Four Resolutions to Optimise your Career in 2016

It’s that time again, the beginning of the year when we think about how to change our lives. Getting a better job is one of the top 5 most common new years resolutions (along with getting fit, losing weight, giving up smoking, etc) but its a difficult resolution to keep unless we break it down into smaller goals. So I suggest making it not one but four resolutions and that you deal with one every 3 months. Each month, we’ll give you more detailed information on how to get results from each step.

1st Resolution – Decide what you want to do with your life

How easy it is to write this and yet how hard to achieve in practice! In my classes I teach this as “building your career roadmap”, but it is basically about discovering yourself, developing your emotional intelligence and increasing your self-leadership. I’ve found that what works best here is a combination of reflection, application of thought process models, psychological questionnaires, visualization, plain old feedback and writing stuff down as you go along.

Combining what makes you happy at work (challenge, creativity, problem solving, etc) with your interests can be a good to start. You might want to take some psychological profiling questionnaires too. More than anything these force us to question the results, causing us to reflect on new areas. If you have already done a 360 analysis, you will know what other people see as your strengths and weaknesses, if not, its time to start asking for some feedback. With all this information you’ll be able to draw up your personal SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) analysis, which will help you define more specific goals.

You’ll need to get to a clear objective in order to be able to achieve it, but remember you can change your mind. If you think of it as your definitive life-long goal you may become paralyzed by inaction.

You are in control of your narrative and you can always change your mind.

2nd Resolution– Define and build your personal brand

You will by now have come across the idea of personal branding, but perhaps you’re still not sure why it’s relevant to you. Back in the day when most people would spend their entire careers in one company, personal branding was basically a C.V. or application form and a reasonable interview to get in, and then a combination of performance and visibility in the firm to maintain your position or move up. Now things are a little more complicated. Careers across multiple firms mean that we can no longer simply build our brand internally (by networking at the Christmas party, coaching the company football team, etc) we have to position ourselves externally – showing our value to both our current company and to any future employers.

We’ll get to the detail of how you do this later but lets just be clear that personal branding is not just an online thing: its about how you portray your professional self on- and off-line. Since you’ve already kept your first resolution of knowing where you are going, you just have to move on from there by thinking about how you can highlight what you have to offer in order to achieve your goal. You should also work towards a personal brand statement that will form the basis of your work in this area and help keep your brand coherent.

By the way, you may have read that the C.V. is dead, that’s not quite true, but it has been demoted to just one of the channels you need to leverage to communicate your brand and tell your professional story so far. An excellent short C.V. should be complemented with an engaging LinkedIn profile and superb storytelling at interview/in person. You will also need to Google yourself to check how others see you online.

3rd Resolution – Develop your skills

When you decided where you want to get to you will have identified some skills or knowledge gaps you need to fill. No one is excellent at everything so this is normal. What is not so normal is tackling these issues head on. Research has shown that it is better to focus on our strengths than our weaknesses, as it is here that we have a chance of being outstanding, however it is common to come across weaknesses that cannot be ignored. My students and clients have seen excellent results but picking one strength and one weakness to work on. For the strength you are looking to elevate yourself to world-class level and for the weakness you are looking to increase your confidence and skill.

Once you have chosen these two areas, you can pick the learning methods which best suit you. When working on your strength for example, you may start playing a more active role in forums and conferences, on and off line, learning from leaders in the area while also starting to establish yourself as an expert. While when working on your weakness you may look to take part in a training program or simply read and apply the top 5 books written on the subject.

Aside from these two skills, most of us also do well to dedicating some time to working on some career skills such as interviewing, presenting and negotiating.

4th Resolution – Build your professional network

Anyone who’s recently done a job search will know that the most useful part of your network doesn’t magically appear (no matter how many Facebook friends or LinkedIn connections you have), you have to make it happen. For many years I’ve worked in business schools and one of the key reasons students choose one school above another is the alumni network of the school. But how many of us can say we have actually leveraged this?

Equally we may have explored other ways to develop our networks such as attending conferences and events associated with our career goals, taking an active role in LinkedIn groups or attending training sessions. But once there it is up to us to make connections in a meaningful, empathetic way. Going to a potential networking event to hang out with a group of friends or nurse a glass of wine on the sidelines doesn’t count as networking. Remember you don’t have to work the room, but networking is now an essential part of professional development.

Global competition and high demand for the top jobs mean that your application is often buried among thousands of others and HR managers often struggle to even read all the applications. Networking alone is unlikely to get you the job, but it will often help to get your application read and (if all is well) get you to interview. Equally, networking can help you to find out about opportunities before they are advertised or (just as important) help you to find out more about the company or sector you are applying to.

So you’ve got a busy year ahead, but if you work on these four areas little by little, you can expect to bring about important changes in your career in 2016. Each month we’ll publish practical guidelines and ideas on how to get results from these steps. So now you’ve read this, it’s time to get on it, open that notebook and write down some ideas for what you’d like to achieve.

About Katie Annice Carr

Creativity, Communication and Leadership facilitator, coach and consultant.