There are many things you can do for your career right now and early 2010 when new-year momentum is still strong:
Send New Year cards. Block out two lunch hours in the first week of January to get to people that you missed over the holidays. If you were diligent about sending holiday cards, use the time to update your database with new addresses, changes in title or company, etc.
Schedule lunches for specific dates. Instead of saying, “Let’s get together in January”, offer a specific date (“How about January 4 at 1p?) Aim for four confirmed dates in January. Repeat the following month.
Update your resume. At the very least make sure your contact info is updated and all jobs are represented. It would be ideal to make sure the job descriptions are relevant to what you’re interested in today. Taking a few minutes each January to update will prevent your resume from getting too stale, and it will position you to take advantage of unexpected opportunities throughout the year.
Schedule training and personal development. Look into your company’s offerings now and register for all of 2008. This way, you reserve the time. If you can’t register yet or your firm doesn’t offer what you need, block out at least one day each month anyway. Use this time to catch up on professional reading.
Subscribe to trade publications. If you don’t already, find out what publications service your industry and see if copies are available in your office. Go online and sign up for industry ezines. Professional publications that you pay for could be tax-deductible as a professional expense.
Join trade organizations. At a minimum, you probably would get newsletters and announcements. It would be ideal to also attend meetings (block out 2008 meetings now!) and join a committee.
Update your professional wardrobe. Get drycleaning and tailoring done. Get shoes shined and repaired. Discard worn or out-of-date items and include replacements on your holiday sale shopping list.
When you learn to play the piano (or cook, swim, speak a foreign language, etc.), when do you transition from learning to doing? In a way, you are always learning, so you are also always doing. You might be a bad piano player at first and a better one later, but you are still always playing the piano. Therefore, if you want to do something, there is no magical time to start; just start now.
So it is with next year’s resolutions. You think you will have more motivation, discipline, momentum or magic by starting on January 1. Actually, you should start right now. Let this column be your motivation. When you start on Dec. 21 after reading this, you are exercising discipline. You are gaining momentum going into January 1. You harness the magic of starting early, of just starting before you can talk yourself out of it, fall into your previous rut, or simply forget.
If a 2010 resolution is to get healthy, work out today. If you want to take an exotic trip, pick a destination and research it on the Internet. If you want to save more, take $10 from your wallet and stick it in a savings jar. Just do something towards your goal.
Better yet, write down 5 small steps, and do one a day until January 1. If that means taking five $10 bills out of your wallet, then that’s what you have to do. The process of doing one small step each day will reap big benefits. Start now, and get a jumpstart on 2010.
I’ve seen statistics that show Americans watching anywhere from 4-8 hours of TV every day. If your idea of fun is watching TV, then I can’t confirm that having fun yields career development opportunities. However, if you’re willing to turn off the TV and put in a little planning, then you can have extra-curricular activities that are both fun and good for your career:
Exercise. This can mean taking aerobics class, working out at the gym, or joining a sports league. This can also mean dance class, weekend hiking trips, or hiring a running coach. Exercise has direct career benefits: it relieves stress, increases energy, and maintains focus. It may lower your healthcare premiums or decrease your need for sick days. It can increase your confidence, improve your posture and make you a more attractive employee inside and out.
Volunteer. Get on the board of a non-profit organization. Participate in the planning of a community event. Tutor at your local Y. Volunteering gives you the chance to learn or hone skills in a positive environment. You also gain networking opportunities. Finally, you get the perspective of an environment or industry outside of your day-to-day job.
Read. Reading biographies will give you success traits and strategies without having to invent them firsthand. Reading business books in your industry will enable you to see the bigger picture outside of just your job. Reading anyting, whether fiction or non-fiction, expands your imagination, your perspective, and your knowledge base.
