With the New Year just days away, now is an ideal time to reflect on your career and start to gear up for the year ahead. There’s something about the arrival of January that sparks change and new beginnings.
Whether 2015 will be the year you plan to switch jobs, get promoted or transition into a semi-retirement career, here are five easy things you can do now to prepare for success:
1. Create a year-end “win” list. It’s important to periodically hit the pause button and take stock of your life and career. So, reflect back on 2014 and then make a list of your proudest moments and accomplishments. Ask yourself these questions to jumpstart your year-in-review:
- Which of my projects and accomplishments stood out?
- What training, credentials or additional education did I get?
- Did I get extra responsibilities or a promotion at work?
- Did I receive any honors or accolades?
- Did I successfully navigate through a transition at work or in my personal life?
- Which key habits or actions helped me achieve success?
TIP: Make your list as detailed as possible, while the information is still fresh in your mind, and then update your resumé and LinkedIn profile accordingly. (See “7 Ways to Give Yourself an Annual Career Check-up”)
2. Think about what didn’t work for you in 2014 and what changes might be in order. It’s helpful to spend a little time contemplating what you hoped to achieve and why things didn’t go as planned.
For example, maybe you wanted to find a new job, but never did. Was it because you didn’t have the time? Because you decided to stay put until your boss retires? Because your resumé needed updating? Because you hated going to networking events? Whatever the reason, think about what you’ll do differently in 2015 to help ensure you can be more effective at meeting your goals.
(MORE: 5 Ways to Turn Your Age Into a Work Asset)
TIP: Create a list of three to five things you’d like to do change in your worklife in the year ahead. The more action-oriented you can be, the better. For example, don’t just write: “learn how to code.” A more effective goal would be: “Learn how to code by enrolling in an online course at Codecademy.com in January.”
3. Organize and “sweep” your work and personal e-mail inboxes. An overflowing e-mail inbox weighs on your mind and slows your productivity. Your three year-end tasks: purge, organize and archive.
Purge: Getting rid of all those unread e-mails you’ve been planning to read but never will can take days (okay, maybe even weeks), but even just a few 30-minute rounds of “scan-delete-repeat” will help reduce the clutter. You’ll often eliminate hundreds of messages at once sorting by sender (I just eliminated 149 Banana Republic sale e-mails in one fell swoop). Don’t agonize over whether to delete a message; when in doubt, move it to a folder labeled “later” and then purge it if you don’t read it within six months.
Organize: Do a quick scan through your inbox to identify a few important topics and create folders for them (e.g., “Networking Meetings,” “2014 Job Search Correspondence” and “Second-Act Career Ideas”). Then, perform a search to find messages on each topic and move them to the corresponding folder. That way, you’ll be able to easily find the emails when you need them in 2015.
(MORE: How Fast Should You Reply to Work Emails?)
Archive: After year-end, move your 2014 correspondence to a folder labeled 2014. Having a nice clean inbox will help you reduce feeling overwhelmed each time you log on (and you’ll still be able to easily access those 2014 e-mails if needed).
TIP: In addition to cleaning out your inbox, organize your personal workspace. It’s amazing how getting rid of papers on your desk and labeling file folders will help boost your productivity, create space for new projects and make you feel good all over.
4. Plan your career development budget for 2015. The end of the year is a great time to think about the skills and training you'll need to get next year to stay current and marketable. You employer might pay for some of your professional development. If not, you’ll be more likely to spring for classes, books and networking events if you’ve already set aside money in your budget.
TIP: Look into 2015 courses, conferences and workshops now so you can schedule them on your calendar and plan around them.
5. Say “thanks.” One of the most impactful ways to nurture your professional network is to thank people who’ve assisted your career during the past year. It’s amazing how much people value a simple “thank you.” A bonus: your thoughtfulness will help others think more highly of you, which can come in handy if you’ll ask them for a job referral or recommendation next year.
So write a note of thanks to influential mentors, helpful colleagues and valued vendors. An e-mail is often fine, but for people who really went above and beyond, consider sending a handwritten note, a small gift or an invitation to a thank-you lunch meeting.
TIP: When the clock strikes midnight on December 31, don’t forget to take a moment out to toast yourself for all you’ve achieved during the past year. Cheers to a great year ahead and thank you for being such wonderful readers in 2014.