Thomas Edison famously said, “There is no substitute for hard work.” This is true. But your productivity—and the type of work you do—can differ from season to season. December is a great time to focus some of your work energy into taking stock of where you are and where you want your career to be in the New Year.
Here are seven tips for using the holiday season to boost your career (and, in the spirit of giving, boost the career of your teammates, too).
December is always a good month to express gratitude to those who have been your support over the past year. From the teammate who makes sure you leave work early on Tuesday to get to soccer practice, to the client who emailed kudos to your manager, take the time to say thank you and mean it. Share a coffee gift certificate or funny thank-you note with someone who has made a difference in your working world in the past year. What you give is less important than sharing a sincere expression of appreciation that fits your personality.
Take advantage of the year’s end and get into some focused reflection and inspiration. Don’t forget to make it a group activity. Gather your team to talk about what worked well during the past 12 months, and what could be even better in the next. Spend an afternoon allowing colleagues to brainstorm ideas for improvement—anything from new client markets to suggestions for better team collaboration. These exercises are bound to improve teamwork and increase productivity in the new year, too.
Take advantage of any company or professional festivities and spend time with colleagues outside of the work environment. If networking is difficult for you, go with a co-worker or a friend/spouse/partner. It’s always easier to move around a room if you have a safe home base. Use the relaxed mood of the party atmosphere to really get to know colleagues. Take a deep breath and introduce yourself to executive members, or to those you think could be useful mentors. Make sure to eat something before you go and limit your alcohol. Connections made in December can be turned into working lunches come January.
If you have a professional relationship that has challenges, see if you can get everything out on the table before breaking for the holidays. Commit to a positive change. If you’re a manager, take a moment to check in with team members and make sure no discord is being dragged forward into the fresh start of a new year. If issues seem unsolvable, make a plan. This can be as simple as reassigning tasks. Or, it might require involving input from HR. Whatever the issue, face the problem and take real steps toward strengthening and improving professional relationships. The effort will be appreciated and it will help your whole team enter the new year with positive energy.
Get the new year underway with a clean, well-organized working space. Block a morning off on your calendar and dig in. Bring cleaning materials, boxes for donations and a shredder. Make piles of paperwork and shred and recycle everything unnecessary. Sort the keepers. Take one area at a time, and set aside a box for donations if your office has turned into a collection zone for dusty knickknacks. Taking the time to tidy up during the holidays will make you ready to hit the ground running in January. The extra space will add to the belief that anything is possible.
December is a great time to get started organizing taxes for next year. While April is still a few months off, if you make headway now, you won’t have to face tax deadline despair come spring. Make sure expense receipts have been entered, that you have a place for charitable donation receipts, and take the time to make a spreadsheet for personal expense documentation. You might not have all the information you need just yet, so make room for what’s to come and fill it in as it does. Having a process and system in place will make organizing everything over the next few months a piece of cake.
New Year’s resolutions don’t just apply to your personal life. The holidays are a great time to resolve to make changes in your professional life as well. Whether your goal is a raise, reducing stress or to make a sweeping career move, there are steps you can take to realize your vision. Write your resolution down, and outline practical steps you can take to make it happen. Use the buddy system—enlist a like-minded colleague or friend to help keep you accountable to your goals (best case is that you do this for each other). Set a deadline. If you know you’d like a pay increase by June, decide what you’ll need to accomplish professionally to make it possible.
Take forward-thinking steps now to create your best possible year ahead for your career. Good luck!