Here we are at the end of 2014. The transition from one year to the next is a great time to reflect on your career to date and what you need to focus on going forward. These 5 questions will help steer your reflections in an insightful and productive way that can lead to increased success and career satisfaction in the year ahead.
1. What was my biggest accomplishment?
Most job interviews include questions about your biggest accomplishment. You want to have something recent to say—ideally as recently as this year. What result did you achieve? What expertise did you gain? What area of the company did you improve? Remember not only those things you directly impacted but also how you contributed to a larger accomplishment, say for your department or an organization you support. Write down all of your wins, but select what you felt was the most significant and consider why it tops the list. This gives you a window into what you’re proud of, what you prioritize, what you’re passionate about.
2. Who was my biggest champion?
Collaboration and relationships are critical to a successful career. It’s important to recognize who is helpful and what makes them helpful so you can thank people. You also want to nurture these relationships. Don’t just focus on big or obvious gestures, like a job lead shared or a reference given. Remember the colleague who helps you out when you’re overwhelmed, the friend who is available after work to listen and encourage, the savvy one in your network who’s great for identifying that tricky piece of information or next action to take. Many of your supporters help you in an ongoing way. What makes someone your biggest champion for this year? This speaks to what you really needed and who really stepped up.
3. Whom did I help?
The strongest networks are built on give and take. What did you give this year? It might have been pitching in for someone else who is overwhelmed, offering encouragement, or sharing advice. As you reflect on all the ways you helped, you might see that your focus was limited to the office, or only outside of the office with volunteer commitments, and you may decide to change or blend your focus over the next year. For example, perhaps you concentrated exclusively on your team and you should reach out more to other areas of the company. Or you may find that all of your relationships revolve around people at one level—only junior or senior or peers—and you want to diversify. Or you may discover that you’ve lost touch with everyone except those in your current company, and you need to consciously reach out to former colleagues, classmates, and personal connections in the year ahead.
4. What did I leave undone?
We all start the year intending to complete a number of projects or reach specific goals. Which ones did you finish, and which are still outstanding? Which projects were attempted but not completed? Which goals dropped off your radar altogether? In the downtime that the holidays provide, you have the space to reprioritize and think about what needs to be completed, what can be discarded, and what might need to be refined for you to get excited again or for a project to become feasible. For example, a business idea you were fleshing out may no longer be relevant and can be set aside, but a skill you were trying to develop might just need extra support or dedicated time on your schedule for you to make progress. Review your unfinished business and make a conscious decision to continue or not.
5. What is coming up that most excites me?
If this question brings up a lot of different commitments, pull out your schedule and plan for when you will pay attention to each of them. On the other hand, if you have trouble thinking about anything that excites you, now is the time to flex your passion muscle. Reviewing your past year might provide insight into areas to focus on. Reading business stories and biographies can encourage ideas for problems to solve; maybe some are relevant to your company and can be worked into your day-to-day. It could be that the most exciting thing coming up is personal in nature, such as a milestone in your family or a hobby you’re taking up. It’s important to acknowledge this and give space in your schedule for this, as you plan your upcoming professional commitments.
Caroline Ceniza-Levine is co-founder of SixFigureStart® career coaching. She has worked with executives from American Express, Citigroup, Condé Nast, Gilt, Goldman Sachs, Google, McKinsey, and other leading firms. She’s also a stand-up comic, so she’s not your typical coach. Connect with Caroline on Google+.