It’s fitting that this, the first article of 2016, comes on the heels of the loss of a huge pop and cultural icon, David Bowie. Love him or not, you can’t deny his impact over decades on people everywhere. His message?
Follow your own path and don’t be afraid to be who you are.
His message is our message with a caveat – we’re here to help you find and define that path.
How did you spend New Year’s Eve? I always approach it with conflicting emotions. I’m either glad or sad the year is winding down, and excited or anxious about the year to come. In my younger years, I’d be wondering what to wear, where to party, who to be with when the clock struck midnight. Now, I just hope I can stay awake.
It’s a magical time, those seconds leading up to, or - depending on your outlook - counting down from the place where both hands embrace the magical twelve, the moment you become a prince, a princess or a pumpkin.
New Year’s is an opportunity to clean house, a time for good hard looks. Maybe you’ve been thinking about changing jobs, careers, cities. Maybe there are skills upgrades you’ve been putting off or a resume you intended to update but haven’t gotten around to. If you think of New Year’s Eve as a point on a turning wheel, you realize that one complete revolution of the wheel is a year. While your position on the wheel stays the same, you’re seeing it from a whole different place. You couldn’t sit still if you tried. Stasis – the state of inactivity caused by opposing equal forces – is not an option. That’s because if the wheel turns, it has to move you somewhere, forward or backward. You get to choose. Where do you want to go?
If the idea of resolutions makes you cringe or fills you with guilt, think of what follows as suggestions for how to position yourself on the wheel so that, even if you only accomplish one or two items on your list, you’re always moving forward.
1. Get to know yourself. Determine your worth – that will go a long way to feeling confident in your abilities. Stand tall even when you don’t feel like it. Look at your capabilities honestly so you can say with certainty what you can and can’t do. Think about what you really want to do and start exploring the possibilities.
2. Establish or clean up your online presence. Make sure it’s professional. More and more job opportunities come via LinkedIn contacts. And pretty much every potential employer checks out your LinkedIn profile at some point during the hiring process. What does your LinkedIn profile say about you?
3. Target your job search. Go after opportunities you are qualified for and that you really want. No sense going after a data entry position if you’re a people person who thrives on interaction and collaboration. We spend the majority of our time at work; shouldn’t it be a job we enjoy?
4. Learn something new. Hard scientific data tells us that challenging our brains by learning new things, including languages, increases the brain’s natural neuroplasticity and affects the onset of diseases like dementia, often associated with aging, in positive ways. At the very least, lifelong learning affects our self-esteem by making us feel better about ourselves. If money’s an issue – and it is for most of us – check out courses through your local library or school board. Some local government agencies provide seminars and low-cost or cost-free training for job seekers who qualify.
5. Hone your existing skills or learn new ones. The best way to increase your salary is to increase your skills. Talk to people who’re doing what you want to do. Focus on opportunities for advancement and see what skills and education are required for those roles. Then start acquiring them.
6. Chat less, talk more. Technology is great; just don’t let it do all your communicating for you. Phone people – yes, the telephone, an antiquated piece of last century technology. Let them hear the inflections in your voice. A videoconference or phone call can really help create stronger and positive bonds in the workplace, especially when you have colleagues and partners working in different locations. Like the 1980’s AT&T commercial said, reach out and touch someone in a ‘let’s connect’ kind of way. Deciphering non-verbal communication – reading people’s signals – is a dying art. Anyone who can do it is leaps and bounds ahead of the competition. But you have to get face-to-face for it to work.
7. Hold regular meetings with yourself. You’re the boss of you. We are often so caught up in the nitty-gritty of our day-to-day that we often forget to see the big picture. Ask yourself questions that not only reflect your to-do list but help you evaluate your evolution. Am I on track? Did I learn something? Did I succeed at something? Did I fail at something and what did that teach me? Did I take a risk/step out of my comfort zone, and what did I feel/think/learn about the experience? Did I feel pride at my progress and how did I express that? Not only will questions like these raise your capacity for self-assessment, but you’d be surprised at how often these questions come up in job interviews.
8. Adapt. Life throws us curves. You can duck or you can learn how to catch and return. Your flexibility and adaptability will become increasingly important skills for employees of the future. Business, commerce and technology change with lightening speed. The organizations you interview need to stay well ahead of the competition; to do that, they’ll be looking for employees who can keep their balance and stay focused in the face of change.
If change makes your stomach knot, you’re not alone. You don’t have to throw everything out and start anew. In fact, that’s the fastest way to make sure your resolutions – or revolutions – don’t succeed. It’s simply not sustainable. Instead, pick one item and make small, manageable, bite-sized modifications. Once you’re comfortable, increase the size and scope of the changes. You’re expanding your comfort zone, which wasn’t never designed to be hard and fast, but elastic and expandable. You’ll find you’re better at this than you think and you’ll build confidence and self-esteem with each success. Step by step, day by day.
That’s how you ride the wheel.