Want to score a raise or clinch that title bump this year? Who are we kidding; of course you do! The start of a new year is prime time to rethink your professional goals and what you hope to accomplish over the next 12 months.
“A lot goes on in the workplace at the beginning of the year,” says Brandi Britton, district president at OfficeTeam, a national staffing firm. “Hiring picks back up in January, companies do annual performance reviews and managers reflect on what challenges they’re going to face over the next 12 months.”
Whether you’re working toward that corner office or just want to put yourself out there in the best light possible and see what opportunities come your way, consider making these New Year career moves. They’ll help you fine-tune your image, climb the ladder and leverage your network, setting you up for job success.
Position Yourself for New Opportunities
Get the ball rolling by getting organized, both in the office and online.
Clear physical and digital clutter. Start the year with a clean slate by sorting through unread emails and creating a folder system to manage your future messages. To avoid falling into a black hole of spam, Britton suggests using services to withdraw from unwanted subscriptions; one option is Unroll.Me. While you’re in cleanup mode, tidy up your work space by filing paperwork and organizing office supplies and trashing things you don't need.
What’s all this have to do with a career upgrade? Without random stuff and unorganized digital files to distract you, you’ll feel mentally less cluttered — so you can do your job better as well as clarify in your head the work goals to shoot for this year.
Update your resume. January is an ideal time to reflect on last year’s achievements and get them on your resume. Use metrics to quantify your accomplishments; numbers draw the eye and show your impact on the company’s bottom line, says Louise Kursmark, an executive resume writer and co-author of “Modernize Your Resume.” If you boosted profit margins by 20% or signed 20 new clients, say so. Not only will you show your overall contribution, those numbers can help distinguish you from the rest of the candidate pool, she notes.
To stay current, Kursmark recommends giving your resume a splash of color in section headings or by adding a personal logo. “Because hiring managers are looking at job applications digitally, you want color to make your resume pop,” she explains. Just don’t go too crazy with multiple hues or typefaces. “You don’t want your resume to look like a ransom note,” she adds.
Polish your LinkedIn profile. You have more space online than you do on paper, so capitalize on the extra real estate, says Los Angeles executive coach Libby Gill. Use the summary section to explain why you’re passionate about your field. Make sure you have a current professional headshot or photo that’s relevant to your work (for example, if you’re a coastal engineer, you might use a photo of you by the ocean). Update your profile with new skills, work experience and industry groups you’ve joined.
You'll also want to take advantage of as many features as possible, like “Open Candidates,” which lets job seekers privately signal to recruiters that they’re open to new employment opportunities. So if you’re looking for a new gig, turning on this feature will give you exposure to recruiters without tipping off your manager that you’re job hunting.
Boost your social media presence. Depending on your industry, it could pay off to improve your visibility on Facebook, Twitter and other platforms. Think about the best platforms for your kind of work. It makes sense for a graphic designer to have an Instagram account, but if you're an accountant, being active on Twitter by sharing news relevant to your profession may be more appropriate.
It goes without saying that your social media profiles need to appear professional. Yet you might be surprised by the info and images that are considered incriminating and should be scrubbed from your accounts. For example, 47% of recruiters said they view photos of alcohol consumption negatively on social media, according to Jobvite’s 2016 Recruiter Nation Report. The survey also found that 72% of recruiters are put off by typos, so proofread before hitting the publish button.
Communicate Your Career Goals
Now that you know what you want and have a dazzling profile to broadcast your goals, consider letting some key players in on your plans.
Align with your boss. While you should be on the same page as your manager any time of year, January is a good time to make sure your objectives line up. Schedule time to discuss your plans for the year, then make room for quarterly check-ins to get feedback on your performance. Before that first meeting, Gill suggests writing down your goals for the year and making a 90-day action plan for the first quarter to get there. A thought-out, written game plan helps solidify your goals, and the outline gives you clear talking points so you don’t flub it.
Depending on the objectives you set and feedback you receive, your check-in may be a good opportunity to ask your manager for budget approval to attend an industry conference, Gill adds. Doing this in January gives her the ability to sign off on funding before your peers make similar requests. Plus, you come off as a go-getter.
Ask for a raise. This year the average salary will increase an estimated 3%, according to WorldatWork’s annual Salary Budget Survey. But top performers can nab an even bigger bump by taking the right approach, which is definitely not sitting back and expecting your boss to hand you a fatter paycheck.
Being proactive is key here, so even if it seems daunting, set an appointment with your manager to talk take-home pay. A simple email saying, “I’m hoping we can sit down, and I’d like to make the case to you for revisiting my salary” will do. Research your market worth using sites like Glassdoor and PayScale and frame your ask by highlighting how your contributions over the last year benefited the company.
To steer the negotiation process, be the first person to throw out a range. That initial figure will serve as an anchor point for your manager’s counter-offer, says Robin Pinkley, management professor at Southern Methodist University and co-author of “Get Paid What You’re Worth.”
Check in with HR. This can be a savvy move for a few reasons. First, the folks in human resources can inform you of job openings in other departments and career-development opportunities within the company that you might not be aware of. When you meet with a rep there, “express interest in learning and growing within the company,” Britton says.
HR can also help you handle any issues or disputes you might be having with coworkers or your boss.
Grow Your Network
In many industries, what you know is just as important as who you know. Here’s how to expand your network — and the number of opportunities that follow.
Build relationships in your field. You interact with your coworkers on a regular basis anyway, so enrich these relationships by organizing a team lunch or taking key colleagues out for drinks after work. “Spending time together in a casual environment is a good way to connect with people,” Britton says.
Making connections outside your organization requires more effort, like attending conferences and networking events where you can rub shoulders with industry experts and recruiters. We know, it’s not always easy schlepping out in the cold to talk shop with strangers. But talking face-to-face pays off. “You can’t just sit behind your computer and only network online,” Gill says.
Take a leadership role in a professional group. Establish yourself as an expert or build your rep as a serious up-and-comer in your field by getting on the speaking docket or moderating a panel at an industry event. Another way to improve visibility is to take an active role in a trade organization in your field, such as becoming a board member or volunteering on a committee.
Whether you prefer to work toward several goals at a time or focus on one larger career initiative, these tasks can help you move the needle toward success — starting today and in the months to come.