Monday, December 19, 2016

4 Things You Must Do for Your Career in 2017

A lot of people say that New Year's resolutions are worthless, that they just make you feel like a failure when you don't stick with them (or even attempt to do them).

Still, even if you don't want to call them "resolutions," I think it's a good idea to drop some bad habits and begin thinking about new ways to improve your career.

Let's start with a list of things you need to STOP doing:

1. Writing childish and uncivil things on your social media accounts. I don't care if you think someone else should have won the election, that some pop star is a tramp or that a co-worker is a water-retaining sea cow. That's not something you put on social media because it will -- I guarantee it -- come back to haunt you. One day you might get laid off because of an economic nosedive (hello, 2007) or you have a change of heart. But that uncivil and judgmental stuff that came spewing out on Twitter and Instagram is there for all time. Honestly: Do you feel the same way about everything the way you did 10 years ago? No? Then think about how you would like a potential employer to drag up something you said on Facebook in 2004 and hold you accountable for it.

2.  Wearing your overwork like a hair shirt. In ancient times, an undershirt made of really coarse cloth -- or even animal hair or twigs -- was worn close to the body as a way to show repentance and atonement. But then Dan Brown took it to a whole new level in "The Da Vinci Code" with that crazy albino. So, my point is that some people moan and groan constantly about how they're overworked, like this is some selfless act and they should be admired for it. But I've interviewed enough experts and read enough research to know that many people are consumed with "busyness" and aren't really productive. It's time you stopped hiding behind your "busyness" and instead do a valid assessment of what you really spend your time doing. Try something like RescueTime to really get an accurate reading about how you spend your time.

Now, let's look at what you need to START doing:

3. Getting out of your chair. You may think I mean to start exercising, but that's not where I'm going with this. I think that too many people send an email to a colleague about 10 feet away, or even on another floor, when they could simply walk over to the person and have a conversation. I'm not saying you need to be jumping up and down like a Jack-in-the-Box, but if you are sending an email that is going to require some conversation, then go directly to that person. This will not only be more productive (you'll solve the issue faster and possibly come up with a better solution) but you also will practice your in-person skills and foster deeper connections. Can I mention 2007 again? The Great Recession? A lot of people were caught so unprepared because they hadn't fostered strong connections and they didn't even know where to start -- so they languished in a brutal job market without a position. In-person interactions are very important for your career, as they help you become more adept at reading body language, forging alliances and negotiating. Those skills are critical for any career -- take every opportunity to develop them and stop hiding behind your computer.

4. Learning a new skill. I know one manager who is in his 40s, and he often spends much of his time solving interpersonal disputes among his warehouse workers. He clearly has management and leadership and communication skills. But what he doesn't understand is statistics and data and coding. He knows those things are important to his company (he hears them mentioned a lot by his boss) and he's a bit intimidated when the subject comes up. But instead of grumbling about it, or ignoring it, he's begun taking online classes that are helping him understand those subjects. His goal is to be able to contribute to those conversations in a knowledgeable way -- or at least not look like a clueless fool. This is a great example of someone who knows his career cannot be stagnate -- he must constantly be re-tooling his skills set in order to stay relevant. He wants to add those skills to his LinkedIn profile, and attend some seminars in the future. It's time to think about areas where you feel less confident -- or downright clueless -- and begin taking action to learn more. Don't think of it as something that will lead directly to a promotion or pay raise right now, but rather as an investment in lifelong learning that is now required of every worker in every job.

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