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The New Year is all about fresh starts and new goals and starting over. You may feel that you want to do something to help your career along before the new year. But it can be a daunting task to sort through everything, or you may no know where to start.
Today, we’re going to walk you through 23 things you can do to boost your career before the ball drops on New Year’s Eve. These are all small steps you can take to help shift the direction you’re going, and they’ll help you feel more focused and more on track.
Clean out your inbox
There’s something about an overflowing inbox that mentally exhausts us, even before the day begins. Take some time to sort through your inbox, archive old messages, and create folders to organize new incoming messages. And while you’re at it, take a look at all of the cool extensions Chrome offers for productivity and organization.
Write a Thank You Note
Thank you notes are a great, personal way to connect with someone professionally. You can send an email, but we really encourage you to go for the hand-written, addressed, postage-added, sent-through-the-mail kind of note.
It’s something that not a lot of people do anymore so it’s sure to make you stand out. Every career website will tell you to send a thank-you note after your interview, but we think you should make it a habit of sending these out throughout the year to new connections, clients, coworkers, etc.
Make sure your visuals are on-point (biz cards, website, resume, etc.)
Give your visuals a little refresh. Maybe your business cards are a little stale, or your leave-behinds are outdated. Perhaps you’ve gotten a personal website (good for you!) but you haven’t updated it in a while.
Now is the time to get snazzy new business cards, to update your marketing materials (if you have the luxury of creating your own), to revamp your website, or to start using nicer-looking powerpoint templates.
Update your resume
You need to keep this document updated at all times, even if you’re not planning on looking for a new job, because you just never know what will happen. So if you haven’t been updating it until now, the last push before the New Year is as good a time as any.
10 Tips to Help You Write an Awesome Resume on our blog
Connect with new people on LinkedIn (and chat)
It’s time to start using LinkedIn regularly. It’s not just an online resume that you can leave out there and forget about. You need to be active and start making connections.
Start finding people you’ve worked with before (you can start by searching the company and look at their employees, or browse through your connections to look for people you know). LinkedIn’s suggestions are pretty spot on, so it’s always a good idea to scroll through who they recommend you connect with.
After you’ve found people, send them a personalized note when you request to add them to your network. Ask them questions, and make your focus about them and their work, not about how they could benefit you. Basically, be a nice person.
20 LinkedIn Profile Tips for Job Seekers (this is a good place to start if you’ve neglected your profile) on our blog.
Make your workspace more cozy/personalized
It can be a little mentally exhausting to sit in a boring cube all day. If you’re allowed to, and to your level of comfort, personalize your space. This can be as simple as adding a few pictures of places or people you like, or can include furniture and decor if you have the freedom to do so.
It’s also a good idea to get yourself a plant or some other source of nature that you can stare at when you’re feeling down about being in the office all day. Sure, this tip might not actually propel your career forward much, but it will do wonders for your own well-being, and your productivity levels.
De-clutter and re-organize your workspace
While you’re re-touching the look and feel, take a little bit of time to declutter and organize. File things away, shred documents you really don’t need ever again, digitize things you may want to save, and grab a notebook for your notes, instead of scraps of paper.
When our spaces are cluttered, our minds feel cluttered, and it’s harder to focus on work. Not to mention, it’s harder to find things when you need them. Ease the burden and take half a day to sort things out.
Organize Your Office and Improve Your Design by The Balance
Clean up your social media
Adjust your privacy settings, get rid of profiles you’re not using, and consider how you come across to your coworkers, clients, customers, etc.
This isn’t about stifling yourself, and it’s not even about not being political. But are you nice? Are you sharing work-related things (future employers will be checking social media before they hire you)? Are you presenting yourself professionally?
If your employer has any rules regarding social media (what you can post, etc.) make sure you’re following those.
Start planning your personal branding
Have you heard the latest buzzword? It’s “personal branding” and it’s all about planning for your future, for your career growth, and your perception.
