It’s a new year, and whether or not you’re the type to make resolutions, 2015 means 12 months of opportunity: for travel, for experience, for change. Obviously, one of the biggie categories in which we tend to look for change is our professional lives. Unlike our parents’ generation, we don’t often settle into a job for the long term, which means we’re always on the hunt for growth: a raise, a title change, a completely new pursuit. If you’re not entirely content with your current situation—or even if you are—here are some tips for making sure you keep on moving toward your dream job.
Ask yourself the important questions.
Take an objective look at where you are in your work life. Are you happy with your job situation? Do you daydream about working elsewhere? If there’s something that you would rather be doing, what is it? Being honest with yourself about where you are versus where you want to be is the most critical step you can take.
Give yourself a monthly “creative” goal.
I don’t necessarily mean this artistically speaking, but if you’re not entirely satisfied with what you’re doing right now, yet you’re not exactly sure what to do about it, give yourself projects to tackle outside of work to help get your creative juices flowing. Whether it’s completing a wall mural, writing the first few chapters of a novel, reorganizing a room, or finally learning a musical instrument or new language, these endeavors will stimulate you and encourage growth—and your newfound innovative attitude might translate to the workplace. Better yet, you may even discover a passion for something entirely different than what you’re doing right now.
Have a lunch date. Even just one.
Suck it up and finally reach out to that one person with the cool job you’ve always wanted to have coffee with. Don’t be shy! The worst they can say is no. But if you write a professional email that briefly explains why you admire their work and how you feel you could benefit from speaking with them, chances are they’ll be flattered. Just having a conversation with someone whose career you respect can set you on the right path, and it might even encourage that person to keep you in mind for future opportunities.
Try to surprise yourself.
It’s easy (and comfortable!) to get in a rut. Regimented daily routines, while practical, often make the days whiz by in an unremarkable flurry. Making small changes, like going to a new place for your morning coffee, or listening to a new podcast on your way to work, or walking instead of riding the train, can shake up your day just enough to make you pay attention to your surroundings. If you’ve got the time and resources, taking a class or volunteering somewhere can expand your horizons, and get you out of the rut of thinking about only yourself and your everyday habits.
Set your résumé apart from the crowd.
If you’re actively looking for employment, or are unsatisfied with your current job situation, take the time to create an attention-grabbing résumé, because it can pay off big time. Ask a friend or relative with hiring power to look at what you’ve got and offer advice, or find a template online that looks clean and professional, but with a little individual flair, tempered to the type of place you’re applying to. Even if you’re happy where you are, it’s never a bad idea to have an up-to-date résumé, because you never know when a better opportunity is going to come along.
Keep an actual planner.
Whether it’s paper or electronic, giving yourself an outlet for organizing your week can be hugely beneficial. Seeing your tasks and to-dos neatly arranged can alleviate some of the stress that comes with particularly busy months, and you’re much more likely to accomplish everything. Bonus: Telling someone you need to “check your calendar” before committing to something actually sounds pretty boss.
While sitting at home in your PJs is an admittedly awesome way to spend your free time, try to spend a bit more of your leisure hours socializing and meeting new peeps. Encountering new people and new ideas is an important social experience for anyone, but it’s especially important when you’re looking to shake things up in your life and career. Even if you don’t go out with the intention of “networking,” or meeting powerful and influential people, you could be surprised at the friendly connections you end up making.
This is SO IMPORTANT. It can be daunting to ask for the things you want. But that really only occurs when you feel like you haven’t earned what you’re asking for. If your friend is interning for a company that you would love to work for, it doesn’t do you any good to keep your cards close to the vest. Similarly, if you feel you deserve a promotion or a raise, speak up. A lot of senior executives will tell you that this is particularly difficult for women, but the men who report to them rarely hesitate to ask for what they feel they deserve. Again, you may not get what you want, but your boss will recognize your ambition. The desire for success and professional fulfillment is nothing to feel bashful about. These aren’t favors, this is business. Being inquisitive and proactive can get you a lot farther than you might realize, and people will know that you’re serious about getting what you want.
[Image via here]