No matter where you are in your career — whether you’re just starting out in the workforce or you’re a seasoned veteran in your industry — there’s a good chance you’ve had moments where you’ve felt flat-out miserable at work or even just stuck in the wrong job. Maybe these feelings are the result of a toxic work environment, your boss, or your coworkers getting you down, or maybe you love the environment but feel stunted in your current role. Either way, we think January is the perfect time to reflect on what it is you’re unhappy about, what would make you happier, and the strategies that will help get you there.
Of course, we’re not suggesting you make any abrupt decisions like quitting your job or making a drastic career change without any planning. Let’s be real: We all need to work to live, so quitting a job without a back-up plan isn’t feasible for most of us…but you can take this new year as a moment to figure out what’s missing from your career happiness right now, and what changes you can actually make to get there.
Here are a few things you can do at the start of a new year to hit the reset button on your career, which will ultimately help you achieve your long-term goals while also making things more pleasant for you in the short-term.
1Take the time to check in with yourself.
January is the perfect month to sit down and truly assess where you’re at, work-wise. Sure, you go to work every single day, but how often do you take a moment to reflect on your career as a whole? Treat yourself to a coffee date or a long lunch, bring a pad and pen, and get your feelings out. Write down any specific goals, if you have them, and problem areas you can’t seem to find a solution for.
Now is as good a time as any to take stock in your career and figure out where you can improve so that you meet your short-term and long-term goals. And feel free to be really honest with yourself. Would you be happier with a different boss? A different role? More money? Or maybe more intangible benefits, like more flexible hours or more vacation time? Knowing exactly what you’re missing and what you want is the perfect place to start a new year.
2Update that resume.
If you haven’t updated your resume since, oh, the glorious days back when Donald Trump was merely a reality star, you’ll definitely want to take a bit of time this month to make some updates. Even if you’re not planning to leave your job in the very near future, you should always have an updated resume on hand, because you truly never know what opportunities can come your way when you least expect them. If someone randomly asks for your resume, having a fresh one to shoot over to them puts you in the best position to effortlessly explore potentially amazing opportunities.
While you’re here, take the time to update everything — your portfolio, LinkedIn profile, list of references/contacts. If you’re feeling super ambitious, you can craft a list of career accomplishments. It never hurts to have that on hand, especially on days where you’re feeling bummed about where you’re at, career-wise.
3Figure out what new skills you’re going to learn this year.
We’re not suggesting you enroll in a managerial course, learn a new language, and read a dozen books on how to communicate better at work, so don’t feel overwhelmed by the prospect of expanding your skill set (although, go for it if you have the time). Instead, just promise yourself that this year you’ll learn one new skill that will be useful to you at work. No matter how long you’ve been in a job, there are always new things to learn, and there’s likely at least one area where you can improve. Taking the opportunity to learn one new thing can be surprisingly helpful in ways you likely won’t expect.
4Expand your network.
We’re sorry to be the bearers of bad news, but you absolutely have to network, even if you hate networking. Yeah, we know that networking conjures up images of people in stuffy suits handing out business cards over watered-down cocktails, but networking really is crucial for people in most industries, since research proves that 85% of jobs are filled through networking.
We know it can feel awkward and forced, so try and reach out to people in ways that make you feel as comfortable as possible. Social media can be a great tool for this if used wisely, and we know you already know how to do that. If you feel completely stressed out by the idea of going to a mixer or networking event, try simply meeting up with new people who already work for the same company as you. Or make an effort to reach out to former colleagues you lost touch with, without angling to try and get a job lead from them. It never hurts to expand your social horizons.
5Do something for others.
We get it: When you’re going through your daily grind, it can be hard enough to fit in work along with all your other responsibilities like making sure your house isn’t completely a disaster all the time, seeing family and friends (who often think you’ve died), and paying attention to your pets. But doing something that takes you out of your comfort zone, like volunteering, will most certainly help you remember how good it feels to give back, while also opening you up to new experiences and new people. You might also find things you’re passionate about that you never even realized — things that fulfill you and challenge you that you can’t get in your current role. Anything you can do helps, whether you’ve got a few hours a week or every other month. It’s seriously worth making time for.
6Do something for you.
Look, no matter what is going on in your career, you should absolutely make time for yourself in your day. That’s just the bottom line. Whether you’ve got 10 minutes for a brief meditation or an hour for a glass of champagne and a bubble bath, you’ve got to find time to treat yourself. One great way to do this is to pick up a new hobby purely for the fun of it. Have you always wanted to try yoga classes or learn how to knit? A new year is the perfect time to actually take up a new hobby just because you want to. Or if you’re all about making this a year of self-care, find exactly what relaxes you and makes you happy, and carve out the time to actually do it. We so rarely give ourselves that time. Stop making excuses and grab that bubbly…after you update that resume.