January 4, 2012
Review and reflect (be honest!) before setting career goals
Around this time, when the calendar rolls over and our 90-day streak of straight rain begins, we're always so quick to jump into the New Year mentality: What are my goals? How can I start fresh? I'd better list those resolutions so I can start hacking away at them. Go, go, go!
As workers and just as our regular selves, it seems that we need to take that action of sweeping the slate clean and resetting. Which is fine: We certainly don't need to be dragging around the annual baggage of our career low points (the dispiriting job search; the co-worker who drives us crazy with stories about her creepy, sweater-clad poodle; the project that didn't come out as stellar as we'd planned).
But in order to look ahead more clear-eyed, it helps to be reflective first. To this end, a Seattle author and mentor of mine, Theo Nestor, encourages her writer colleagues to conduct an annual, independent self-review. The idea is that, being self-employed and often working in a non-office environment, writers and other freelance/self-employed folk tend to forget that they are employees and to treat themselves as such.
I think this idea has so much value that I've expanded it to encompass all of us as workers -- the self-employed, the job-seeking, those working at companies where we already receive performance reviews, those looking to make a career change. After all, who knows you -- your effort, your successes and failures, your true performance -- better than yourself?
The best part is that this type of review is just for you: No one else ever needs to see it. You don't need to suck up to the boss or use politically correct, job-saving descriptors like, "I rose to the challenge; I have enjoyed being a team player; I supported cross-divisional synchronization and collaboration."
Instead, focus on your biggest personal goals and dreams. Be totally honest with yourself. Really assess those 2011 work skeletons before you stuff them away in a closet like so many inappropriate emails.
By reviewing our own year as workers, as job searchers, as professionals, we get to reflect on where we've been. Only then we can better decide where we want to go.
To give your self-review, begin with these questions:
• What was your biggest accomplishment during the past year?
• What risks did you take for your career? What tough choices did you make?
• What did you do in terms of professional development?
• How did you network with other industry professionals?
• What did you do to nurture your creativity?
• How did you support others in your field? When did you ask for support?
• What did you do to prevent burnout?
• How did you celebrate your accomplishments?
• How did you promote yourself and your work?
• What did you do to build your online presence?
• Where did you fall short of your expectations?
• How much money did you earn? Is that up or down from the year before? How much would you like to earn this year?
Don't just answer these and then forget about them. By the time the sun pokes back in April, revisit this assessment to remind yourself of where you've been and what direction you want to be moving in. Oh and sorry, that annoying wage freeze is still in place, so no 10 percent raise this cycle.
But don't totally deprive yourself: You've worked hard at whatever you've done, so go out and buy yourself that fancy coffee drink you're thinking about. You deserve it.
Karen Burns is the author of The Amazing Adventures of Working Girl, a career guide based on her 59 jobs over 40 years in 22 cities.
Kristen Fife is a senior recruiter, career mentor, blogger and resume consultant based in the Seattle area.
Lisa Quast is a certified career coach, mentor, business consultant, former corporate executive and author based in the Seattle area.
Randy Woods writes about job-search tools, networking techniques and other tips to help you land your dream job.
Matt Youngquist is the president of Career Horizons, a career counseling firm.
Natalie Singer is a Seattle writer, editor and small-business owner.
Michelle Goodman is the author of "My So-Called Freelance Life" and "The Anti 9-to-5 Guide."
- career profile (169)
- cool jobs (74)
- education and training (63)
- entry level (70)
- etiquette (108)
- events (71)
- featured (442)
- finding your passion (98)
- health care (76)
- interviewing (91)
- job fairs (61)
- management (96)
- market trends (92)
- networking (286)
- resumes (103)
- salary (85)
- social media (94)
- technology (118)
- unemployment (57)
- work/life balance (93)