Starting Off the New Year on the Right Foot

It’s a new year! This is a time when many of us commit to getting our houses in order — resolving to go on a diet and exercise more frequently, spend more time with our loved ones, break a bad habit, and so on. But it’s also the perfect occasion to reboot your professional growth and development, so that you can ensure the next twelve months of your work life are as productive and successful as the previous twelve — if not more so. Whether your new year’s resolution is land that dream job, or earn a big promotion or salary raise at your current one, now is the time to dust yourself off and set about reinvigorating your career. Here are some quick tips for making sure that the new year is a remarkable one.

Establish your goals for the year
What would a new year be without resolutions? Of course, most resolutions are meant to be broken, as everyone well knows. To avoid reneging on the promises you make to yourself today, I’d recommend against setting too concrete a goal — for example, to make $15,000 more this year. It’s good to be specific about what you want to accomplish in 2013, but remember that a hefty raise or foreign reassignment will be determined by a lot of factors, some of them beyond your control. Focus more on the things you can directly affect and shape, like your own performance, and less on the results they lead to, which will be as much a function of other things as your own will.

Start by laying out your professional goals over the next twelve months. Take stock of where you are today — your title and responsibilities, your compensation, your work environment and happiness. Which of these are you satisfied with? Which could be improved? Perform an “audit” of sorts of your career today: visualize your ideal job and your ideal employer, and measure the extent to which your current job and employer fit those ideals. How might you close the gap between ideal and reality? A friendlier boss? A bigger paycheque? More time for your personal life? A shorter commute? A socially worthy cause that your work supports? Only you know the answers.

Over and above any specific targets or benchmarks you define for yourself, what’s most important is that you remain purposeful and conscious about the kind of trajectory or experiences you want for yourself in the coming year. People are never as honest with themselves as they are at the beginning of the year — it’s an ideal moment to reflect upon your accomplishments and failures. Use this occasion to assess where you are at in your career, so that you can determine where you’d like to be in a year’s time.

Whether your new year’s resolution is land that dream job, or earn a big promotion or salary raise at your current one, now is the time to dust yourself off and set about reinvigorating your career.

Get help from your networks and mentor
To realize your newly inspired goals, you’ll need to formulate a plan of attack, including some concrete strategies for making them a reality. For this and much more, you’re going to need help from others. If you’re not already networking aggressively, start now. Hit up professional events and company social events, make time for coffee with important folks – make as many friends as possible to get your new year’s plans off the ground.

It helps to have a knowledgeable voice in your corner, to steer your career in the right direction and offer a second (or third) opinion on some of the big decisions you’re going to have to make. I’ve extolled the virtues of mentoring before, but now might be just the moment to enlist the wisdom of a more experienced peer. Reach out to someone you respect and admire, and whose example you’d like to emulate. Explain the kinds of professional goals you’ve set out for yourself for this year, and commit to working with them over the next eight to twelve months, so that the next time January 1st rolls around, you can cross them off your bucket list.

Consider looking for new opportunities
Maybe you’re unhappy at your job. Maybe you feel like you don’t fit in with the company’s culture. Or perhaps you were denied a raise you requested, and you feel that it’s not in the cards any time soon, even though it’s well-deserved. Or maybe you’ve just outgrown your current role and are ready for a new set of challenges and experiences — one that your employer may not be able to provide presently. While leaving should, as a rule, be your last resort, it might not hurt to start looking for another opportunity elsewhere, whether on your own, or with the help of a recruiting agency – like Clarity Recruitment – to put out some feelers and see what the job market is like for someone such as yourself.

I always tell candidates that it’s vastly preferable to hunt for new opportunities from a position of strength, with a job in hand. But if you’re dead-set on quitting, you should definitely ensure that you leave professionally and on good terms, by giving proper notice, offering to help ease the transition, and working as hard on your last day as you did on your first. Leaving a bad final impression with your former employer and colleagues is not the way you want to start the new year — it could easily haunt you well into the next.

People are never as honest with themselves as they are at the beginning of the year — it’s an ideal moment to reflect upon your accomplishments and failures.

Update your resume and social media profiles
Take some time early in 2013 to manage and reevaluate your resume. Most people only look at their CV when they’re already out of work or otherwise actively looking for employment; use your renewed enthusiasm and drive at this time to give yourself a headstart on that process. Go through it with a fine-toothed comb now, to spare yourself the hair-pulling stress and time-consuming labour later. For example, does your skills summary match your current skillset and abilities?

Much the same goes for your online profiles. Social media is increasingly important for networking and recruiting opportunities, yet during the everyday rush and bustle of the year, it’s easy for the task of managing your Internet presence to fall down your list of career priorities. Sites like LinkedIn and Facebook are constantly adding (or removing) features and functionality, so you need to stay on top of your accounts to get the most out of them. Now is a good time to ensure that any information you’ve shared is current and up-to-date. You wouldn’t want to miss out on an opportunity just because your LinkedIn profile describes the job you were doing a year and a half ago — and not the one you’re doing today.

Refresh your professional attire
What to do with all those gift cards or cash you got over the holidays? How about splurging on a few new outfits to update your closet and polish up your appearance? If your wardrobe has gotten a little stale or ragged over the past few months, now is as good a time as any to spruce it up anew. Clothes don’t necessarily make the businessman or businesswoman, but you should always look the part of a professional nonetheless. Plus, a new suit or two can inject you with the renewed sense of self-confidence you’ll need to pursue your masterplan for the rest of the year.

The end of the holiday season not only signals the beginning of a new year, but also a fresh start. The great thing about the 1st of January is that it gives everyone a clean slate, so to speak. Take advantage of this annual occasion for renewal to get your career off on the right track for 2013.

Let us know what you think! At Clarity Recruitment, we’re always interested in hearing from accounting and finance professionals like yourselves, who are ready for new, exciting opportunities that can take their careers to the next level. And be sure to follow us on Twitter (@clarityrecruits) and connect with us on Facebook for more great tips and advice!