New Year, New You

January 15, 2013

With the recession slowing down and jobs growing – people are resolving to focus on their career and move up after sitting back these last few years. In fact, based on a new LinkedIn survey, more than 74% of us globally added a professional goal to our lineup in 2012. Rather than wanting a new job, most professionals wanted to learn new skills in the new year.

What I've seen over the last few years is that we've finally come to realize the classic resolution to "lose five extra pounds" may have something to do with the fact that we're wandering into the pantry because it's been years since we've acquired a new skill and we're bored. That the "get out of debt" resolution we've had on the list since college may have something to do with the fact that we haven't negotiated a raise. Or that we haven't "met a new boyfriend" because we haven't extended ourselves and met anyone new professionally or otherwise in the last year.

I'm sure you have long since realized that creating a list isn't the hard part, it's sticking to it that finds us with more weight, more debt and sitting alone at our desk come March. Three weeks in and while you're still going strong (or if you’re not, you can start again without anyone even knowing) here are some tips for staying motivated!

Use the Green-Eyed Monster: I’m not particularly proud of this story but I’m willing to share because it worked for me, and may for you too. Having moved to NYC to build the next phase of my career, I was sipping a coffee while watching a national morning show when all of a sudden there she was…the woman I competed with most closely in my professional space, sitting across from the anchor in the seat I coveted.

While truly I come from a place of abundance and wanted her to do a great job, I could tell by the feeling I had in my gut that I needed to turn my envy into my own reality. In the days that followed I created the “I want that” model of career accomplishment and it goes something like this: Once you identify someone whose shoes you’d like to find yourself in, use LinkedIn to study the trajectory of her career success. What skills does she have, what Groups does she belong to, where has she worked, which positions did she accept to land her current position, who is she connected to?  There’s a ton you can learn about how to get where you want to go by walking in someone else’s shoes.

Create Accountability: There’s nothing like telling someone you're going to do something to get your butt in gear.  Use LinkedIn to share your professional goals and even better, some of the tips and tricks you're learning to accomplish them. You may also want to invite some of your connections to join you in a “Goal Group.” Facilitate the conversation around why you’ve chosen this goal and express some of your challenges and innovative ways you’re succeeding. The one thing I’ve learned in the support group model is that it’s a mistake to only invite those in your industry. Some of the best, most innovative and inspiring ideas may come from the fresh eyes of someone who doesn’t do what you do.  Having a goal is the foundation, not a specific industry or job.

Get a Handle on Your Why: The goals that keep us on track long into the New Year are those that are tied to something beyond paying the rent (although don’t underestimate that one as well). By ‘Find the Why,’ I mean that the basis of willpower and perseverance is founded in a specifically articulated reason for committing to this goal in the first place and the more intimate, meaningful, life-affirming and even vulnerable it is, the more likely you are to see it through. The best example I have for you is fitness. Prior to my son being born it was all about fitting into my jeans and I missed more classes than I took. Now, it’s about being around to see him walk down the aisle or have his own kids.

If you've lost track of your why in the day-to-day grind of your career, the key is to connect with others. Identify leaders in your field and ask what inspired them to get into their career. This is a great question in that it’s not one they are likely to be asked or reflect on often enough and in the process of sharing, you’re creating a more meaningful connection than what would come with a standard connection request. Another equally motivational tactic attached to your why is sharing 'yours'. Find someone to mentor by looking for fellow alumni or using your own Company Page to identify someone who is in a similar position to where you started out.