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New Year's resolutions. According to Inc. Magazine, 60% of us make them. But many of us know that when it comes to actually keeping New Year's resolutions, the odds aren't exactly in our favor. Research shows that, despite our best intentions, only 8% of us accomplish those annual goals we set for ourselves.
If you're anything like me, 2020 has left you hungrier than ever for fresh starts and clean slates.
What keeps us coming back every year? Well, as PsychCentral tells us, it’s partly tradition (we are creatures of habit!) and partly the allure of a fresh start, a clean slate. And let’s be honest, if you're anything like me, 2020 has left you hungrier than ever for fresh starts and clean slates.
That fresh start can apply to your professional life just as easily as it applies to dropping a few pounds, quitting your Starbucks habit, or taking up hot yoga. So, let's talk about some strategies to help you set career resolutions and, most importantly, actually keep them.
Goals versus resolutions
Every year I hear people say “My New Year’s resolution is to lose 20 pounds.” But technically speaking, that’s not a resolution, it’s a goal. It’s an outcome that you either do or don’t achieve.
A New Year's resolution is “a promise that you make to yourself to start doing something good or stop doing something bad on the first day of the year” according to the Cambridge English Dictionary.
Two things I love most about resolutions are that I have a chance to win every day, and I have complete control over my success.
A goal might be to achieve a revenue target, land an interview with someone you admire, or strike up a coveted partnership.
A resolution defines the experience you want to have. It’s about the how not the what. When I think of resolutions, I think of habits that will bring out the best version of myself—something like a promise to plan my day the night before so I'm ready to jump in fresh first thing in the morning.
The two things I love most about resolutions are that I have a chance to win every day, and I have complete control over my success.
4 strategies to help you set (and keep!) professional resolutions
1. Reflect on what you’d like to change
Resolutions begin with an honest look at the year closing behind you. For me, 2020 has had some highs, but on balance, it wasn’t my cutest. There’s a lot I’d love to change next year. And my resolutions focus on a few key areas that live within my locus of control.
There is no shame or blame here; there is only space for reflection.
So where am I choosing to focus? For me, there are three distinct experiences I had this year that I plan not to repeat in the one upcoming.
Overwhelm. That not-so-adorable feeling that the world is sitting on my shoulders—that my clients’ success and my kids’ education and my aging parents’ welfare are all relying on me. Can’t do it again next year.
Reacting from a place of fear. Holding my breath, taking on more work than I know I should because what if the economy doesn’t bounce back? Will not repeat this one in ’21.
Loneliness. Hi, I’m Rachel, and I’m an extrovert! (Here's where all you fellow extroverts respond with, "Hi, Rachel!") If travel and face-to-face meetings won’t be an option for a beat, then I’ve got to be intentional about finding ways to bring more connection into my life.
These three experiences put a damper on my 2020. Note there is no shame or blame here; there is only space for reflection.
Be thoughtful about what aspects of the year felt heavy for you and commit to changing your experience next year.
Maybe your experience of 2020 was grounded in anxiety, or you’ve felt job-insecurity, or maybe just boredom. There are no wrong answers, so be thoughtful about what aspects of the year felt heavy for you and commit to changing your experience next year.
2. Project what "better" would look and feel like
Ask yourself: If these are the experiences I don’t want to have again, what would it feel like to be on the other side?
Here’s what I came up with.
Shedding overwhelm would mean having a clear plan of attack each day. Rather than scrambling and juggling, I’d have a set of daily priorities ensuring clients, kids, mental health, and all significant constituents have what they need from me. The most critical things get done each day, and if nothing else gets done, I’ve still won.
Not feeling reactive and fearful? That will mean a shift in mindset from “What if the market doesn’t need what I offer?” to “How am I evolving my products and solutions to meet the changing needs of the market?”
And finally (sigh …) the loneliness. I talked about this in a quick video on my Modern Mentor page on LinkedIn. I miss the energy I take, the creativity I see triggered by moments of collaboration and brainstorming. It’s that very sense of ideas building on ideas that I want to recreate in 2021.
Now it’s your turn. What would your “better” look like in 2021?
If you’re job-insecure, maybe "better" means adding skills or certifications to your resume. If it’s anxiety you're wrestling with, maybe your “better” includes more self-care and relaxation.
The only wrong answers here are the ones that don’t resonate with you. You’re less likely to stick with a resolution that isn’t personally meaningful.
3. Define sustainable practices that will move you there
The words “sustainable” and “practices” are key here.
“Lose 20 pounds” doesn’t qualify as a resolution because it’s an outcome you can’t fully control. What you can control are the habits designed to get you there, like eating better or exercising. And if exercising every day feels unsustainable, then shoot for twice a week to start. Make it an easy win for yourself!
I’ll take the three experiences I want to have and translate those into habits and practices I can control.
So how does this translate into the professional realm? I’ll take the three experiences I want to have and translate those into habits and practices I can control. Here’s my working list.
In 2021 I will:
Choose my One Thing
I'll begin each day by identifying the one thing I need to achieve in service of:
- My kids (Example: Check my 6th grader’s math homework)
- An existing client (Example: Develop slides for next week’s leadership workshop)
- My health (Example: Yep, it's a workout!)
