The beginning of a new year can be both daunting and exciting professionally. On one hand, it’s invigorating to have a clean slate and a great time to put new habits and goals into place. On the other, embarking on a new journey can be overwhelming if your former slate was strong. Below are some tips for starting the year off right by assessing where you are in your career and developing some clear and attainable goals, so you are best positioned to have a strong year ahead.
1. Be intentional about documenting any wins and performance metrics. Frequently, during annual reviews individuals forget some of their wins. Anytime you advocate for yourself, whether it’s in a performance review or if you’re negotiating pay, you need to have data to back up your claims. For example, if you’re asking for a raise, you should be able to present data that justifies why your work warrants higher pay.
2. Make sure what is expected of you is clear. Even if you have the best work ethic, it’s hard to advocate for yourself if you can’t demonstrate what you’ve accomplished in relation to what you were held accountable for. And often in growing or rapidly evolving organizations, metrics and expectations can change quickly, and it is your responsibility to ensure expectations are clear. You always want to know what you are being held accountable for—if it’s at all unclear, just ask.
3. Set fewer goals. Often when we have too many goals, we either don’t accomplish all of them or accomplish the one that was the lowest priority. A former mentor of mine had a very useful goal prioritization system organized into three tiers. For the first tier, consider if you could only get one thing accomplished in a day, a week, or all year—what would it be? It’s tempting to pick several but limiting yourself will help you to evaluate what your top priorities are. The second tier consists of three goals that are important but should not be accomplished at the expense of tier one. And the third tier is any nice-to-have goals. The golden rule is: You must get tier one accomplished. As goals start to accumulate while you’re planning the year ahead, this is an excellent tool for prioritization.
4. Consider how you might empower others and help someone else accomplish their goals. Elevating others in your organization not only advances broader, company-wide goals and encourages a more supportive work culture, it also helps you gain greater visibility. This can mean giving someone a shout out on a kudos platform, sharing colleagues’ LinkedIn posts, or putting in a good word with someone’s boss. Sometimes we become so fixated on our own performance that we forget to elevate others, which is a missed opportunity to promote other parts of your organization and develop stronger relationships with colleagues.
5. Always know where you stand. There was a time in my career when if I felt I wasn’t doing a good job I would avoid confronting it. But a mentor said to me, “Even if it’s bad, you always want to know where you stand and what you’re up against, otherwise you don’t have a shot.” You always want to know where the gaps are in your performance, and instead of fearing them, make them your best friend. Knowing exactly where you need to improve, or what problem you need to solve, is invaluable.
If you can implement these five tips in the upcoming year, you’ll be off to a great start taking your career to the next level.