Many of us left a lot behind in 2021, but we have one last thing we need to leave behind: that job. Maybe you've outgrown it, just need a change, don't like it at all, or need to switch to something that aligns with your personal growth. At the start of a new year, it's important to put things in perspective so that you can set goals for your career journey and really kick your fulfillment up a notch.
Start with these four steps to jumpstart the boss moves you'd like to make to create the career you love and can be proud of:
1. Assess, assess, and assess some more.
It's always good to start with your why, so you'll have to ask yourself some soul-searching questions. What's the end goal?What factors are at play when I think about changes in my career? How will a professional shift affect my life and loved ones? What do I really want out of my career? What makes me happy? What am I actually good at? What are the things I could improve on?
For the last few questions, experts recommend taking an assessment. The CliftonStrengths or Optimal Thinking's Leadership Assessment are two great places to start because they focus on what you're great at based on your answers to select questions and they also offer great ways to improve on skills or abilities that you might be a tad weak in.
There are also simple tests you can take to brush up on the skills applicable to your industry or the type of job you want, so be sure to take a few.
(For example, if you already work in the tech industry but want to shift from IT to coding, find out what it takes to be great at that by taking mock tests used by employers to choose candidates. For online editing and writing, there are online tests for APress style aptitude or writing tests like these.)
Once you determine your why, understand a sense of your strengths, and acknowledge a few things you could improve on, you're better able to create a plan of action for your next move.
2. Socialize and get educated.
If you're at a space in your career where you're stuck or you're unsure of what really makes your heart sing anymore, a great way to get inspiration is to connect with others who either feel the same or might be doing something you're interested in getting into. Join an organization, get into a Facebook group, or start your own activity that will not only gather people together but lead to authentic conversations and support. Start attending those virtual events or in-person conferences, and don't be afraid to invite someone to a virtual or in-person coffee or lunch date.
Another great way to connect with others and gain inspiration is by becoming a student again. If you don't want to invest in a whole bachelor's or master's program, start with a short course, even if it's online-only. Once you're engrossed in a subject matter, you'll soon learn what you want-—or definitely don't—want to do, and you can, again connect with classmates, teachers and professors who will inspire you and lead you to your next steps.
3. Test your passions and dedication with an internship, volunteer opp, or fellowship.
Leaders are always empowered and inspired by challenge, so you'll want to put yourself to the test by actually doing the work. Sign up for those projects that are outside your current department, build out a new initiative that you can be proud of, or try an internship or fellowship where you can really show what you've got.
Volunteer opportunities are also a great way to test the waters of new passions or career changes, and you can actually put these on your resume in order to attract new paying clients, gigs, or opportunities. Plus, the good thing about these is that though you've spent time, there isn't much lost if you're not so great, don't really like the duties, or just fail. Volunteering also doesn't just have to be with an organization. It could be with a small business or successful leader you admire who you learn more from and build a connection for a reference.
Remain open-minded about this one, be sure that there's a good return of your time and energy investment, and allow the experience to facilitate alignment with your long-term career goals.
4. Actually apply for those opportunities, even those that seem like a long shot.
This is a big one. If you really want to advance, boost your earning potential, or walk among the big bosses of your industry, you have to position yourself for greatness. Putting in that application, that contract bid, or pitching yourself or your business for those huge opportunities is the best way to do this. Don't talk yourself out of success especially once you see the brands connected, the number of applicants, or the caliber of your competition. And don't let a naysayer in the form of a coworker, "mentor" or toxic boss keep you from pushing for better. Allow the magnitude of the opportunity to be the kick in the butt you needed to step up your efforts and go for yours. (And even if you're not prepared this year, start today to prep to be ready for next year. If you need more training, need to work your way up to a certain position in order to qualify or need to get a coach to brush on skills, do that now, but don't just disregard a seemingly unrealistic opportunity due to something like not being confident or prepared enough).
Plus, even in rejection there are lessons, and you can request feedback or learn from those who might have succeeded at getting the opportunity. Hey, you won't know if you never threw your name in the hat.
Taking on the journey of career fulfillment and advancement takes guts, bold moves, and fortitude to survive the pains of failure or flubs. At least you have these steps to sustain you and get you started to seeing a great 2022 both professionally and personally.
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