Personal branding includes your internet presence, what you publish (articles, blogs, social media posts, etc.), and your level of expertise as it pertains to your career. Basically, are you positioning yourself to be THE authority on the topic?
Create a publishing calendar and start publishing articles on LinkedIn
Part of the personal branding strategy is to become known as the expert in your field. You can’t do that if no one outside of your office and your clients knows your genius. That’s why publishing on LinkedIn can be helpful.
If you don’t want to take the time to set up your own website and publish there, LinkedIn is the next best place. Your articles will be published to your connections and followers, and are discoverable by others. You can share them from there to your other networks.
Pick a related skill to learn and find a class
One of the great advantages of being alive today is our access to practically anything we want to learn, at the tip of our fingers. This is really beneficial for your career because you can take the initiative to learn skills that will be useful to you as your career progresses and evolves.
If you’re not sure what you want to learn, consider where you want your career to go (what skills does someone in that position need?), or think about your personal interests (you can likely find a way to apply these to your career) or, if you’ve heard your boss mention that they’ll be needing something, maybe you can learn to provide that need for them.
The Best Resources For Learning Career Skills on our blog.
Buy a few career books and read them
Self-improvement will always be helpful to you. You can find dozens of books related to your career that can help you get a fresh perspective, learn some new things, and set your signs on achieving more.
Just do a quick Google search of “best books for _________” and fill in the blank with your job title. In my case, it could be “best books for copywriters”. You’ll find a helpful list and can look up reviews on Amazon or Goodreads.
Order a few books (or pick them up at a local bookstore) and schedule some time to read them before the end of the year. This will get your head in the right place and will help you refocus your efforts and make plans.
Write a one-year plan
Speak of plans, do you have a one-year plan? I find a one-year plan to be much less daunting than a 5-year or 10-year plan, and I can get more focused on my goals and the timeline. It’s often hard to think into the future (do you even know what you’re eating for lunch today?!) so a one-year plan is a good way to start because it’s a small amount of time.
Use this plan to focus on your career, your goals, your personal goals, what you want to accomplish, etc. Look for opportunities around you, and consider what you need to accomplish next year to get your closer to your goals.
Career Action Plan Writing and Development by The Balance
Write down your biggest wins of the year (quantify)
Before you forget (or your brain gets too fuzzy from champagne on New Year’s Eve) take a minute to list your biggest “wins” for the year. This should be a good combination of professional wins that you can quantify (“sold X to X”, “landed $X account”, “received X awards”) and professional wins that you can’t quantify (“boss told me….”, “client gave ….feedback”, “X publication said this about my project…”).
Print out any glowing emails, testimonials, reviews, etc. to keep in a separate location. These are useful for performance reviews, or when you ask for a raise. They can show the great things your boss, your coworkers, or your customers and clients had to say about you.
Also, keep a running list of all of your quantifiable goals, for the same reasons. When you’re asking for more money it’s helpful to be able to show with numbers how valuable you are to the company. Same if you’re vying for a promotion.
Create a morning routine
Morning routines are all the rage right now, and for good reason. Even the simplest morning routine can help start your day on the right foot. It mentally prepares you for the day, gives you energy, and helps you leave the house feeling calm and confident as opposed to frazzled and rushed.
It’s helpful to poke around and see what other professionals do for their morning routine. It can involve exercise, reading, journaling, writing goals, writing task lists, meditating/praying, or some other activity. You should try to do something that will invigorate your mind and your body, and will give you plenty of time for your normal tasks (like getting ready and dropping the kids off at school).
Make small health changes (sleep schedule, diet, exercise)
Career longevity and success can be affected by your personal health, so if you prioritize it for no other reason, do it for your career. I know from experience that trying to make ALL THE CHANGES at once is not sustainable or healthy, so I suggest making small changes.
