As we approach 2013, now is the perfect time to step back for a moment and reflect on your career. Whatever stage you're in professionally, the end of the year is a great excuse to take stock of where you've been and where you'd like to go in the next 12 months. Here's how:
1. Celebrate your victories. Start by looking back at where you were in your career at this time last year. Before you do anything else, take time to celebrate your victories no matter how big or how small. All too often, we focus solely on the future, and we don't stop to appreciate all we've accomplished.
What have you achieved professionally over the past 12 months? Of which projects are you most proud? Did you obtain any specific training or additional education? Did you experience any big changes in your role or significant growth in your professional responsibilities?
Take some time to acknowledge how much you've achieved and how hard you've worked. Be sure to write your accomplishments down and note the specifics as well. It's easy to forget the details regarding what happened and why, but you might want to refer back to these accomplishments at some point in the future (on a resume, in a job interview, or during a performance review, for example). Putting them down on paper while they're still fresh in your head is a smart practice and one you should keep up with throughout the year.
2. Evaluate what DIDN'T work. Next, think about the professional goals you set for yourself at this time last year. What did you want to achieve but didn't? What happened and why? Maybe these goals weren't really as important as you thought they were. Perhaps you just forgot about them. Maybe you didn't have a real plan in place. Whatever the reason, determine what you will do differently this time around to help make sure you set the right goals—and keep them.
If you didn't set any specific goals last year, did you have a vision of where you'd be by the end of 2012? How well does your reality match up with that vision? Again, consider the areas where you fell a bit short and see what you can learn from them.
3. Evaluate what DID work. Next, see what you can learn from the goals you DID achieve. What kept you on track? How did you maintain your motivation? Who helped you along the way? Again, if you didn't set specific goals last year, look back at your accomplishments and see if you can identify the habits, patterns, thoughts, people, behaviors, and actions that helped ensure your success.
4. Take the gold, leave the dirt. Ultimately, you want to take the things that worked with you into 2013 and build on them. At the same time, you want to leave the things that didn't work in 2012. Say goodbye, let them go and move on. Don't beat yourself up but do commit to not making the same mistakes again.
5. Envision the future. Next, take a peek into your future. Where do you want to go from here? Start with the big-picture vision and work backward from there. To get to that long-term goal, what smaller, short-term goals need to happen first? Create a clear picture of what you want your life and career to look like at this time next year. Keep it reasonable, but stretch yourself to really go for what you want.
6. Set new career goals and start planning. Finally, identify what needs to happen to get you from where you are to where you want to be. What additional training or education is required? What skills do you need to hone? What actions do you need to take? Establish your goals for the next year and create specific plans for achieving them. Schedule regular times throughout the year to check in on your progress and make adjustments. That way, when you go through this process next year, you'll be two steps ahead.
Chrissy Scivicque, the founder of EatYourCareer.com, believes work can be a nourishing life experience. As a career coach, corporate trainer, and public speaker, she helps professionals of all levels unlock their true potential and discover long-lasting career fulfillment.