New Year resolutions to aid your career

Timothy Barber
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Whether you’re looking to move to a role at another company or progress upwards in your current organisation, it’s essential to have a clear understanding of your strengths. Do some self-assessment of your performance in 2009, identifying what went well in your job and in what areas you were less successful, and ask colleagues and friends what they think your strengths are – the results may be revealing. “We think we know ourselves very well, but we can be quite myopic,” says Michael Moran, director of outplacement company Fairplace. “Asking people who know you will reveal more positive things than you’re aware of, and make you think wider.”

John Purkiss, a head hunter and author of the book Brand You, says you can use this knowledge to identify what kind of worker you are, and make sure you become known for that. You might be someone who likes to rescue situations, someone entrepreneurial who’s good at originating new projects, or someone who can innovate and transform.

“The important thing is not to try to be all things to everybody, but to evoke one brand strongly and channel yourself to that strength,” he says. “In a market of thousands of people, you want your name to be associated with that particular thing.”

If you know where you want to be in three years’ time, you can see the steps you need to take in the meantime to get there. “Do some prospecting – even if you’re happy where you are at the moment, now’s the time to get yourself known in the areas you want to get into next,” says Michael Moran. “Identify the person you want to work for, and find ways and means of getting in front of them. Research, follow up and be proactive.” Likewise, set yourself targets for improving your employability during the course of the year, for instance learning a new skill or language. “Don’t be too ambitious, but choose something that you can’t do at the moment, that will stretch you,” says Moran. “Then plan what you need to do to achieve that.”

Don’t just plan to meet more people – be businesslike about getting yourself out there, and set yourself a networking target. Work out how many people are in your network at the moment and aim to increase it by two people a month. A good source for new contacts are old contacts – former colleagues and clients, even school friends. “Get on LinkedIn and FriendsReunited and re-establish these links,” says Michael Moran. “Work out what they need and ways that you can help them – feed the network, and the network will start working for you and opening up opportunities.”

Even the most talented shrinking violets have a hard time scoring at interviews or getting noticed for promotion. Assert your point of view and have confidence in your decisions – be clear about your desired outcome in any given situation, and back it up with resolute action. “People often hold back from being assertive for fear of seeming aggressive,” says Steve Bavister of training consultancy Speak First. “Assertiveness is about standing up for yourself but in a respectful way, rather than aggressively trampling on the opinions of others – it’s not just what you say but how you say it.”

The job market in 2010 will continue to be difficult, and moving up the career ladder is no longer the linear progression it once was. Be able to adapt and meet the demands of the job market, rather than expecting it to bend to you. For instance, if you are currently job hunting, be prepared to take on contract work and to take positions outside London. “The mindset the individual has to have is flexibility,” says Andrew Evans, managing director of recruiter Morgan McKinley. “Be prepared to look anywhere in the UK. Talk to a recruiter with a national network rather than ones just based in particular locations, and be prepared to adjust your salary expectations a bit according to the area.”