Yes, this is a busy season. But it’s also a perfect time to reflect on the year that’s about to close.
Did you meet your goals in 2010? What did you learn? What could you have done better? A lot of companies conduct year-end evaluations for good reason—it’s natural to look back and contemplate the old year before jumping forward into 2011. But you can take advantage of this tool on a personal level, too.
Here are a few tips for conducting your own personal year-end career review:
1. Find a quiet spot. Bring writing materials. Choose a time when you’re in a good mood and well rested. Be prepared to think clearly and dispassionately.
2. If you set goals last January, now’s the time to get them out and measure your progress against your plan. Even if you didn’t actually write goals down, think back to what you hoped to accomplish. What did you have in mind for 2010? Which of those goals came to fruition, and what did not?
3. Now put aside your hopes and plans. What did you actually accomplish? Have you learned new skills, made valuable new connections, taken advantage of new opportunities? If your memory needs jogging, look at your calendar. When patting yourself on the back, you should include all of these accomplishments, even if they weren’t part of the original plan.
4. While you’re still looking back, square your shoulders and take a clear-eyed look at what didn’t go so well. Examine those bloopers and ask yourself, What went wrong? What could I, should I, have done to avoid this problem? What will I do if it ever happens again? It can be painful. But what’s the point of making mistakes if we don’t learn from them?
5. Next, look beyond yourself to the larger world. How does your progress measure up to others in the same field as you, those who are at roughly the same point in their careers? Yes, you are an individual and your path is like no one else’s, but it can still be useful to compare yourself to the “norm.” It can even be inspiring.
6. Here is the Big One: How happy are you in your work? You’ve considered the plan; you’ve looked at the realities, but this is the toughest metric of all. Even in a period of low employment and high uncertainty, you’re allowed to consider your own sense of fulfillment. How close does your career work with or against your values, dreams, strengths and weaknesses? What could you do to bring your work more in line with who you are and who you want to be? What do you want to do more of? What do you want to do less?
[See The 50 Best Careers of 2011.]
7. At any stage of the career review process, you may find it helpful to seek outside input. If you have a mentor, go to him for feedback. What does she think of your progress? If you have a good relationship with your boss, talk with her about what you’ve accomplished or failed to accomplish this year. Even the most self-aware professional stands to learn a lot from others.
8. Consider other factors that affect your career. You may want to review your budget and finances, clear paperwork, organize your workspace, and even take a look at your relationships, both professional and personal. It’s all part of who you are and what you do.
You don’t need to do all this in one long session. Instead, tackle it in chunks. Dedicate an hour here and an hour there to your assessment, and it will become a less daunting exercise.
The obvious next step is to put together a master plan for 2011. That’s what we’ll talk about next week!
Karen Burns is the author of the illustrated career advice book The Amazing Adventures of Working Girl: Real-Life Career Advice You Can Actually Use, recently released by Running Press. She blogs at www.karenburnsworkinggirl.com.