What better time to kick your career into high gear than the start of a brand new year? The secret to success is in the planning, and as the year draws to a close, there’s still time to plan your way to a successful year, both personally and professionally. Change is a marathon, not a sprint. Meaningful, sustainable change is a series of small, manageable steps that, added up, take you where you want to be. But first, you need to know what you want and where you want to go in order to get there.


start with reflection

Start your planning by evaluating your progress thus far. Start with big-picture thinking, and then drill down to the details. Think about the successes and the less-than-great experiences you’ve had and what you learned from them. What skills have you used most frequently? What skills do you want to gain in the coming year? Consider your values – what’s really important to you in your work, your life? Is there room for growth in your current organization or is a new position with a new employer in the cards? Make a list of roles within your organization you’d consider moving into, or start looking for new positions outside the organization that align with your goals, skills, and values.

update your branding

Whether you’re staying put or moving on, update your resume and all your social media profiles. Now’s the perfect time to refresh your photos and ensure they reflect the current you, especially if they haven’t been changed in a few years. Make sure they not only reflect who you are but who and where you want to go next. Anything that describes you has to have the same, consistent message and keywords.

give networking a try

Okay, okay, we know. Networking is rarely fun. But hear us out. In our current work landscape, who you know is as important as what you know. Add to your plan the names of people you know as well as those people you’d like to make contact with and include in your network. Find out who the key players and decision makers are in the departments and organizations you’re setting your sights on and make contact with them. As the year ends, many companies slow down in anticipation of the December break. This is a great time to meet with them, find out about their organizations, roles, the qualities they’re looking for in successful candidates – an important first step in your climb up the ladder.

ready for a new challenge in your career?

focus on learning

If you plan on staying in your current role, become the subject matter expert, the person others turn to when they need to know anything about the job. Source conferences, organizations, seminars and add them to your calendar for the New Year. You’ll not only find yourself re-inspired in your current role, but you’ll be enhancing your personal brand as well. You’ll position yourself as the go-to person, an ideal mentor and guide for others in the organization. And you’ll have more impetus for extending your reach professionally.

clean up your workspace

Use the waning days of December to clean house. Empty your email inbox, delete files that are no longer relevant and archive the ones you’ll need. Organize your desk, update your materials and your professional and personal files. At home, update your work wardrobe. Clean and organize your drawers and closets so you’ll know what you have and what you need to start the year off in style. Make sure everything you keep is clean and in good repair.

adopt healthy habits

Okay, we admit, this one might be easier said than done. But, hey, the New Year is the perfect time for self-improvement. If going all in on healthier habit doesn’t seem feasible, make stepping stone goals. Increase the amount of sleep you’re getting in 15-minute intervals. Add one more veggie to each meal so that extra holiday weight doesn’t stick around and so you have the energy to tackle the challenges of a new year. Notice we didn’t advise you to start a diet; instead, make small changes and gradually build on your success. Think health, not numbers on a scale.

If you haven’t had a physical or dental exam in a long time, book an appointment. Get your eyes checked. You want to be healthy for you, your family and the people who care about you as well as for your career. Remember, we’re all remaining in the work world longer these days; we can only do that if we’re enjoying optimal health.

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A well-articulated plan for a successful year not only helps you maintain the focus you need to succeed, but it jump-starts your journey. Once you write things down, they become more tangible and attainable. Once you see how manageable each step along the way is, the more confident you’ll be to move forward.

And don’t forget to enjoy the journey!