As the end of the year approaches, it’s easy to fall into the New Year’s Resolution mindset, i.e., think about what you’ll start doing (or do differently) to achieve your goals in the coming year. The classics are all too familiar: go to the gym, eat healthier, sleep better etc. Professionally, common goals include kicking a job search into gear, networking, joining professional associations, seeking a promotion/raise etc.
The key with any resolution, commitment or goal is to define it clearly and make reasonable and attainable plans to achieve it.
If you’re considering career-related changes in the coming year, these tips will help increase the likelihood of success:
1. Don’t give into the calendar and commit to something you’re not quite ready for.
If you want to pursue a new job, make sure the timing is right for you. Looking for a new position requires time, energy, effort and planning. January 1st isn’t optimal for everyone; be realistic in what you can commit to and when. If it’s a very busy time for you professionally (perhaps because of heavy travel, a product launch, new system rollout or acquisition), consider waiting until you can really dedicate the hours needed for a job search. However, if you’re always busy, don’t use that as an excuse to put it off indefinitely – instead, commit to a start time.
Not sure if “it’s time” yet? Weigh out pro’s and con’s with 8 Signs It’s Time For A Job Change.
2. Create a realistic goal.
Giving yourself 3 months to get a new job sets you up for a stressful process and (most likely) a disappointing outcome, especially if at the senior level. Remember, a job search requires significant preparation (like updating your resume and LinkedIn profile) and research, followed by concentrated networking efforts – and that’s before interview rounds, waiting for an offer and negotiating a compensation package.
Depending on your target roles, companies may not have ideal open positions within your tight search window either. Moreover, it’s common for a company to have a lengthy hiring process, and you don’t want to miss out on a great opportunity because the decision timeframe is longer than what you’d prefer. It’s also important to be careful with how you communicate. Acting in an overly aggressive manner with your network or potential employer (due to your self-imposed deadline) can result in a lost referral or job opportunity.
3. Develop an action plan with short-term, achievable tasks.
Creating a long list in which everything is due in 4 weeks is not nearly as productive or effective as breaking down action items into separate steps, each with its own due date. Crossing off tasks also creates a sense of accomplishment and motivates you to keep working toward your overall goal.
For example, if you want to increase professional visibility, selected items from your plan could include:
- Due week 1. Update LinkedIn headline and summary.
- Due week 1. Email trusted colleagues for headshot photographer recommendations.
- Due week 2. Engage with LinkedIn content at least 2 days. (Recurring weekly item moving forward.)
- Due week 2. Review recommendations and schedule appointment with photographer.
- Due week 2. Email 3 clients (or vendors) to set up lunch or coffee in the next 4-6 weeks.
- Due week 3. Identify and RSVP for 3 events next month (can be industry, professional association, alumni and vendor events).
4. Cultivate your network continuously.
If you’ve neglected to build your network outside of your immediate professional sphere, making up for it in a month or two is a tall order. Relationships take time to develop. Proactively grow and nurture your network as an ongoing part of your everyday professional life, so it’s in place when you need it. Reactionary networking can be transparent (i.e., it’s clear to others that you want something) and often less effective as result.
Does this sound like you? Read What To Do If You Suffer From Networking Negligence for more tips.
5. Don’t join just to check a box.
Paying professional association membership dues doesn’t equate to involvement. Attend events, meet new people, volunteer to help a committee, follow up with those you’ve met etc.; these are signposts of real engagement. This is similar to saying you want to spend more time volunteering, but then only make an annual charitable donation.
See Why You Should Join Professional & Alumni Associations for more tips on how to get the most out of your membership.
6. Research before asking for a raise.
If you plan to ask for a salary increase or promotion, dive-deep into all available resources to know your worth. Check out helpful websites (Salary.com, Payscale, Glassdoor, LinkedIn etc.) and read industry analysis by search firms and consulting firms. Reach out to knowledgeable contacts who may have insights into how your company/department/job compares to its competitors and the market (while adjusting for geography, industry, job function, seniority level etc.). Make a list of accomplishments and ways you’ve helped the organization directly. The more information you arm yourself with, the stronger a case (and better shot at success) you’ll have.
Making a professional change and moving your career forward are popular New Year’s resolutions. If you’re considering the idea, do so with a realistic action plan (unless you want to end up in the camp of people who abandon resolutions by February). Ambitions don’t turn into achievements on their own. Be honest with yourself about your available time, interest and stamina. Outline clear and reasonable short-term goals (for which you must hold yourself accountable) that will help you achieve the end goal.