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End-of-year career checklist: What ambitious workers should do now

Know Your Value spoke to career development experts about the best ways to take advantage of rest of the year and supercharge your career in 2019.
Taking advantage of the new year's spirit of renewal can supercharge your career.
Taking advantage of the new year's spirit of renewal can supercharge your career.Hero Images / Getty Images

The holiday season is a natural time for career-minded women to recharge and reflect, look back at the past year and plan for what’s to come. It can also be a great time to seek a promotion, ask for a raise or consider jumping to another company.

Know Your Value spoke to career development experts about the best ways to take advantage of the rest of the year and supercharge your career in 2019. Here’s what they said:

Set aside “white space time.”

With a constant barrage of emails, deadlines and never-ending to-do lists, it can be hard to simply to step back and reflect. But those quiet moments are key to career advancement, said Sabina Nawaz, a global CEO coach and leadership development expert.

“People I work with take two hours during the workweek to just be – and once they do this for three to six months, they have life-changing revelations,” Nawaz said. “Maybe they realize they don’t really want that promotion, or they end up writing a memo that goes all the way up to their superiors.”

If two hours sounds like too much, that’s OK. Start with 10 minutes while you grab lunch and try to not scroll through your phone. Or, if you take time off during the holidays, spend a leisurely morning to reflect.

“Carve out that space and time for yourself, because we so rarely give ourselves that gift,” Nawaz said. “When we cut out the distractions and the external influences, we can be surprised what comes from within us.”

Set goals – and leave your current job out of it.

Employers routinely reiterate on their goals for the company, yet we rarely do that on a personal level, noted Meg Myers Morgan, Ph.D., author of “Everything is negotiable: The 5 tactics to get what you want in life, love, and work,” which comes out Dec. 4.

“A one-line vision statement for your care can guide you in building your goals,” Myers Morgan said. “It doesn’t need to be overwhelming: Most companies redo theirs every couple of years, or even annually. It’s a moving document that you’re not stuck to, which is freeing.”

Pro tip for setting goals: Don’t let yourself get stuck in a vacuum related to your existing job. Think about your expertise on a broader scale and use that to assess where you want to go.

“Saying that I’m a professor at the University of Oklahoma isn’t a strong elevator pitch because it ties me to someone else. Saying ‘I’m a career advancement expert for women doesn’t tie me to anyone but myself – so this kind of exercise gets you thinking about you, which is the point,” Myers Morgan said.

Create (or update) your personal “board of directors.”

Both experts agreed: Again, just like a business, you also need a personal board of directors to help guide your path. It’s “about a half-dozen people whom you trust to give you good feedback, with a diverse mix of ages and viewpoints,” Nawaz said. “My youngest member is my 13-year-old son who, unlike my husband, will actually tell me if that dress I’m planning to wear to the keynote speech doesn’t look good.”

The end of the year is a great time to identify your own board members – friends, family members, mentors – or review and update that list if you already have one.

Make sure people actually know about your goals.

Whether you’re looking for a near-term bonus or promotion, a longer-term leadership path, or any other goal, make sure you communicate early and frequently to the people who matter.

“When someone says ‘I want X,’ I say, great. Are you the only person who knows that?” Myers Morgan said. “People think, ‘Oh, it’s obvious: I’m working really hard and stretching myself and…’ But you need to be explicitly clear to the people who are involved in making it happen.”

Seed the idea early and communicate it consistently, Myers Morgan advised, so any big ask won’t feel surprising to your boss. “Present it as ‘here’s what I’d like to do; how can I get there?’” she said. “Focus on the benefit to the boss and the business.”

If you’re considering changing jobs, make sure you’ve “squeezed out everything you can.”

Many workers look to other jobs when they feel bored or unchallenged, Myers Morgan said. And if that’s really the case, then it’s a good move. “But first, take inventory of whether you have stripped every possibility from this current position,” Myers Morgan said. “Have you left professional development on the table? Are there places internally that you can seek a new challenge?”

Whether it’s internal training or the ability to attend conferences, “you should strip your company of every opportunity they offer you,” Myers Morgan added, noting “Women in particular might not want to ask because they don’t want to seem greedy or like a nuisance. So they’ll look for a new job before looking at what they’ve got.”

If it seems worth staying, “assess your pain points and figure out how you can negotiate out of them,” Nawaz said. If you’re feeling resentful that you weren’t put in charge of that big project, plan something to lead in 2019 – and, as previously mentioned, be sure to communicate that to your boss early and often.

Examine how you used your time this year, and use that to inform for 2019.

“It’s cliché, but there’s nothing more valuable than your time – and it’s so easy for that time to slip away,” Nawaz said. Think about how you used your time last year: Did you say yes to unnecessary things? Which projects were time-sucks, or non-beneficial? What would you like to spend more time on next year?

“Start by examining the anatomy of a week and figure out how to optimize it,” Nawaz said. “If you’re intentional about how you view your time, you can use it to make big things happen.”