New Year’s resolutions wavering? You are not alone. Research from the world’s largest sports participation platform, Strava, shows this Sunday (19th), is ‘quitters’ day – when most abandon their resolutions. But while that may be true for daily visits to the gym, it needn’t be the case for your career.
Here are seven ways to make 2020 your year to flourish professionally...
Audit where you are now in your life and career and where you aspire to be. Be honest with yourself. What are you great at, what do you love, what makes your heart sing? Set small, concrete goals for the next 12 months. Make them specific and realistic. Identify the gaps you need to bridge. Reflect critically on what your audit reveals. Critical reflection is a much under-estimated skill which not only brings clarity to your own agenda but also ‘has the potential for significant cultural change in organisations’.
If I ask you to list all the things that didn’t go well at work last year, I’m sure you’d be able to provide a comprehensive list. But what about listing all the things that went well? Much harder isn’t it? That’s because we are prone to negativity bias. This year keep a journal of all the things that go well. Ignore the urge to discount – that means don’t tag on a line about how you could have done better. And log everyone who praises you regardless of how minor you believe your effort. You’ll soon feel more positive about what you’ve achieved.
Instead of waiting until ‘performance review time’, start preparing your ‘dossier of evidence’ early and do it on an ongoing basis. Be bold and be brave. Talk openly and regularly with your boss and others. Speak about your career ambitions, any skills gaps you’ve identified and how you’d like to fill them. What can your manager do to support you? If you are particularly interested in performance reviews, check out my article ‘what to say’.
One study suggests that reading offers a raft of health benefits including ‘reduced risk of stress, depression and dementia; better confidence, empathy, decision-making and overall life satisfaction’.
You don’t need to read a book a week, like Bill Gates, but more books are a guaranteed route to greater knowledge. To retain that knowledge, check out these tips on how to get the most from your reading from the master himself.
And here are five of my favourite books for those eager to develop themselves further this year.
Quite a few people I coach are reluctant to network because, in this era of ‘fake’ news and reviews, they associate it with the idea of ‘forced friendships’. But networking really matters. As Herminia Ibarra says, it gives you ‘outsight’; a chance to hear from those beyond your echo chamber. Her 2015 book gives practical tools to get you started. If you are a ‘reluctant networker’, this little book is also filled with tips to help you give networking a go.
Mastering the art of conversation takes practice, but great conversations transform relationships. They keep you close to people and drive interaction, inclusion and alignment. Aim to have more conversations this year. Listen and question as well as talk. If you’re not a coach, study the basic principles of great coaching conversations. Learn from others, like journalist Celeste Headlee in this fantastic TEDx talk ‘How to have a good conversation’.
“Knowledge isn’t power until it’s applied,” said the late American self-help writer, Dale Carnegie. It often feels scary to apply new skills or behaviours at work because the stakes can be high. But it pays dividends to quickly put what you learn into practice. Volunteer for projects or programmes outside your immediate circle at work. These opportunities provide a safer test bed to hone new habits and develop new skills. And persevere “…it takes an average of 66 days for the average person to form a new habit”.
Remember, small, steady steps lead to significant strides. Think progress not perfection. I wish you every success for a flourishing career in this new year.
Susan Room is a former corporate leader, turned coach. One of the rare few qualified to provide voice and executive coaching, her unique blend of experience now sees her help others feel, look and sound confident – improving performance and happiness at work. www.susanroom.com
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