Now that the holidays are behind us, ‘tis the season for new year’s resolutions. I’ve spent many gym workouts this month reflecting on what I accomplished last year and what I’d like to improve upon. I realized halfway through the year that somewhere between graduating from Babson and boarding planes for business travel, I hit cruise control on my professional development. It took me awhile to reset the button and I don’t want to lose the momentum gained through the second half of 2015.
The key to resolutions, as with any goal setting, is to establish S.M.A.R.T. goals that are defined on specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-focused metrics. I just listened to a webinar* this week where the presenter, Matthew Davies, exchanged results-focused for relevant. This makes complete sense to me, as results-focused seems redundant with achievable. The purpose is to set yourself up for success. No one is going to undo habits that have become second-nature overnight. Which is why I’m going to take baby steps in making small tweaks to my daily routine with the goal that by year end I will have modified my habits dramatically.
My resolutions are tailored to address my own professional habits and goals and are intended to inspire you to reflect on your career. Feel free to steal them verbatim, adjust slightly to accommodate your needs, or toss them out the window. Either way, I hope you’ll be motivated to write resolutions that work for you. Taking your career off cruise control requires a conscious desire to regain an active driving state. It’s a desire to learn, develop, and improve. And, take it from me, it is much easier and less stressful to do when you’re not job searching.
So here are my six professional resolutions for 2016. I can and I will accomplish them!
1. Dedicate 1 – 2 hours per week networking.
I know, I know. This sounds like absolute drudgery, but it doesn’t have to be. When networking is done correctly, it can be quite enjoyable…even fun! Variety is the spice of life and I believe wholeheartedly that the proverb applies to networking too. Perhaps some weeks I’ll meet up with a new contact for coffee, while others I’ll spend sending LinkedIn InMails or thank you notes to peers.
A coworker just shared with me that she participates in two book clubs, one of which is comprised of advertising agency clients. Every month, the media sales representative drops off a book to the members and then plans a cocktail hour to discuss the book. How smart is that sales representative to guarantee at least two instances of in-person contact with each client per month?!
A second coworker mentioned that she’s in a local tennis league composed of Venture Capitalists (VCs) and startup founders. The weekly attendance morphs to include marketing professionals, lawyers, and financial gurus, which sounds like the perfect recipe for interesting banter on and off the court. Not to mention the efficiency of networking and working out!
Regardless of whether I take a traditional approach or a novel approach, the point is to get out and reach someone. One to two hours per week is completely doable. Heck, that equates to just 10 – 15 minutes per day to like, comment or share on LinkedIn! The depth of my professional relationships are bound to benefit from this dedication, not to mention that networking has got to fuel topics for future blog posts.
2. Develop professionally by registering for a class, attending a workshop, and/or reading a business book once per month.
Clinical healthcare professionals and teachers are required to obtain continuing education credits on a regular basis to maintain their licenses, but no such requirement exists for business professionals. And if you’re resting your laurels on the Master of Business Administration, Finance, Healthcare Administration Management, or another advanced degree that you achieved five or ten years ago to secure your future, then you’re in for a rude awakening the next time you’re up for a promotion or looking for a job. The onus, therefore, falls on the individual to ensure his/her relevancy to their business discipline.
Allowing months, or worse, years, to pass in between registrations for workshops, online courses, or certifications is equivalent to letting your gym membership lapse, carrying over your holiday eating splurges past the new year, or ignoring the ill-fitting fat jeans. Losing the weight takes exponentially longer and resetting healthy eating habits requires far more willpower and discipline than a maintenance plan. I believe the same holds true for outdated business knowledge.
Technology is affecting every industry at warp speeds and its critical to keep abreast of market trends. No one’s getting younger or more agile (particularly when our eyesight and hearing are deteriorating). Rather, our ability to pick up new apps is growing less intuitive. It’s sad but true. Which is why continuing education is critical!
Most managers and companies have allocated budgets for development — why not take advantage? The choices of format are endless (online / in-person, part-time / intensive, evening / weekend, one-time / short-term / long-term, e-book / hard copy) so I really don’t have any excuse will stand up to muster. Moreover, sharing my key takeaways with my network, team, or company upon completion is a great way to strengthen relationships and my position as a reputable liable resource.
