New Year, New You: 3 Tips to Catalyze Your Career in 2018

Jan 02, 2018

What is your New Year’s Resolution? Is it related to your career? Probably not, but it should be.

If you are like many other women I know, your New Year’s Resolution falls in the health and fitness category. What has always amazed me is that, so few people set career aspirations and goals. We spend more than half of our waking hours at work. According to the United States Department of Labor, the average full-time employee works 8.56 hours a day. Yet, we often treat our careers as if it was on autopilot.

If you spend more than 50% of your waking hours at work, shouldn’t it be time spent on getting where you want to go?

One of the biggest mistakes people make, especially women is to autopilot their career. Women feel that if you work hard and do a great job, people will notice. They believe they will be rewarded with a raise, bonus, promotion, career opportunities, etc. Unfortunately, that is not the case. According to the Women in the Workplace 2017 study, women remain underrepresented at every level in Corporate America, even though women have achieved higher levels of education. They are hired and promoted at a lower rate than their male peers. Once you reach the SVP level, women hold only 21% of the positions. So, it is time for women to stop thinking that if I just work harder, take on more visible projects, my career will reap the rewards. You need to act!

Tip 1: Turn Off Career Auto-Pilot

Like everything else in life - if you are going to be successful, get to where you want to go – you need to know where you are going in the first place. You need to start with your short and long-term career aspirations and goals.

What is your long-term career aspirations? Where do you want to be 5 years from now? Write your career aspiration down on a piece of paper.

Now that you know where you want to go with your career – you have a goal – how do you get there? This is where an action plan comes in. An action plan is your set of directions to get from Point A to Point B. You need to create the step-by-step actions that you need to follow to get from where you are today in your career, to where you want to be tomorrow. You also need to implement that action plan.

Many people create action plans, but never follow-through. How do you get to where you want to go, get from Point A to Point B, if you never get in your car, follow the directions and drive? Same goes for your career – you need to drive from where you are today to where you want to be tomorrow.

The way to do this is with short-term career goals or milestones. I like to use 90-day short-term career goals. Companies report their earnings to investors on a quarterly basis, and it works just as well for setting career goals. It is enough time to give you a sense of urgency and you will be surprised by how much you can get done in 90 days.

Tip 2: Have A Career That Fits Your Personality

People pick jobs and even careers for a wide variety of reasons: personal, family, financial, etc. Many times, they are unhappy because it’s the wrong fit for their personality – i.e. the shoe doesn’t quite fit. Yet, we force our foot into the shoe and wonder why we have a blister after standing in them all day. The same thing applies to your career – sometimes the shoe never really fit, or we changed, and we outgrew the shoe.

The result is unhappiness. You dread Mondays and can’t wait for the weekend. This unhappiness with work can negatively impact the other areas of your life. This is especially true for women. We tend to bring the stress from work, home with us. It impacts our relationships. This is especially true for working mothers – when mom is unhappy and stressed, the whole family is on edge.

It is important to find careers and jobs that fit with your personality, or at the very least, aspects of it. If you are unhappy with your career, this is often a good place to start reflecting – maybe it is just not a good fit for you. Maybe it is time to think about doing something else that would be a better fit.

It is hard enough to spend a day in a shoe that doesn’t fit, don’t spend your entire career in it!

Tip 3: Negotiate for What You Want and Need

Negotiation is a critical component of one’s career and you need to choose to negotiate. There is research that shows that women, including highly accomplished executive women, choose to negotiate less often than men do in such important areas as salary and promotion. There is a famous book by Linda Babcock and Sara Laschever called "Women Don't Ask" that discussed research and reflections on the personal and societal reasons why women seldom ask for what they want, need or deserve.

The first step is to start by getting over your aversion to negotiating. The reality is, we all negotiate every single day, often without even realizing it. Negotiation occurs anytime people want something from one another. You get what you ask for, so it is essential that you start by asking for what you want and need.

Often when women think about career negotiations, they think about the aspect of money. Money is important, and you need to negotiate your salary. Women only make 80 cents for every dollar earned by men. According to the Institute for Women's Policy Research, it will take another 44 years for women to reach pay parity, in the year 2059. Today, if you are a working mother or women of color, these numbers become even worse. Working mothers make 71 cents for every dollar earned by working fathers. For a woman of color, the disparity is greater and the rate of change is even slower.  So, it is critical that we are negotiating our salary.

However, women can negotiate for things other than money – flexibility, working from home, vacation time, etc. There are numerous items that can be put on the negotiating table, that can help you get what you want and need.

But it is not just about asking. It is about asking in a way that gets results - in a way that is psychologically aware.

 As we begin 2018, stop settling in your work life! You deserve better!

If you enjoyed this post and want to learn more, check out NonstopWomen, dedicated to helping women manage their work and life while maintaining their sanity. Subscribe and get a free copy of my new book, “Career Catalyst: 9 Drivers of Career Success and Fulfillment”.  You can also connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

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