In hindsight, it was funny to watch how different people reacted to the coming of the new century. Some folks were like squirrels, storing their fruits and nuts in the basement -- getting ready for a long, hard winter. Others considered all of that preparation to be a great deal of comic relief and enjoyed New Year's at some far-away beach or exciting foreign destination.
Whether or not you are now trying to work your way through a year's supply of dried veggies, you will probably agree with me that this change of centuries is an absolutely terrific time to examine what works and what doesn't work in your work life.
Questions to Ask Yourself for Career Planning
My belief is that we can use the inherent power in the change of millennia to make an impact on our lives and careers. If you agree, get ready to do a bit more preparation than normal for your next career planning session.
Here are some areas of concern that many of us have for our careers. Ask yourself these questions and be prepared to integrate your answers into an action plan.
Are your major strengths currently being used to their full advantage on the job?
Develop a list of your strengths, both professional and personal, and determine which of these you are not "flexing" on the job (see SWOT Example). Like unused muscles, your skill areas will atrophy if you don't keep them in use. Is there a way to begin using these skills, even indirectly, on your job? If not, is there additional coursework that you can take outside of work that might assist you to stay current in this topic area?
What other areas of interest do you have in your career that might be worth exploring further?
Everyone has a side interest or another technology area altogether that they are fascinated with. Have you made a list of these recently, perhaps incorporating them into a plan that changes your current job to include them? How about alternative careers that could be of a fit for you if that won't work?
How is your relationship with the boss?
Think about the people you have worked with and analyze what was "right" and what was "wrong" with the ingredients of those relationships. Can you find a way to take some of what was working well with your favorite bosses and move that into your current boss/subordinate relationship? This connection with your supervisor is one of the only relationships in your life where you are the one who is totally responsible for making it work!
Do you ever feel that you have been doing the same thing for too long?
Some people have the ability to work at the same tasks for many years without any negative effect. Other employees enter a "plateau" from which it is very hard to escape. If you are considering an employer change as a result of this stagnation, think this over carefully. Is there a way to network across departments in your present company in order to accomplish your goal of a renewed work experience? Take this headhunter's advice: Most new employers will only want you for similar work. It is far easier to find something new in the same company, where they already know you and respect your abilities. Many before you have found that the change to a new employer is simply a change of scenery (and very similar -- if not exactly the same -- work).
Are you working in a financially stable company?
That's a trick question. In our business, most readers are not. While this isn't a reason to rush out the doors to the nearest Fortune 100 Pharma, it is a reminder that it is up to you to constantly be aware of your employer's health. Keep your eyes and ears open. Read analysts comments, and even send for reports from brokers. It doesn't hurt to listen to the "scuttlebutt" around the office about how the latest round of financing is doing, either. My point is that the more you know, the more proactive you can be if there are problems around the corner. Learn to separate the expected, normal problems from those that may indeed have no real solutions.
How do the company management and board view your project?
One woman I know discovered in her employer's annual report that her project team had been relegated to an "other technologies" mention, as opposed to the strong interest it had when she was first hired on. Make it your job to find out if you are working in the core area of interest -- or the sidelines -- at your company.
How are you relating to your key co-workers?
Oftentimes communication style differences are at the root of difficult relationships. If you have trouble understanding how various colleagues inter-relate on the job, and you'd like to improve this for the next millennium, do some research on the four communication styles. See my article in this same website called "Communication Styles" for more information, or read books by excellent authors such as Jim Cathcart and Tony Allesandra on the same subject.
Putting It All Together for the 21st Century
Have you noticed how little regard that most of us give New Year's resolutions? While you'll find the occasional person who used that opportunity to quit smoking or to lose ten pounds, most of us get off the program in a few days or weeks at the most. (Old habits die hard, and they don't usually die after three weeks of holiday parties). But resolutions for something as important as your career need to be given more credence.
Although it may seem a little late to be thinking about the last New Year's, its not too late to apply the power of a major life resolution for your career goals. Here's the quote for the day on this topic:
"It is a bad plan that admits of no modification." Publius Syrus, 1st Century BC