as a professional, at your current office or elsewhere.
3. Always write back: In my job as an editor (in book publishing and digital media), I’ve had the chance to correspond with a wide range of people: amateur writers, nighttime novelists, to published authors, professors, public figures, and intellectuals. What I’ve observed over the years is that generally, the more highly accomplished and successful the person, the more promptly, consistently, and courteously they write back, as though they didn’t have a company to run, a law to make, the world to conquer. There are always exceptions; and I do not recommend you drive yourself crazy by trying to reply to 100% of your emails within a few hours (impossible). But make it a rule to answer questions or follow up within a few days, no matter how busy you are. If someone writes to you in a polite and respectful way, take just one minute to write back, even if there is no immediate gain to you. Trust me, this is a quality that distinguishes truly successful people.
4. Don’t be reasonable with your goals: Setting a career goal for this year gives you ample time to make a leap. Don’t sell yourself short by making modest assumptions about your potential–if anything, make goals that sound like a reach. According to a 25-year study published in Psychological Science, people who set concrete, detailed, and ambitious goals reaped more success than people who had set vague or modest goals. A vague goal: I’ll work at my job, be happy. A specific goal: I want to be doing X as a Y, making $Z, while on track to do xxx in the long run. If you could be and do anything in the world, what would it be? When you’ve set your goal, give your 120% to achieving it.
5. Think about the big picture: When you are at the bottom of Mount Everest, you can’t see the top–all you can see is sheer vertical wall of frozen snow and unfathomable crevices. When you can’t see and feel the top of the mountain (success), it can get pretty discouraging–and frightening–to continue upward, ever more in danger. But this is where you have to trust yourself, stay positive and courageous, work hard, and most of all, be persistent. Even if you can’t see success, you have to know that it’s there.
Related: How to Set Goals for a Happier Life
Photo: Mays Business School via Flickr