It’s holiday time of the year. A time that many professionals consider career changes for the coming year.
But should you put your career plans on the shelf until after the holidays are over?
Read this article for ideas on how to take advantage of once-a-year holiday opportunities that can help your career without sacrificing time to relax and renew.
Here are three simple steps for professionals who want to keep their career in mind while still enjoying your holidays.
1 Revisit Your Year to Celebrate your Career Accomplishments
Holidays are a time for celebration. Include time to recognize your own achievements. What have you done this year that you’d like to celebrate?
If you look back at your year, you may be surprised. By the time the last month of the year arrives, the chances are that accomplishments from earlier in the year are no longer top of mind.
It doesn’t have to take long. If you happen to keep a regular work-related journal or diary, you can review that. If not, take fifteen minutes to scroll through whatever records you already have, such as your electronic calendar or timesheets.
Make a list of what you’ve done during the year that is significant for you. Feel free to consider both work-related projects and personal projects if that makes more sense for your situation. Now that you see them in front of you, what stands out?
Work and time pressures often mean that you slide over significant achievements in your year. Give yourself the gift of five minutes to write a few reflections. Try completing the sentences below.
- The one thing that I am most proud of/feel really good about is …..
- This is important to me because …..
We know from brain research that our attention tends to dwell on negative events and experiences. In addition, positive feedback may not be part of the culture of your workplace. Do you only get feedback on your work only when there is a problem? Intentionally looking for things to celebrate is a quick and simple way to counter balance our negative biases and lack of feedback when things go well.
2 Reveal and Make Real your Career Stories by Telling Them To Others
Recognizing your own accomplishments is the first step. The next step is to begin to share them with others. This can be a stumbling block for professionals. How confident do you feel about talking about things that you have achieved in an engaging way?
If you are thinking about changing jobs soon, effective career communication is a key to your success. During the holidays, there are more social events. This can be a great time to initiate conversations about what’s gone well during the year.
Think about what gatherings you’ll be attending. What would feel good to share? Choose a few options and try them out. What messages might be a good match to your audience? Observe what happens and what kind of response you get.
One way to begin is to ask the other person what’s gone well for them. Then share your story. Start with something low key that you can practice in relaxed social situations. There is no substitute for real-time experience. If you give presentations, you’re already familiar with the difference between running through it in your head and talking out loud to an audience.
Professionals are often not accustomed to talking about their own career achievements. It’s not easy to take the listener’s perspective when what you are describing is so familiar to you that you omit important details. But the ability to tell your career story in an effective way is essential for success in your career. This means communicating with people both within and outside of your field. Holiday gatherings provide opportunities to try out sharing a jargon-free career story in a low stakes situation.
3 Reach out to Reconnect
For many of us, the holiday season is a natural time to reconnect with people If you’ve taken the first step above of reviewing your year, you are already half way there.
Revisiting the projects you’ve been involved in will help you recall the people who’ve been important to you this year. Make a list and note down the contributions that they have made. At work, consider people at different levels of the organization. Your boss, your peers, and your direct reports. Are there holiday-related events that make it easy to meet people from other departments that you don’t have contact with on a day to day basis?
Outside of work, consider who else you know, for example from your professional association, leisure activities, or community groups. Decide how you want to reconnect and allocate time to make contact.
What about events with family, friends, and neighbors? The important thing is to tailor your communication appropriately. A holiday party is not a time to ask for job. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t take a small step to seek career-related help.
Here is an example. Say you are interested in advancing your career by moving to a different company in your geographical area. But first, you want to learn more about what it’s like to work there. Social events may not be the appropriate time to delve into a deep discussion about your career goals. But if you meet someone either from your target company, or with connections in your target company, consider taking the first step of asking permission to make contact after the holidays. This will be easier than starting from scratch.
If you do plan to make changes in your career in the coming year, stay open to opportunities that the holiday season presents.
Give yourself the gift of time to celebrate your accomplishments, to share them, and to reconnect. This may well open doors for the year to come without spoiling your holiday fun.
Career & Work Life Matters, ISSN 2150-6299, Vol 8, no. 3
About the Author
Jennifer Bradley, Ph.D. helps professionals lead their own careers, empowered with the information, tools, and resources that they need. She offers individual coaching and consulting, teaches classes, and publishes articles on career development and career transition.