I’m always thinking about how to advance my career. Like many of you, I want to maximize my success so I can achieve my personal goals and do nice things for my family. Whatever your reasons are for advancing your career …more money … more time off … more responsibility … you need to get off to a fast start if you want it to happen this year. Too many people wait until part way through the year to start worrying about performance reviews, bonuses and promotions. Don’t make this mistake. If you want great things to happen for you this year, you need to start this week. Here are five things I do every January to maximize my chances of having a successful year.
1. Align on a Definition of Success with Your Boss
Too many of us get to the end of the year and don’t know whether our bosses feel like we’ve been successful or not. We think we did well but we’re not sure our boss feels the same way. If that sounds like you, make 2017 different. One of the most important lessons I’ve learned in my career is how important it is to align to a common definition of success with your boss. Objectives, metrics, KPIs … you should look at these as weapons in your career advancement arsenal. These are tools you need to be using to build an undisputed track record of success.
I recommend meeting with your boss before the end of January to ensure you’re aligned on what a successful year for you looks like. I would go one step further and suggest aligning on stretch goals in additional to standard goals and objectives. Stretch goals are a great way to define what great looks like – not just what good looks like. Once you aligned on that, all you need to do is perform and you’ll be in great shape to advance your career in a meaningful way this year.
2. Build a 30 60 90 Plan to Get off to a Fast Start
The 30 60 90-day plan is a great way to cement the definition of success you’ve aligned to with your boss and to demonstrate momentum against it. It’s one thing to have a conversation with your boss about goals and success, and an entirely different thing to publish and track a plan to accomplish it. Building a 30 60 90 plan in January takes very little effort on your part but can go a long way to showing your boss how serious you are about having a great year. It also serves as excellent documentation for the definition of success you’ve aligned to ... so nobody forgets. I’ve written extensively on the 30 60 90-day plan and have a free template for you to use.
3. Find a Big Project that will Create a Big Win for You
Don’t underestimate the importance of working on big projects and getting big wins. As I wrote about in Stealing the Corner Office, employees who produce reliable work but rarely take on big projects tend to get overlooked and often become known only for their mistakes. Employees who attach themselves to big projects and major initiatives frequently get recognized and rewarded even if they make mistakes along the way. I wrote a comprehensive blog on this subject if you’re interested in learning more about the value of taking on bigger things at work. If it’s not clear what big projects you can be working on, chat with your boss about it or do some brainstorming with your colleagues. It’s not even critical that your lead the project yourself – just playing a supporting role in a major project that gets a lot of visibility across the company can help your career.
4. Create a Visibility Plan
It’s not enough to do good work, you need people to know about it. Spend some time in the month of January thinking about ways you can improve your visibility within the company – specifically with the people who will be most influential to your career success … your boss, senior leaders etc. Even if you feel uncomfortable boasting about your accomplishments or networking with executives and leaders, there are still things you can do to make your accomplishments more visible. A simple one is to start sending a weekly wins email for you or your team to your boss or department head. You’ll find that an email like this tends to get forwarded around the company as your boss wants to promote the success of her people. I send a weekly update that highlights wins every Friday for my team – just a list of accomplishments related to the objectives we set out at the beginning of the year. If your job doesn’t lend itself to weekly wins, try monthly wins. If you don’t have wins on a monthly basis, you need to start thinking about how to get some.
5. Start Learning Something Valuable
A big part of advancing your career is to develop and broaden your functional skills. Almost as important to your career prospects as the learning itself, is that you make your boss aware of your development. Promotions come to high potential employees who are constantly developing and expanding their skill sets. You want to create that brand for yourself, and learning new skills is a great way to do it. I recommend talking to your boss about what skills he thinks would be valuable for you to learn this year and start actively learning them. There are tons of free resources and tools out there to help you develop your skills. I find it helps to build a personal learning plan to keep me focused and purposeful as I pursue my learning objectives. I wrote a blog about it last year.
We all want to improve our careers and reach the goals we’ve set for ourselves. But too many of us take an approach that is just too passive. These five tips have helped me be more purposeful in how I approach my career development and I hope they’ll help you too. Please use the comments below to share any tips or tactics that have worked for you in the past. I’d love to hear them.