The recent passage of Labor Day is a good reminder to think about your career. After a slower summer, it's back-to-work season.
This is also the perfect time to plan out your career activity for the upcoming year.
Here is a month-by-month guide that can help make sure you shine at the office, and set you up for future raises, promotions and job changes:
September: Coordinate your calendars
With school and after-school activities back on, parents again have to worry about double booking. Even if you don’t have kids, the fall season is when many professional associations turn up the programming. Block out professional and personal commitments that you know of now so that you don’t overschedule.
October: Plan your end-of-year push
It’s the last quarter of the year. Check your year-end goals to see what the priorities are for these last three months. Also, check deadlines for submitting year-end reviews and/ or budget requests for next year.
November: Pick your benefits
At many companies, November is the month when employees need to elect their health coverage and other benefits options for the year. Don’t assume your current selections will just carry over—with rising costs, your company very likely has changed the choices. Benefits are a career perk, but they are also a career tool: Taking care of yourself means you have more to give on the job.
December: Reconnect with your contacts.
The holiday season means more professional and social get-togethers. Take advantage of this time to catch up with people you don’t regularly see, in a relaxed and festive environment. Even if you don’t talk about work (and you probably shouldn’t!) you rekindle the connection and open the door to schedule a later meeting where you can put work on the agenda.
January: Pick your career resolutions
As you select your New Year’s resolutions, think about some related to your career to include. Is this the year you increase your management responsibility? Is this the year you pick up a new skill? Is this the year you change industries? If you’re happily employed, look at your company’s goals for the year and plan out how you are going to orient your work toward these specific goals.
February: Take a cue from Valentine’s Day
No, I don’t mean start dating someone at work! I simply mean focus on bringing love—or enjoyment or passion—back into your work. Make a list of your favorite clients, colleagues, projects, and day-to-day responsibilities. How can you plan your day to include more interaction with these people or projects?
March: Get your financial house in order
Ideally, tax planning is a year-round event. But the typical working professional files only once in April. So start getting your paperwork together in early March and use this as a chance to review the rest of your finances. A solid financial foundation supports your career by giving you confidence (e.g., to ask for more management responsibility), allowing you to make investments in yourself (e.g., to pay for classes to pick up a new skill) and enabling you to take risks (e.g., to allow you a cushion as you change industries).
April: Spring clean your workspace
Don’t just spring clean your house. Organize your desk and your work files. Finally read (or discard) those company memos and newsletters. Renew or remove subscriptions to trade publications and memberships to trade groups. While you’re combing through key documents, look out for testimonials and other evidence of work results and happy clients and colleagues.
May: Catch up on relationships
Mother’s Day and Father’s Day are just around the corner. As you tend to your personal relationships, remember to take some time out to nurture your professional ones. Block out time to see professional contacts—friends and mentors, from inside and outside your company and industry. It’s been several months since the holiday networking season, so now is a good time to get in touch. If you don’t proactively schedule catch-up time during the year, you’ll forget.
June: Do a mid-year review
Even if your company does not have an official review process, give yourself one. Revisit the goals you set in January: Are you on track? Gather evidence of wins you can share with your boss—use the testimonials you found from your April spring cleaning! Make a plan for how you will use the remaining months of the year to build on what’s working and to refine what is not.
July: Do a mid-year review, part 2
Now look out longer-term—past this year, past this job. Do you know what’s next for you in two, five, or 10 years? By asking yourself this question at least once a year, you give space for bigger ideas to pop up. At the very least, update your resume and online profile as a way of auditing your career to date—a good annual habit to get into.
August: Take a vacation
Americans tend to forego their vacations—to the detriment of their productivity and work-life balance. If you haven’t already, take a break before the calendar resets again in September.
Caroline Ceniza-Levine is co-founder of SixFigureStart®career coaching. She has worked with professionals from American Express, Condé Nast, Gilt, Goldman Sachs, Google, McKinsey, and other leading firms. She’s also a stand-up comic. This column will appear weekly.
Read more from Caroline Ceniza-Levine:
- 5 Ways You're Sabotaging Yourself in Job Interviews
- How to Cold Call Your Way to a New Job
- Three Easy Résumé Fixes to Help You Make a Career Change
- Make Sure Your Next Raise is Bigger than 3%
- How to Network in Just 5 Minutes a Day
- How Making a Friend in HR Can Help Your Career
- 10 Easy Ways to Make Yourself More Hireable
- Your Career is Your Biggest Asset. 5 Ways to Protect It