Autumn is a great time to take stock of your career and its trajectory or lack thereof. There are times in the summer when things slow down as teammates and managers are taking their requisite trip to the beach. And as stewards of your own career, you should be consistently managing their career.
Your manager is not responsible for your career, you are. They are responsible for your output. So waiting until the annual review time to determine your goals and accomplishments is a bit foolhardy. But here are 10 things you can do today and this year to improve your career.
1. Set small goals regularly
When it comes to annual reviews, there is so much focus on goals for the year. A year is a long time; too long in fact to set tangible, achievable goals. Therefore, it is far more wise to set smaller goals throughout the year. Think about your day-to-day work. What could you be doing to elevate that work? Are there skills you could learn to help you advance? Think about this for a bit and then make a list of goals that relate to these items.
And then, once you’ve set the goals, give yourself a deadline to have learned these things. When you’ve hit the deadline… give yourself a grade. Seriously. It works. Did you do it? Did you do it well? Then ask someone else how they would score or grade you on these new skills. Then rinse and repeat.
2. Stretch yourself
The smartest of us say that success is just outside our comfort zone. So, it goes without saying that you must stretch beyond your area of expertise. Do something that scares you. Don’t like public speaking, start signing up for presentations at work or networking events. Does it terrify you to put your industry thoughts out there? Ask someone for the opportunity to guest post. Whatever gives you the collywobbles; sign up for it, today.
3. Get feedback
While self-assessment is important, it is also important to get feedback. And it is important to get feedback all the time. I happen to ask at the end of each and every meeting I lead with the following questions: “What really worked for you?” and “What would make it even better if?” You can learn a lot from these two questions. So much about your work product and performance can be gleaned with these two questions. Give it a try and see what you learn.
4. Curate your work
Do you have any idea how many amazing things you’ve done this year? Probably not, because you aren’t curating that great work anywhere to revisit it. There are countless places for you to store this work in a cloud. Check out Dropbox, CredHive, or OneDrive and start curating your work.
When you’ve got a great file of work you’ve produced and are proud of, it’s like writing your resume as you go. It is also easy to share with your manager at review time. You’re better prepared to wow them when you’ve got yourself visual proof of your awesomeness.
5. Be curious about your industry
Spend time each and every week as a student of your industry or company. Study your industry and company as if there is a constantly approaching final exam. Ask questions of people in your space. Ask questions to your manager and colleagues. Ask your companies customers how they feel. Develop thoughtful insights about the industry and your company. And don’t be shy about sharing those insights.
Spend time reading blogs big and small. Spend time reading books about your profession. Read business books that stretches your thinking. But at the end of the day… read. Reading new things can start conversations when you’re networking and can also build your own career with new ways to do things and different work and life hacks to make life flow a little more smoothly.
7. Network brilliantly
Never, ever, ever send a standard LinkedIn invite. Ever. Cannot stress this enough. Personalize the message and tell the recipient what you need from them and how you can help them as well. If you do not know someone, ask someone in your network for an introduction. Networking brilliantly is about leaving a positive impression. And it isn’t just LinkedIn. Attend industry events, local events and meet as many people as you can. This will also help in being curious about your industry.
8. Get a mentor
Mentors are great resources for all of these elements. Need feedback? Ask your mentor. Need to bounce off industry or company insights? Looking for ways to stretch… Mentor!
9. Get a protégé
Conversely, a good protégé can also be a tremendous resource to learn from as well. A protégé can bust some of your paradigms. They can also expose you to new thinking and present you with new ways to solve problems and look at things.
10. ABL (Always be listening)
Even if you are really happy in your current role, it never hurts to listen to other opportunities and build relationships with new people in the industry. These relationships may build in the future because you never know how you will cross paths in the future. Always be open to new opportunities and people, plus it feels really good when you get noticed!