Pick one area you want to improve. Maybe you don’t get enough sleep on a regular basis. Focus on going to bed an hour earlier every night. Or maybe you’re a sugar fiend (hi, that’s me). Focus your efforts on cutting back on the amount of sugar you get. This might mean cutting out soda, limiting your consumption of white sugar, etc.
Be honest with yourself, know your habits and behaviors, and make goals that you know you can reach, and force yourself to stick to them. When you’ve got a handle on your first small change, make another. Over time, you’ll be much healthier.
19 Small Changes You Can Make to Improve Your Health by Real Simple
Update your online images to professional photos
Remember when we were talking about updating your visuals and your social media presence? This includes using updated, professional photos of yourself.
Update each of your public social media profiles to the same professional image you use on your LinkedIn profile. This can be the headshot your company took of you, or a crisp, clear photo you have. If you need to DIY your photo, make sure you’re in front of a solid background and you’re wearing a professional outfit. Smile or don’t, that’s up to you, but you should look like you’re going to the office.
Invest in a new outfit
Okay, this tip is purely to boost your confidence, but I think it still counts. Get yourself a real, professional outfit. This might be a well-fitted suit, a new dress, some new loafers or heels, or a new overcoat for the cold winter months. Whatever it is, you should take the time and spend the extra money to buy something that looks great and is good quality.
Ask for some constructive feedback
Now’s the time to start planning for next year, and that should include planning ways to improve your performance at work. Ask your boss or team lead for some constructive feedback. This can be an informal thing, or you can ask for a formal review. Whatever you decide, listen to their feedback and make the necessary adjustments (or make a plan to make the necessary adjustments).
Make a list of unfinished tasks
Before you get focused on the holidays and time off, write out a list of all of your unfinished tasks. People you need to touch base with after the new year, things you need to check up on, tasks you need to complete, and the status of each of your projects.
This will be incredibly helpful to you when you come back from work because you’ll know exactly where you’re at on everything. And if you can, leave this list out on your desk (or in a folder your coworkers can access) so they can get a quick status update if anything comes up while you’re out of the office.
Ask for a performance review or ask for a raise
Have you been putting off asking for a formal review, for a raise, or applying for a promotion? Now’s the time to dive in. Do something you’ve been putting off before you leave for the holidays. This can be the biggest thing you do on this list, so make sure you take the time to do it well.
If that means looking for a new opportunity, asking for a raise, taking on a new project or responsibility, or talking with your boss about a formal review, do it.
Send out a holiday message or new-year greeting
This goes along with the handwritten thank-you note, but a holiday greeting that isn’t salesy or pushy can go a long way. Ask about how they’re doing, or ask for an update, or request a time to get together for coffee after the holiday.
Whatever it is, make sure you’re sending out a personalized greeting to some of your network can be a great way to reconnect with people you haven’t spoken to in a while, or to refresh some stale connections.
Sign up for a seminar, talk, or workshop related to your career
If your company has a budget for continuing education, make sure you’re not wasting it. Look into seminars, talks, workshops, or conferences in your field that will be beneficial to you, and, more importantly, the company. If you have to sell someone on this idea, you’ll want to be able to articulate how this experience will grow the company (and not just your career).
Look for reputable sources or ask your colleagues or peers what they recommend for your specific career. Or, again, Google is your friend.
The Best Conferences to Attend This Year by The Muse
I hope this was helpful for you. It’s important to take some time to give your career a boost before the craziness of the holidays and the new year hits. If you’re feeling at all stuck or like you’re floundering, follow some of these tips to help you get a fresh perspective and to feel a bit better about your career.
If you follow any of these tips, I’d love to chat with you about your experiences. Let me know in the comments what you did and what you found most helpful. Or share any suggestions for tips I may have missed, so our readers have even more to do before 2018.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
I’m Morgan, the copywriter and content strategist for businesses and entrepreneurs looking to position themselves as industry experts. I live in the Northwest and enjoy 90’s alternative music, Gilmore Girls, Harry Potter, and drinking too much coffee.