2021 has been another year of uncertainty and change, so as you look into 2022 and the hope of brighter days, now is the perfect time to take stock and set your career up for its best year yet. There are many predictions about the post-COVID future of work, from never returning to the office to hybrid working models, along with talent shortages, shifting employee expectations and significant turnover as disengaged employees leave. It’s important to be ready to navigate this shifting landscape so you can take advantage of what the future holds.
- Shake off 2021
In the iconic words of singer Taylor Swift – ‘Shake it off’. It’s time to spring clean your mind and discard the ideas and pre-conceived conceptions that are holding you back. Consider what’s stopping you from moving forward or expectations that may be constraining you. Are their habits that are unhelpful or unhealthy? Are you telling yourself it’s too hard?
- Think long term, not short term
While each day matters, if you have the occasional down day or go-slow day, it won’t impact your whole life. You want to manage your energy and give yourself time and space. If you need a break, take it. If you need space to reflect, find it. As you do this, keep your eye on your career goals, and remember that you need to ensure your health and well-being come along for the ride to make sustained progress.
- Check your identity
Herminia Ibarra, the Charles Handy Professor of Organisational Behaviour at London Business School, has researched what can hold people back as they progress through their careers. She found that the sense of who we are is shaped by our experiences and the meaning we put on those experiences in terms of the stories we tell ourselves. At specific points, those stories are no longer helpful. Understanding your career identity is about understanding how you see yourself and how other people see you. It’s a critical part of career success because your career can stall when there’s a disconnect between the two. You may need to do some work to elevate your reputation and what you are known for.
- Know your USP
Everyone brings specific skills and ways of operating to the work they do. It’s the value you deliver through your work. It’s how you engage and lead. It’s what makes you stand out from everyone else. These elements comprise your unique selling proposition. Being able to articulate that value and how you can help an organisation, business or client achieve their objectives is essential. However, what’s valued changes over time, so make sure your USP is meaningful, current and targeted. There may be additional learning or skills you need to acquire.
- Expand what you have
Even if you are thinking of moving on, don’t ignore the options in front of you. Look for opportunities to expand your current role and to involve yourself in tasks you find stimulating. Volunteer to get involved in projects you are curious about or seek out initiatives that enable you to acquire new skills. Take the initiative and talk to your boss or other leaders to find out what’s possible. As well as making your work more interesting, you’ll broaden your network, and you’ll be delivering more value than expected, which is good for your career progression.
- Prioritise ruthlessly
Avoid the trap of being ‘busy’ on things that don’t matter. Instead, get ‘busy’ on purpose. Ask yourself: Will the activities I do today get me closer to my goals? How much time am I wasting on non-value adding activities? Time-box your working day and set aside the morning for highly complex thinking. It can be easy to accept every social invitation or underestimate how long a piece of work may take and set unrealistic deadlines. Prioritise your day ruthlessly, so you are deliberate about what you say ‘yes’ and ‘no’ to.
- Get connected
Focus on building a network of people who are willing to back you and advocate for you. Doing this means you need to spend time thinking more about what you can do for others than what they can do for you. The more you proactively help others, the more they will want to help you.
Written by Michelle Gibbings.
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