New Year’s resolutions are common; what’s uncommon is adopting one that’s truly transformative. In order to truly impact change, these initiatives can’t be surface-level. Meaningful, professional resolutions start with deep and honest self-analysis.
Greg Ziols, CEO, Coach and Vistage Chair Emeritus explains: “To set goals for the future requires having a good understanding of where you are at today and realistically setting a path forward to accomplish meaningful growth targets.”
Before you designate your ambitions for 2018, take stock of what you learned in 2017 with a professional self-audit — here’s how to get started.
Evaluate Your Current Professional Fit
Think about the endeavors that you enact daily. Most positions involve a spectrum of responsibilities. As you mature professionally, you’ll recognize that some functions challenge you, and you grow and learn as you enact those initiatives. Other aspects of your job may begin to feel rote and boring.
It may suit you to have a mixture of responsibilities, some that demand a lot and some that are less intellectually taxing. Examine how your current workload suits you: Are you appropriately challenged, not challenged enough, challenged too much?
Compare this assessment with where you were last year to evaluate how you are progressing. Examine 2016 project calendars, to-do lists and performance appraisal, comparing those with your 2017 materials. Notice what kinds of responsibilities you advanced away from in 2017. Are you satisfied with your trajectory?
Consider your current role from a detached perspective: Is the position you currently hold one for which you would apply for today? Have you outgrown the role? Is there room to advance within your role, on your team or in another capacity at your institution?
Consider Your Relationship with Management
Your relationship with management is key to your professional fit. It shapes your daily operations as well as your future prospects. You should regard your manager as a partner with an insider understanding of your employer and your industry. Ziols explains: “[E]ffective managers should be more than willing to have a discussion and help put together a plan for the next year. Progressive companies recognize the importance of keeping good employees engaged in managing their future. The key is trust.”
Considering whether or not you have this kind of relationship with your manager speaks to your fit in your position and with your employer. “If you trust the manager and you know how your contribution and skills are valued within the company, you should feel very comfortable talking about your view of the future,” Ziols says. “Ask for counsel. Seek the wisdom of your manager and others. If you are open about your own development and setting growth goals to share, then it is likely that you are already viewed as a strong contributor. If the organization has a culture where your trust, honesty and contributions are not valued it’s likely time to get out.”
Review Your Accomplishments From 2017
Recollect instances in the past year that you were called out for excellence by a manager, client, customer or peer. Did enacting a particular type of project earn you this feedback? What does this tell you about how your talents are being applied in your current role?
Also, think about occasions when you truly loved your job — when you were engaged in a project that you felt great working on and that you completed with aplomb. What projects garner this satisfaction for you? Is management tuned into these strengths? Do you think that your current role gives you enough opportunity to pursue and develop them? Have you noticed other positions at your institution that would more fully engage your best skills?
Recognizing your own value is an important part of your self-audit. It underscores your strengths and highlights where you may want to grow in the future.
Own That Which Challenges You
Hopefully, you and your manager met during the year to discuss performance. Review your notes from those conversations, and re-examine what you and your manager identified as your challenges and areas for growth.
It can be difficult to internalize recommendations for change, but having the humility to accept this feedback can seed professional growth. Aim to view this as a research initiative rather than a personal assessment.
“To successfully determine your baseline career performance as a professional takes a little bit of good scientific research,” Ziols says. “You have to be somewhat of a detective to find out facts about how you are currently performing, how others perceive your performance and find out the gaps that may hold you back.”
After all, every professional has those gaps — acknowledging them and learning from them helps you evolve.
“One critical component of growth as a leader is self-knowledge,” Ziols adds. “To be perceived as a leader and contributor in any organization, a professional has to understand their strengths and weaknesses. Usually, this is done through different kinds of feedback, performance reviews, merit salary increases, bonus payout, one-on-one discussion with your boss, colleagues, mentors, customers or family and friends.”
Make this part of your self-audit for 2017 — be honest with yourself about where you can grow. It can only help you.
Now that you’ve done your self-analysis, you can make resolutions that are rooted in your professional reality. This makes the goals you set more representative, and thus more attainable.
Good luck, and happy New Year!