A new year can be full of challenges, disappointments, excitement, and stress at work. Your career may progress, change altogether, or hit a bunch of stumbling blocks. How you respond in the face of both the good and the bad of 2016 will depend on how much you’ve learned in 2015 and know about yourself as a professional today.
To get started on the right track (and get ahead of any changes you might have to make to your career), ask yourself these questions about your career today.
If my boss were to leave tomorrow, would I be next in line for the job?
The beginning of the year is when people tend to wait on their bonuses and then determine to make their next career move. If you're second in command in your team, there's a chance that you might end up in charge should your manager decide to leave. Focus on learning your own management style and what you would expect out of employees, and start learning project management and task delegation. If your manager leaves, you'll be ready to lead from the get-go. And if you're not next in line for your boss's job, it might be time to switch jobs. That way, you're either heading directly into a managerial role with a pay bump, or you're in the right position to work towards one immediately.
Is my current job title useful for getting the next job I want?
If you plan to make a career move in the near future, it's important to consider whether your current job title helps or hurts your chances at lining up your next move. A lot of what goes into a hiring manager’s quick first glance at your resume is your most recent job title. If it doesn't make sense to the person reading it, you might get passed over. Ask for a promotion, request a job title change, or make a lateral move to the right team in your company so that you are a logical choice for the next job you want.
Where have people gone after leaving my current company?
Need insight into the roles and companies you should be looking into for a potential 2016 career move? Your first place to look should be at your prior colleagues. A quick LinkedIn search of anyone who has worked at your company in the past should give you a good look at both the roles they held there, the roles they were hired for by their new employer, and the quality and diversity of the employers looking to hire people leaving your company. That information will help you fill out your own list of companies you'd like to work for.
Have I taken advantage of all the career perks my company offers?
There’s a good chance that your employer offers a ton of perks for your career, from training courses, subsidies for continuing education, paid family leave, and even things as simple as vacation time and sick days. Have you taken advantage of what your employer offers? Check with your human resources team to find out what options you have and pick the right ones to take on for your own career and health. Your productivity and work output will benefit from it these perks.
When is the next time I can ask for a raise or promotion?
Has it been a while since your last raise? Do you feel like you're being passed over when it comes time for a promotion? Chances are you haven’t asked for one explicitly. Asking is a regular part of work life and should not be seen as awkward. Just pick the right time, such as after a good performance review, or a strong finish to a project, to chat with your manager. If last year made you feel like a raise or promotion isn’t in the cards, no matter how you perform, it’s time to move on.
What bad work habits do I need to break?
At the start of a year, you may have determined to develop good work habits for the sake of our career progression. But as the year drags on, resolve tends to break down, and you end up falling into some bad habits that hurt your productivity and performance. Recognize the bad habits you developed last year - checking Facebook each morning, neglecting your lunch break, tangling yourself in office politics, etc... - and start the year by eliminating them.
If I could network with anyone, who would it be?
If you're not a big networker, make 2016 the year when you build great relationships with your co-workers and like-minded professionals. If you're already a networking natural, expand your outreach outside your industry. Who is your dream meeting? Start attending networking events, reaching out via LinkedIn or email, and start conversations with people surrounding the ideal expert or executive you want to chat with. Get to that dream meeting one step and one person at a time, and achieve that goal by the middle of the year.
What is my biggest challenge in the first 90 days of 2016?
For a strong start to the year, it's important to understand the biggest challenge you'll face in the first quarter. Whether it's a slew of projects with tough deadlines, office politics getting in the way of your productivity, or any other issue, you should take the time now in the early stages of the year to recognize the roots of the biggest problems you'll face and how you can maneuver around or resolve them. Planning for these issues ahead of time will decrease the stress and annoyance you'll face later.
Have my 2015 goals and predictions come to pass?
At the start of each year you have hopes, whether explicit or implicit, for how you want the year to go. Think back to January of last year the goals and predictions you may have made for how the year would go. Did you achieve those goals? If you predicted positive outcomes such as a promotion, did they happen? Take the ones that you missed out on or didn't come true and transfer them to 2016. Make a plan of action for how to tackle each, such as through quicker completion of projects, learning new skills, or making new professional connections, and follow through on that plan to make the new year a winner for your career.
Have I met my own expectations?
At the end of last year you may have earned a good bonus, gotten a promotion, or received a stellar performance review. But while you may have met your company's expectations, you should ask if you met your own. Are you satisfied with how your year went? Did you achieve everything you wanted to for the year, and more? If not, consider what went wrong and how you can change things for the better this year. If you did, congratulations! You had a great year. And it's time to up those expectations for a great 2016. Whether that's an even bigger bonus, a more meaningful leadership position, or even starting your own business, set that expectation now and let it drive your work efforts throughout the year.