Ireland’s Guide To Money And Living

A happier career in the New Year

Coaching psychologist Sophie Rowan looks at how you can improve your career in 2009
The New Year is here and yes, it’s resolutions season. But beware; many resolutions end up on the scrap heap by February. For those who commit to getting fit, did you know that 90 per cent of people who join a gym stop going within 90 days? Career management resolutions are no different. Many people return to work after the Christmas break with the firm intention to change or transform their job or career, get on better with the boss, go for that promotion or finish that professional qualification, only to find themselves, nine months on, in exactly the same position, wondering just where the year has gone!
DO ANY OF THE FOLLOWING SITUATIONS RING A BELL?
Are you stuck in a rut?
Feel sick on Sundays; can’t face Mondays?
Always wanted to do something else but not sure what it is?
Spend your time day dreaming about your ideal job?
Lost your confidence? Lost your way?
Feel invisible or overlooked?
Can’t stand your boss or colleague?
Can’t stand up to your boss or colleague?
Working too hard, can’t switch off?
Work takes up about half of your day, so choosing a job that suits you and provides some level of satisfaction is very important. A recent survey by the Work Foundation in the UK found that almost one third of workers don’t find their work meaningful or fulfilling. That’s one in every three people who really do not like going to work every day.
The fact is that none of us will get through our career without experiencing some type of career blip. and job dissatisfaction does not just affect your job – it affects your whole life, so it makes sense to tackle these situations head-on. One or more of our list above will happen to you at some point in your career. What is important is how you deal with these situations when they arise. So, here at You & Your Money, we have put together the following top tips for you to create and keep on top of your New Year’s resolutions for a happier career.
Firstly, reflect on your last 12 months at work and ask yourself the following questions:

Which parts of your job worked well for you?
What tasks, activities or projects did you enjoy most?
What were your greatest successes and achievements?
What did you get the most positive feedback about?
What did you learn about your company/team/products services this year?
What skills did you develop or improve?
Who did you work most successfully with?
Who did you get on best with?
What didn’t go so well?
Which parts of your job drove you mad?
Who did you not see eye to eye with?

Remember that past performance is the greatest indicator of future performance, so thinking about your career highs and lows over the past 12 months provides very important learning for you about where your natural talents and skill-sets lie. And crucially, the questions above will also tell you where your job satisfaction comes from; is it primarily from the job you do, – the company you work for or the people you work for – or perhaps an equal mix of all three? This self-refection exercise allows you to make career choices and decisions that ‘fit’ with your skill-set and personality.
For example, if you work as an accountant and, having completed this exercise, realise that going out and meeting clients and selling your company’s services is the part of your job that you enjoy most (and perhaps where you enjoy most success), whereas the month-end drives you to distraction – in the year ahead you should be looking to maximise your client and selling interface and minimise your operational input. Roles such as Finance Manager or Management Accountant may well suit you better than a pure accountancy role. Employees who develop a strong sense of career self-awareness through regular self-reflection make better career choices and enjoy greater career satisfaction.

CREATE YOUR PROFILE AND BUILD YOUR BRAND

If you have been in the same organisation or career for a long time, you often take your skills and experience for granted. Remember, if you undervalue yourself and what you have to offer, others will too. One thing I advise my clients to do on an annual basis is to create or add to their professional profile. This entails highlighting and writing down your key successes and key contributions to projects and work activities over the past 12 months. (Ask yourself our list of questions to get a good head start). Be sure to highlight tangible outcomes or results. For example, instead of ‘worked on IT installation project for Finance Dept’ you could say something like ‘installed new IT system within budget and on schedule resulting in 20 per cent time-saving on monthly payroll operations’. Hopefully you will be pleasantly surprised at just how industrious you have been!
Approach this exercise as if you are going for a new job so that you will present and promote your skills appropriately. This exercise keeps your career strengths and achievements to the fore and instils in you a sense of confidence for when you are faced with a challenging situation at work, such as taking on a new project or going for an internal promotion. This is also a good way of measuring the distance between where you are now and where you would like to be as dictated by the goals you set yourself (see below). It will also help you to identify any obvious gaps that might exist, such as training and development needs.
SET GOALS – WHAT IS YOUR CAREER WISH LIST?

For any good plan to succeed, the critical first step is clarifying your goal. Don’t automatically assume that your goal has to be about climbing the career ladder, earning more money or being more ‘successful’ (although these are all valid goals); it might just as easily be about getting on better with your team or your boss, working on a particular project, or getting that professional Diploma under your belt at long last. A good starting point to help you identify your goal or goals is to create a career wish list. This should help you to clearly define what it is you want to achieve.
Use the SMART criteria in the table above to check that your goal/goals are realistic and achievable and are in line with career strengths and inclinations and this will make them easier to achieve. Getting a trusted friend, colleague or partner involved in this exercise is a good idea as they will often add a new dimension to the discussion. Write down your goal and commit yourself to a reasonable timeframe.
In career terms, short-term goals are anything you want to achieve in the next six to 12 months; medium-term goals are one to three years and long-term goals are three to seven years.
Break your goals down into component steps to make them more manageable and time bound. Think about and plan for any obstacles that might prevent a successful outcome. Highlight the support, resources and people that you can depend on in order to guarantee your success.
Lastly, review your progress at regular intervals to make sure you are on track – a review of your goals every three months is generally considered a normal time frame.
Follow the tips above and review your progress periodically and greater career satisfaction and success is firmly within your grasp.
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