Take a class. Improv class completely changed my professional demeanor – I think better on my feet, listen to my clients better, and handle curveballs better. Sewing class added valuable time to my schedule; I learned that I hated sewing so much, so I saved time by no longer reading those crafts magazines and dreaming about what I would make. Take a class in whatever interests you. You will learn something. You will meet people. You will get closer to what truly interests you.
Career development is about learning skills, networking and honing your passion. The above suggestions are fun but offer all of these career benefits as well.
It’s okay to look for the fun in the work. If your work is something that you’re passionate about, then you’ll go the extra mile and do a great job. But work is not synonymous with fun for a reason. We don’t get paid to have fun. We do get paid for work. We get paid because work (unlike fun) is not something we would do for free. Your reward for work is the money, not the fun you may or may not get out of it. So if you’re not having fun at work, that’s not necessarily a sign of career failure. Work shouldn’t be fun.
In fact, people put too much pressure on themselves to find that perfect job if they expect to both have fun and get paid. There is nothing wrong with working for pay and then using that money to pay for fun. You want to make sure, however, that you are then having fun outside of work. If you are working long hours on the promise that you’ll have fun eventually, that may not be a good deal. But if you are satisfied with your work schedule and still have time for other pursuits, then that is perfectly fine. You shouldn’t feel obliged to find more fun in your work when you are getting your needs met elsewhere.
Separating work from fun may be beneficial in pursuing interests which typically do not pay well financially. If you like to write, you can work as a journalist often times at low pay. Or you can work a higher paying job and write freelance. If you write whether by hobby or trade, you are a writer. If the type of writing you want to do is not something where jobs are generally available (e.g., poetry) then the money job/ fun on the side option may be the only one that fulfills both your fun and your living needs. Furthermore, if the money job frees you from day-to-day worries about paying the bills, getting medical coverage, etc, then it may make you a better writer than if you toughed it out at a “fun” job.
We can all aspire to the equilibrium where our fun produces enough income to become our work. But the goal of work isn’t to replace fun. Work shouldn’t be fun. That’s why it’s work. Your task is to find the right balance.
No one wants to be contacted only in times of need. That’s what gives networking a bad rap. The best way to build a solid network is to contact people when you don’t need anything. Maintain your network by keeping in touch with people regularly, “just to say hello”. Here are some creative ways to say hello:
SPREAD HOLIDAY CHEER
Send holiday cards, and include some information about yourself to keep people updated. Remember to note information you receive in return (e.g., changes of address, changes of employment).
ANNOUNCE A LIFE CHANGE
You might announce a new baby, entry to a graduate degree program, a promotion, or just an email change. When you send out the news, include news about other areas of your life.
OFFER AN INTERESTING ARTICLE
If you find an article that could be interesting to people in your network, email/ send a copy. This works well for professional contacts, who are not familiar enough for a holiday card or personal announcement. An insightful article lets the contact know you are thinking of them and you understand what’s important in their industry.
INTRODUCE A NEW CONTACT
When you make introductions to other people in your network, not only do you expand the contacts of the person you introduce, but you also get an opportunity to catch up with your network. Like an interesting article, an interesting referral lets the contact know you are knowledgeable about their needs and willing to help.
SIMPLY SAY HELLO
Sometimes a person just pops into your head. Maybe they resemble someone on TV. Maybe you heard a joke they would enjoy. Follow your instinct and call/ email to say hello. It’s always nice to know people are thinking of you.
As we barrel into next year – preparing for the holiday season, tying up projects at work, thinking about our new year resolutions – it is easy to diminish the significance of the current year. But there are insights to be gained upon reflection on 2009:
What milestones occurred in 2009?
What are you particular grateful for in 2009?
What will you remember most about 2009?
What did you learn in 2009?
What was your favorite event in 2009?
What was your favorite movie/ book/ show from 2009?
Who shared your life in 2009?
What was the funniest thing that happened in 2009?
What is most special about 2009?
What is most special about today?
Yesterday is history.
Tomorrow is mystery.
Today is a gift.
That’s why it’s called the present.
— Eleanor Roosevelt