The end of December is the perfect time to reflect on the year we’re leaving behind and get ready for the new one on the horizon. After months of hard work, the holidays offer a chance to rest, spend time with the family, and celebrate what you’ve achieved professionally over the last year and what you hope to accomplish moving forward.
One of the joys of entering the new year is feeling like you have a fresh start and a new perspective. And while new year’s resolutions are often associated with personal goals, your professional aspirations are just as significant. So, grab yourself some cozy socks, a cup of peppermint coffee, and a couple of iced sugar cookies and settle in to do a little career work. Here are 4 simple steps you can take to create your action plan for 2024 — your guide to getting you closer to where you want to be in the year ahead.
Reflect on The Last Year
Think back to the beginning of this year. What were your goals? Where were you professionally? Maybe you’ve gotten a raise or promotion since then, or perhaps you’ve taken on more projects or sharpened a particular skill. In the midst of a busy year, it’s easy to overlook the small wins and the progress you’ve made, especially if you still have a long way to go. But, remember: every step you’ve taken has gotten you closer to your goals.
By looking back, you can get a better picture of how far you’ve come this year. Maybe you’ve accomplished more than you realized, or perhaps you didn’t make as much progress as you had hoped. No matter what, this reflection will help you develop a clear picture of where you are now so that you can plot out your next steps.
Assess Where You Are Now
Now that you can see the difference in where you were professionally at the start of this year compared to now, you can decide what you’d like to do differently to make your career dreams come true in the coming year.
First, try your best to wrap up any projects or loose ends before the clock strikes midnight on New Year’s Eve. Clear out your inbox, whittle down your task list, or even clean your desk. The more stressors you can leave in the past, the better. Wrap up what you can now so that you can start fresh and set your sights on what’s to come.
Next, think about what your work situation looks like right now. Is there anything you wish you could change about your schedule, work location, salary, or title change? Maybe you’re pleased with where you are (that’s great!), but the chances are high that there’s still something to improve, even if it’s small. Remember, it’s common for your career to take different turns as you progress, and this can be especially true during motherhood as your priorities shift, which we recently discussed during one of our mPower Hours.
Finally, combine your list of what you’d like your working situation to be with the career goals you’ve listed. You may discover the need to make some adjustments to your long-term plan or that you’ve come closer to some of your dreams than you realized (if so, go ahead and cross off any small goals that you’ve already reached—it will feel so satisfying!). Now, you should have a revised career path and updated goals to focus on when the new year begins.
Develop a Plan for the Coming Year
You’ve assessed where you are now and created an updated list of short-term and long-term goals, so it’s time to start working on a targeted plan for the year ahead. Start by creating specific big goals. What a “big” goal looks like depends entirely on your unique situation. It could include:
Once you have your big goals mapped out, make a list of mini-milestones that you’ll have to meet to accomplish each larger goal. For example, suppose your big goal is to start your own freelance business. Your mini-goals could include building your portfolio, gathering recommendations from past clients, figuring out your price list for services, and more. SelfMade by The Mom Project offers an in-depth resource center to help walk you through the process.
Again, the most important thing you should be doing during the holiday season is taking advantage of the time to unwind and be with the people you love. But if one of your primary goals is to land a new job, it’s a good idea to set a little bit of time aside to work on this during the holiday season. Now, this doesn’t mean you need to be spending 2+ hours a day on LinkedIn actively searching for and applying to jobs, but spending just 30 minutes a day, five days a week, will add some serious value to your job hunt. Plus, it will give you an early start to your New Year goals. Here are some actions you may want to take (other than actively applying to jobs):
Reading professional development books to help prepare you for interviews for more challenging jobs
Of course, applying to jobs during this time will be helpful, too. However, it’s important to remember that a lot of companies wait until the start of the new year to fill open roles (it’s hard to schedule interviews in December and new budgets usually begin in January), so don’t get discouraged if you’re not hearing back on your applications.
Looking Forward to the New Year
All of the reflection, assessing, and planning you do now is going to set you up for that fresh start in the new year. Try not to look back on this last year with regret or frustration if you aren’t quite where you had hoped to be by now. Instead, celebrate what you did achieve and get motivated for what’s next. Vow to yourself that 2024 will be your year. Above all else, don’t forget to have some fun this holiday season and make the most of it.
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