3. Take a Break. Lunch break, that is.
I have a bad habit. I’m an eat-my-lunch-at-my-desk kind of worker. It could be the side effect of stressful corporate environments where colleagues scheduled meetings during lunch time, my need / desire to display my driven work ethic through multitasking, or my ambition to get ahead.
It’s a counterproductive bad habit that I believe may have sabotaged those efforts. Countless articles tell us that working through lunch saps our energy and drains our creativity, not to mention impede our health (it’s good to get up and walk around)!
Now that I am older, wiser and work for an organization that seems to practice the work-life balance that it preaches, I would like to make 2016 the year that I eat lunch at the community lunch table more often than I do at my desk. Yes, sometimes business demands require a working lunch, but it shouldn’t be the norm.
I’m confident that this small tweak will pay dividends to my productivity. Not only will I begin to know my coworkers better, but the camaraderie of collective laughter is bound to relieve stress and perhaps spark some creativity!
4. Practice patience and wait until the morning.
Do you know what I’m talking about? I’m referring to that all important email that I’ve spent hours crafting, deliberating, and agonizing about because its that important. I’m dying to send it because the management team, the sales team, or the customer needs to receive the recommendation, update, or summary. It’ll make me feel so accomplished to finally hit “send” before I leave the office for the day.
So I send it. When I read it the next morning, with fresh eyes, my breath is taken away. ACK! There’s a blatant typo that spellcheck didn’t catch, an omission of key financial results, or perhaps an incomplete distribution list. Argh…I wish I had waited until the morning to send it. Waiting until the morning could have prevented me from sending a recall / resend message (which IMO doesn’t work, but calls even more attention to the gaffe), secondary update email, or forwarded commentary.
My goal for 2016 is to stop sending important emails right before I leave the office for the day. I’m not saving lives with my email, so hitting “send” can wait until the morning. Besides, if the contents of the email are really that important, isn’t it more prudent to have the email populate my recipients’ inbox just as he/she is checking their email? I think so.
5. Inspire others and lead by example.
Just because I am individual contributor on a team of one for MOO’s offline marketing efforts doesn’t mean that I can’t be a leader. As a seasoned marketing professional in a senior management role without any direct reports, I am in a unique position to positively influence the workplace and lead by example.
I have ample opportunity to step up and embody the company values that attracted me to MOO and to express my passion for the marketing discipline. Actions speak louder than words. Leadership comes in all shapes and sizes and I’m challenging myself to try on all the outfits — sharing my experiences, asking for feedback, treating greener marketing professionals to coffee/cocktails/food, volunteering to plan team building activities, donating my time to help others, being kind and respectful to colleagues and vendors, et cetera, et cetera.
The only limitation to leadership is fear. Fear of stepping forward. Fear of judgment. Fear of being laughed at. Fear of being ignored. Fear of failure. 2016 is the year I fail forward and inspire future leaders along the way.
6. Blog like my (career) life depends on it with at least (2) posts per month.
I started my blog this past August and it has been an amazing outlet for me. It not only serves as an outlet for voicing my opinion, but it’s a source of motivation. Because blog posts are more interesting (not only for me to write, but for you to read) when they’re timely and relevant, I am more engaged in my community when I’m actively blogging. My blog actually gives me reason to get off my couch and away from my laptop, to experience Boston (even in the middle of a snowstorm!). Boston has so much to offer and being an active participant is wicked more interesting than reading about it on Boston.com or VentureFizz.
The added benefit of blogging on a consistent basis is that it chronicles my progress, a sort of journal of my professional experiences. But, hopefully more interesting than reading a diary entry?! And if I promise to provide you with interesting, valuable content, then I hope you’ll return to check out what I’m up to.
Did reading my resolutions inspire you to write your own? If yes, please share!
And if you’d like to listen to the webinar that I mentioned above, here’s the link. It’s entitled Improving Job Performance through Respect. It’s about 45 minutes long, but interesting not just for HR professionals!