There are two types of people: the ones who make New Year’s resolutions and the ones who don’t. I’m firmly on the don’t side — I like to set goals instead, like fattening up my savings account.
If one of your goals for 2019 is kicking your career into high gear, you’ll need a plan to make it happen. And, breaking your career-boosting strategy down into monthly tasks can help you make big strides by year’s end.
To help you get going, take a look at this month-to-month guide.
January: Set career goals
As you start a new year, think about where you want to end it, career-wise, and plan it as a whole process, says Piotr Sosnowski, vice president and co-founder of career site Zety.
“Imagine yourself in a gym on the first week of January, packed with hyper-optimistic sports newbies that made going to the gym a New Year’s resolution,” he says.
“Two weeks in and the gym is nice and quiet again. It’s because some people tend to approach their goals in a very ambitious way, focusing on a goal itself and forgetting that getting into shape is a whole, sometimes even hard process.”
To stay motivated in your career pursuits for the long-haul, try SMART goals This means you’ll make your goals specific, measurable, actionable, realistic and time-bound, while still keeping the big picture in sight.
February: Know your worth
Be ready to prove your value as an employee in the New Year.
“Hiring managers want to see upward mobility, awards and accomplishments on your resume and LinkedIn profile,” says executive career coach Jaime Chapman.
“On paper, it’s easy to distinguish a rising star from a clock puncher,” she says.
Make a detailed list of your career achievements, such as:
- Major projects you’ve spearheaded
- Ways you’ve saved your company time and increased efficiency
- Monthly and annual sales numbers if you’re in a sales-based position
- How much money you’ve helped the company save or how much you’ve helped to increase profits
Be specific, using hard numbers whenever possible so you can explain your value concisely.
“Create an elevator pitch and a punch line to quickly and clearly articulate what you do and why you’re good at it. At networking events and in casual introductions, the elevator pitch and punch line are a secret weapon—quickly weeding out irrelevant connections and engaging the right audience,” Chapman says.
Speaking of networking, spend some time working on fostering connections.
“The best method to get a better job is using your number one asset – people,” Chapman says.
Some simple, but powerful ways to grow your network in 2019 include:
- Attending industry-specific conferences or meet-ups in your area
- Reaching out to hiring managers and influencers on LinkedIn
- Regularly sending out notes to stay in touch with existing connections
“The goal is to be the first person that pops into the mind of your immediate circle of influence,” Chapman says.
April: Learn something new
If you want to get ahead at work, commit to becoming a lifelong learner.
“One of the best ways you can improve your career is to invest in your own learning,” says Jessica Hernandez, president of Great Resumes Fast, an executive resume writing service.
“If there’s something you want to learn about, resolve to invest in reading about it, studying it, taking an online course or earning a certification,” she says.
Don’t limit yourself to skills or knowledge that apply to your current job either. Learning how to code or master Photoshop, for example, are skills you can parlay into a lucrative side hustle or even a full-time business.
May: Refresh your resume
While you’re doing your spring cleaning, don’t forget to give your resume a thorough once-over.
“One of the best ways to improve your career is to have a great resume ready before you need it,” Hernandez says.
“Make it a point to update your resume at least every six months or sooner if there’s a major change in your position, responsibilities or accomplishments, and keep a master resume on file that you can add things to as they happen.”
Think outside the box in terms of formatting. Consider swapping out the standard vanilla format for an infographic, slideshow or video resume to show off your skills and your personality.
June: Build mentoring relationships
Jonathan H. Phillips, co-author of Living Your Best Career, says having a personal board of directors is essential for career advancement.
“The truth is, your career doesn’t live in a vacuum. It’s intimately tied to other personal and professional stakeholders,” Phillips says.
He recommends looking to your network and choosing a shortlist of influential contacts. Ideally, your mentors should help guide you through large and small career decisions.
July: Become an expert
If you’re not yet an expert or influencer in your field, consider making that a priority for 2019.
“Speak at conferences, publish articles or a book, teach a webinar or appear as a guest on a podcast. The opportunities are limitless to put yourself out there so don’t be afraid to brag a little bit,” Chapman says.
If you’ve got a sizable LinkedIn network, consider publishing a short article weekly on topics related to your industry. Or, you can try your hand at blogging if you have a lot to say about a particular topic.
“Building your expertise will create a demand for you,” Chapman says.
August: Improve your interview skills
Job-hopping can be rewarding if it leads to a better position or pay. But you’ll have to get through the interview process first.
“Interviewing is an art form and requires a lot of preparation,” Chapman says.
Try these tips for nailing interviews every time:
- Get to know the company you’re interviewing for
- Research the most commonly asked interview questions
- Tell stories with your answers
- Use concrete examples to showcase your skills and experience
- Ask insightful questions
- Let your “you” shine through
Most importantly, remember to follow up. In a Robert Half survey, 100% of hiring managers said they want to hear from job candidates after the initial interview is over.
September: Negotiate a better salary
Chapman raises a good point about getting ahead in 2019: “What’s the point of all this work if you don’t increase your salary as a result?”
Hone in on your preferred salary number, then commit to broaching the subject of a pay raise with your employer.
“Have a conversation about total compensation, including salary, time off, insurance and retirement benefits,” Chapman says.
“Get them talking, try not to reveal your numbers first and be prepared to walk away if you don’t receive the salary you feel you deserve.”
October: Stay engaged
Career coach Mark Anthony Dyson says it’s critical to stay in career advancement mode and avoid developing tunnel vision in your current role.
“It takes so long to get traction in a job search when you’ve disengaged from your network, industry trends and being active in your industry’s organizations,” says Dyson.
So, remember to stay in touch with your network regularly. You can do that by:
- Subscribing to trade magazines for your industry
- Reading industry-specific blogs
- Following industry bigwigs on social media
November: Ask for feedback
Rather than cringing away from criticism, use it to your advantage.
“One thing that’s often underrated but can have serious consequences for professional and personal development is learning how to take genuine feedback graciously,” says Ketan Kapoor, CEO and co-founder of online performance software provider Mettl.
“When someone gives you feedback in their capacity as your colleague, friend, peer, manager, boss or associate, appreciate it, take in stride and filter it to get to the crux of what you need to improve — skills, attitude or personality,” says Kapoor.
December: Show your gratitude
As another year winds down, celebrate your wins and use career setbacks as learning tools. And remember to show your appreciation to the people who have helped you along your career path so far.
You don’t necessarily need to buy pricey gifts but sending out holiday cards or a personalized notes can close out the year on a positive note.