09 July 2011
A Smarter New Year’s Resolution:
LOOK BACK BEFORE MOVING FORWARD
The New Year is a great time to conduct a personal review of your job performance last year. Unlike your company’s version, this review is for your eyes only and is an opportunity for you to be brutally honest with yourself about your career aspirations, your long-term goals, and any obstacles that might be holding you back from creating the career you really want.
I just don’t understand why some people refuse to make New Year’s resolutions. Aren’t they interested in self-improvement? Don’t they feel an immense surge of hopefulness from setting new goals? Are they afraid of commitment? Or of failure? Whatever the reason, I really don’t get it! As far as I’m concerned that ball drops at midnight and by 12:01 my slate is wiped clean for a brand new start.
Recently, as I sat down to make resolutions for 2011, I realized that in all my years of being a “resolution fanatic,” I had been skipping a crucial step. Eager to feel the excitement born of new possibilities, I had failed to analyze where my resolutions have succeeded and bombed in the past. A pretty obvious mistake, yes? So heeding the famous adage, “You can’t look forward without looking back,” I’ve dusted off my list of 2010 resolutions. Before plunging ahead with new goals for 2011, I’m planning to assess what I’ve accomplished (or not) since last January 1st. For my successes from this year’s list, I’m going to take a moment to relish my achievements. And for those resolutions I never got around to, I’ll be asking myself:
- “What’s holding me back from achieving this goal?”
- “Is it still a priority and, if so, where does it fall in the ranking?”
- “Will I really, and I mean really, ever get around to this?”
I can hear you groaning about doing this exercise, a sort of self-inflicted career audit. It’s the time of year when most employees receive their annual performance review, a process greeted with the enthusiasm usually reserved for a piece of holiday fruitcake. There are, of course, good reasons for this reaction. Aside from the discomfort of being under the microscope, numerous studies cite an abundance of flaws in the review process as it’s usually done. Yet annual reviews—whether done by you or your company—remain instrumental to developing a self-improvement plan. They often do lead to improved performance and productivity while giving us an opportunity to scrutinize the workplace and our roles within it.
The season of assessment provides each of us a chance for real reflection. Why not make your first resolution of 2011 to conduct a personal review of your job performance last year? Unlike your company’s version, this review is for your eyes only. Just as I will be taking the time to analyze the successes and failures of my 2010 resolutions, you will be taking the time to reflect on the past year of your professional life and be brutally honest with yourself about your career aspirations, your long term goals, and any obstacles that might be holding you back from creating the career you really want. A self-review will also provide the chance to celebrate your recent accomplishments. After reflecting on the past year, you will be better able to create a list of realistic professional resolutions that are actually achievable. Remember, the best way to move forward is to spend some time looking back! Here are some prompts to get you started:
What’s Your 2010 Career Headline?
Create a 10-second news tease that encapsulates and dramatizes your year (e.g., "Executive Succeeds Amidst Chaos" or “Working Mom Resets Priorities”). Summarizing the year in this way will help you see the bigger picture as you review the past 365 days.
Create Your “State of the Union”
Just as the President’s State of the Union reports on the condition of the nation, write down a few paragraphs that capture the condition of “You.” How are you feeling about work? Are you satisfied professionally or are you yearning for something more or something different?
Develop A Goody Bag
Create a log of all of the new ideas, services, and successes that you and your team have been responsible for during the past year. Include the obstacles you overcame and how you overcame them. Dig through those old emails for kudos and thank you’s received for your work. And, even if you have no intention of leaving your job, take a moment to add some of those accomplishments to your resume. You might be amazed by how much you have to brag about.
Think about what you were working toward this year. For example, were you motivated primarily by the money or for the chance to make a difference? Whatever you decide about your priorities, determine if your current position is in line with your big-picture goals.
Reflect on the past year and your connections with co-workers, managers, bosses, clients, etc. Try this exercise: Describe the time you felt the most connected/understood in the workplace in 2010 and the time you felt the least connected/understood. A lack of connection in the workplace can lead to dissatisfaction and malaise. If you feel disconnected, try making a resolution such as, “I will identify five people in the company I want to know better and figure out how I can connect with them both professionally and personally in 2011 (i.e. at an industry conference, a committee meeting, a golf outing, coffee, or lunch).”
Job boards like Monster report a spike in traffic from December to January each year. “Find a better job” is always a popular New Year’s resolution, but like many resolutions it can fall to the wayside as spring approaches and inertia takes over. If finding a better job is making repeat annual appearances on your resolution list, it’s time to dig a little deeper and identify the problem. What don’t you like about your current position? Is it your boss, the environment, the company—or could it be that you’re simply in the wrong field? Being this honest might feel a bit daunting, but doing so will really pay off in the long term.
Are You Expressing Gratitude?
As an employee, have you taken the time to let your colleagues know when and how you appreciate them? If you’re an employer or manager, it’s time to think about expressing your appreciation to those who work with you. How often during the past year did you let staff know that you appreciate them? If you think you’re coming up short, commit to showing gratitude more often in 2011. For some tips on how to show more appreciation in the workplace (even when budgets are tight), go to peggyklaus.com/tips_topics_24.html.
Track Your Resolutions
Review how well you did at tracking your progress throughout 2010. If you are like most of us, you will give yourself an “F” in this department. As you put together your resolutions for 2011, make sure the list doesn’t collect dust as the New Year unfolds. The success of your resolutions should be measured in tangible and specific results. For example, if one of your resolutions is to improve your finance skills, completing a course of study in this field is a tangible, trackable result. If you are not meeting your goals and getting the results you want, go back to your resolutions and tweak them. Make this resolution review a regular habit, something you do every few months. In fact, enter at least one checkpoint date into your calendar for each quarter of 2011. Make tracking the progress of your latest resolutions one of your resolutions for the coming year!