- My business growth (Example: Pitch an article to a big publication)
Once I get all that done, whatever else I do that day is gravy.
Make weekly client connections
I will schedule one call per week with a past or current client for the sole purpose of listening. I won't be there to sell or help, but just to hear what’s on their minds, and what needs they've anticipated for the near future. This will allow me to be more planful and proactive in designing my offerings.
Set up virtual office hours
I will host bi-weekly office hours. I’ll share a Zoom link with a dozen of my friends and colleagues and invite people to pop in … or not. No agenda, no one in charge, just an open space for sharing ideas, challenges, and even some occasional gossip.
Pay attention to the fact that all of these resolutions are within my control. I’m not waiting for circumstances to change, and I’m not holding myself accountable to an outcome, I'm just committing to doing these things.
4. Track and celebrate
And finally, the fun part. Each resolution gets a page of its own in my Bullet Journal, which means lots of colorful checks and boxes! I keep track of how many days or weeks per month I stick with my resolutions. I set small goals for myself, and I give myself little rewards for hitting milestones. My reward might be an afternoon off, an extra hour of Netflix (do not tell the kids!), or an outdoor, socially distanced coffee with a friend. Celebration is so important. It motivates me to repeat the habit and have a better experience.
So there you have my secrets to setting and keeping my resolutions. I would be so grateful if you’d share yours with me on Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn. I’d be delighted to be your accountability buddy!
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1. How can people network effectively when everything is virtual (at the moment)?
It is easier than ever BECAUSE it is virtual. Everybody is stuck in place with little to do. So if you ask the right way, it is easy to get quality time for Zoom & coffee or FaceTime & wine. Here are two good approaches: Start by getting together virtually with your mentor. Then ask your mentor to bring his or her mentor the next time. And then ask their mentor to bring their mentor the next time. It is amazing how quickly you can ratchet up a power mentoring circle. The other approach is to pick the companies where you want to work, then start adding its people on LinkedIn. Like and comment on their posts and shares for a few weeks, then send a note saying why you liked something they shared. Get a conversation going. THEN ask for a 15-minute Zoom and Coffee by saying, “I am really interested in your company and wonder if you might give me a little free advice to help me along.” Some people make excuses, but others will say yes. So keep trying until you get a yes.
Stay in touch. Remember it is important to find personal things you have in common, like where you grew up or that you both like cycling or that you are both into dog rescue. Whatever. Keep the conversation going, but don’t be so clingy that you feel like an online stalker.
2. How do you find the balance between authenticity and professionalism when interviewing and networking?
Be comfortable with yourself and be who you are. That said, you always have to decide when you need to turn the volume up or down a little. If your authentic self cusses like a sailor, wait until your private time to let that loose. If you are quiet and reserved, display a little more personality. If your wardrobe is dated or boring, you have to up your game. Is it inauthentic for me to wear a really cool dress on a Zoom call if I was just in shorts and flip-flops right before and will be in shorts and flip-flops as soon as the call is over? No. I’m not selling out to project a false image. I’m making sure they hear me at full strength.
3. How do you connect with coworkers who might be younger, but more experienced if you're coming back to the workforce after taking a few years off?
You don’t want to come off as clueless, but show a genuine interest in what they are doing and ask about it. Instead of saying, “Duh, I don’t get this,” just say, “Hey, I’m watching you do that and wonder if you might show me how to do it.” Be quick to compliment others on what they are doing. I want to emphasize that because we all like to get compliments. It shows that you aren’t threatened or feeling overly competitive. Make sure you are seen as a team player. Don’t feel like you have to show off that you are faster and smarter. Always be positive and inclusive, never gossip or complain. That will likely set you apart, but in a good way where others enjoy being around you.
4. How do you know if you're on the right career path? What's the first step toward getting on a new one?
If you constantly dream about chucking it all to do something else, it may be time to just chuck it.
I want to say, “If you are on the wrong career path, you’ll know it.” But I have seen people flounder at their jobs for years, wondering why they are having so many problems. Everyone but them sees that it is a bad fit. If it feels wrong, it probably is. And if you are consistently criticized, getting bad reviews and being held back from promotions and other opportunities, and it doesn’t get better when you change companies, it is a sign that you are on the wrong path. If you hear yourself saying, “I hate my job,” you have to ask if it is the job, the company, or your profession. And if you constantly dream about chucking it all to do something else, it may be time to just chuck it.
5. How much does LinkedIn matter in terms of a job search? Is there a "secret to success" for the perfect LinkedIn profile?
LinkedIn is critical for job hunters. If you are being fixed up on a date, you’re going to check out that person’s Facebook or Instagram to figure out if you like how the person looks and thinks. That’s how business people use LinkedIn. They size who you are, what you’ve done, how you look and if you are someone that might belong in their sphere. It may seem superficial, but LinkedIn is a great place to advertise your value.
It may seem superficial, but LinkedIn is a great place to advertise your value.
Your LinkedIn profile is so much more than a list of what you have done. Show some personality and oomph in your headline and subhead. Have a magnificent photo that is well-lit, current and flattering. Get recommendations.
6. What is the best piece of advice you've heard recently?
The way someone treats you is a reflection of how they feel about themselves. I heard someone say that and BAM! That is the truth!