December offers us a chance to reflect upon the past year and think about what we’d like to achieve in the coming year. Some of these things are personal, while others are professional. In our daily lives, we rarely think in terms of making decisions for the next several months or the year–and so our actions accumulate, and not always in keeping with our long-term intentions. In the midst of this you may find yourself wondering, “why am I doing this / is this what I’m meant to be doing / how do I feel happier?” This is a chance to re-calibrate your career intentions so that you set yourself on a direction of your choosing. Here are my tips to revamp your career–working toward your vision of your future, while feeling happier and more fulfilled.
1. Acknowledge your past, both gains and setbacks.
Where were you this time around last year? What have you accomplished since then? Take a moment to actually congratulate yourself for your gains. Perhaps you were promoted or got a raise, or found a new, interesting gig that wasn’t even on your radar a year ago. Then, acknowledge yourself for your setbacks–because how you responded to them have made you smarter and more experienced. So instead of framing your low points based on what happened to you, think of it in terms of how you responded actively.
Rather than saying, “this year my company went under and I lost my job. Then I spent months searching for another job, until getting a temp job to pay the bills,” say “When I was let go, I finally found time to re-nourish my mind, body, and spirit after working at a same corporate job for years. This gave me a chance to reflect upon my skills and true desires. In the meantime, I decided to start saying “yes” to opportunities–and so when an unexpected job in a new field opened up, I took it.” This is the same story, but two completely different ways of telling it.
2. Talk about what you want to accomplish.
Now that you’ve acknowledged your past, think about where you’d like to be this time next year and visualize a path toward that goal. Then instead of forgetting about this nice sweet dream of yours, talk to someone you trust about it. Ideally this is a friend you trust with whom you can be totally honest about your concerns. This does two things: first, by verbalizing your wishes with another person, you commit to your goals firmly. Secondly, talking about your goals and your perceived barriers to those goals will help you realize which of those barriers are real and which are surmountable. Chances are, much of your insecurities about achieving your end are unfounded.
3. Focus on the positive.
We all have strengths and weaknesses. We often think too much about the things we’re not so great at that we create hangups unnecessarily. Shift the focus to the positive. What are the things people tell you, again and again, that you’re amazing at?
For instance, I’m not a salesperson. It’s not that anyone told me, “you’re not good at sales,” but that I tend to feel uncomfortable being “pushy.” I also take rejection to heart. If I’d let that sink into my head I’d believe all sorts of wrong things about my abilities.
On the other hand, I’ve heard genuine praises from others about some other things I do, again and again: I also hear from people who love my inspirational articles and newsletters (yay!). I also always hear from my barre clients that I’m an amazing, super challenging and motivating teacher. These are very different things in terms of actual tasks, but fundamentally they’re both about connecting to other people and inspiring and motivating them toward their best self. So don’t force yourself to be great at everything–just focus on your strengths and choose the opportunities that highlight what you’re great at. Do people tell you you’re an amazing baker? Or that your web design skills are unbelievable? What about these skills can you channel toward your career?
4. Give yourself a deadline.
I had a yoga-class-and-dinner date with a friend last night, and we were talking about my personal problems. I was debating between some choices and she said something very wise: Give yourself a deadline. This was a revelation to me–because it had never really occurred to me that when doing something difficult, the best thing you can do to motivate change is give yourself a deadline. Whatever you envisioned for yourself, give yourself due dates. For added motivation, make those dates meaningful–for me, some of these deadlines are January 2nd (day after New Year’s), my birthday, etc.
5. Understand that this takes time and commitment
Working toward any goal, professional or not, takes time and commitment. Understand not every door is going to fly open just because you’ve set goals for yourself–just as you can’t expect to see results the day after starting a new fitness regime. On the other hand, important changes are bound to follow if you put enough time and effort. Your efforts are cumulative, so be consistent–and evaluate how far you’ve come on your deadline.
What are some of your career goals for 2015? I’m eager to hear your wish list!
Also in career advice: A Fickle Mountain – Finding Your Purpose
Photo: Camdiluv ♥ via Flickr