New Year, New You, New Work

January 2, 2019

Many of us make resolutions in the new year to improve some aspects of our lives – some may choose to work out more, some others resolve to pick up a new skill or hobby, others make plans to be a better partner and friend, and some folks use the new year to just reset their whole lives anew.

However, most people only consider their personal lives when making their resolutions.  But since we spend at least a third – and for most of us, more – of our days at work, shouldn’t we also dedicate ourselves to making improvements to our work lives as well?  You can make them SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time bound) if you want, or you can choose to aim high (“if you aim for the stars, if you fail, you’ll land on the moon” or vice versa).

To help with your new year’s work resolutions, we wanted to make some suggestions that will help you have a better work life.  These five resolutions may help you be a better employee, a better colleague, a better manager, a better executive – and most important – a happier person.

1. Update your resume

We do many things over the course of the year: spring cleaning, changing the batteries in our smoke detectors when we change the clocks, six month dentist visits, annual physicals, and so on.  But we often only update our resume when we’re at a crisis point – sick of our job, or even worse, out of a job.  Making it an annual habit to update your resume with your accomplishments and new skills acquired can help you remember what it is you’ve learned over the past year.  And updating the resume is a fantastic way to place numbers and concrete results around that.

2. Update your LinkedIn

And as you update your resume, update your LinkedIn profile in tandem.  On LinkedIn, you don’t have the single-page space restriction that you have on paper, so it’s much easier to add the “Accomplished [X] as measured by [Y] by doing [Z]” format that Laszlo Bock, the former Senior VP of HR at Google recommends.  Now, I’ll admit that I don’t follow that format perfectly – but it’s a great place to present the same information as on your resume, but in a more detailed fashion.  Just don’t copy and paste from your resume directly – it’s a shame to waste a second attempt at influencing a hiring manager or HR gatekeeper with the exact same information that they get from your paper resume.

3. Make an effort to network

One of the most interesting pieces of research I’ve seen in recent years is that weak ties are much better than strong ties for getting a new job.  In my experience, this has certainly held true.  The best way to cultivate weak ties is to join groups that you can add value to, but that are far away from your current day-to-day life.  Over the course of just a few months, you’ll gain a whole new network of people who you can ask for advice – and who may come to you with their questions as well!  Intentional, deliberate networking can be hard – especially for introverts – but it pays off in spades.

4. Dress a little better

Sure, you have your personal style.  But a new year is a great opportunity to add a little more professionalism into your wardrobe.  Go get a couple silk shells, upgrade from a sweater to a blazer, or invest in some new – but not flashy – shoes to wear.  Sure, you may have to walk in your snow shoes and change your kicks at the office for a bit, but if you start dressing the part, you may find that people listen to your ideas and defer to you a bit more than they used to.  Sure, dressing for the job you want is half of it, but the other half is that when you look good, you feel good.  So do it for yourself!

5. Make an effort to manage up, or down, depending on your role.

Many of us who are in individual contributor roles focus on our tasks and doing them well.  While that is well and good, there are often opportunities to manage up and push your supervisor that pass us by if you only focus on your tasks and not the people around you.  Take the new year and try to find opportunities to challenge, surprise, or proactively communicate with your boss and your colleagues.  You may find that it will result in additional responsibilities or even an new role after just a couple of months.

And if you’re a manager or executive, find ways to meet with and spend time with the most junior people around you.  Often these skip level meetings are a great way to get an early read on new trends or to hear perspectives that you don’t hear as often.  In addition, these are great opportunities for junior employees to better understand your values and commitments, which may help increase both their individual and their team’s performance.

The new year is an opportunity to reflect and re-dedicate ourselves to the things that matter most.  One of those things should be your professional development.  So get out of your comfort zone and give your career the same commitment you give your personal life – after all, we spend more time at work than any other place every day.


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