by Randall S. Hansen, Ph.D.
The end of the year is often a time of many events -- wrapping up business for the year while also wrapping holiday presents. This article presents something you can give to yourself -- something that you can get done during the holiday lull or over some vacation days -- a quick and easy process for examining what you've accomplished in your career this year and where you want to go with it next year.
Of course, you may have already done at least some preliminary work on reviewing the year -- especially if your employer hands out year-end bonuses or conducts year-end performance reviews -- and if so, that's a good place to start your year-end review.
But unlike your on-the-job performance review, the purpose of this article is to suggest you consider conducting an even more important assessment -- taking stock of your career. Now is the perfect time to review where you are, where you've been, and where you want to go.
Before you begin your assessment, take a moment to ask yourself the most important question: Am I happy and fulfilled by my job and career? No matter how successful you've been in the past 11 months, if you are fundamentally unhappy with your work, spend the vast majority of your year-end review focusing on self-assessment and discovering your career passion. Consider a side-trip from this article to the Quintessential Careers Finding Your Career Passion Tutorial.
Don't rush your review. Consider using a weekend or one or more of your vacation days to reflect on your career. You don't need to -- and probably shouldn't -- complete all six steps in one sitting. Break it up over several days if you like.
Step One: Review Career Goals.
Did you set any goals for your career this year -- formally or informally? Most people have some idea of what they want to accomplish next in their careers, such as getting a promotion and/or raise or perhaps achieving better work/life balance. Setting some goals is an important activity because goals help provide the focus you need to move your career forward -- and to avoid distractions or activities that may slow your career progress (or worse, devalue you). So, if you had any goals for this year, answer these questions:
- Did I achieve my career goals?
- Am I satisfied with what I did relative to my goals?
- Did anything happen to change my goals over the course of the year?
- How should I modify my goals for next year?
Step Two: Review Your Career Year.
What have you done this year? This step is about documenting your career progression ad identifying key achievements. Thinking about all you've done over the past 11 months or so, ask yourself these questions:
- What have I accomplished?
- What new skills have I acquired?
- What have I learned?
- What opportunities were gained and lost?
- How am I better today than I was at the beginning of the year?
Step Three: Develop Your Career Synopsis.
Where are you in your career? Review all aspects of your career and examine where you stand at this juncture. Some questions to ask yourself:
- Am I where I should be in my career?
- What has helped or hindered my progression?
- Am I happy with my current employer?
- What are my strengths and weakness?
Step Four: Envision Your Future.
What's your next career step? Take some time to plan for next year (and perhaps beyond), picturing the path you want your career to take. Again, here are some questions to help you:
- What do I want to be doing more of in my career?
- What do I want to be doing less of in my career?
- What's the next step in my career?
- When should I be taking this next step?
- What's my ideal/ultimate career dream?
Step Five: Career Action Steps for Your Future.
How will you get to that future career? Make a list of what you need to do -- career goals for the coming year -- to get to where you want to be next in your career. These might be things such as building your network, gaining additional experiences, changing employers, strengthening your career brand, or pursuing additional training/education/certifications. Questions to ask yourself:
- What do I need to prepare myself for this next step?
- Do I need to find a new employer to make the next step?
- How do I position myself for this next step?
Step Six: Share Your Career Vision.
Are your career goals and action plans feasible? Schedule a meeting with your mentor(s) and to get reactions to your plan, as well as advice for achieving it.
Final Thoughts on Career Year-End Reviews
Once you've completed these six steps, you should not only know yourself and your career better, but have some specific goals and action steps to help you progress along a career plan.
Another benefit from completing this year-end review is that the results from part of the analysis should assist you in updating your resume if you have not been keeping it current as the year progressed. Even if you are extremely happy with your employer, it makes sense to have a current resume for that once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, or worse, if your employer decides its time to downsize the workforce.
Finally, use these free Quintessential Careers resources to assist you with your career year-end review and plan for your future:
- Using a SWOT Analysis in Your Career Planning
- The Art of Career and Job-Search Networking
- Career Branding Tutorial
- Career Planning Articles
- Your Career Planning and Job-Search Calendar
- Plotting Story of Your Ideal Career
- Moving Up the Ladder: 10 Strategies for Getting Yourself Promoted
- Value of a Mentor: Find Yourself a Mentor
- Workplace Resources for Dealing With Your Current Job/Employer
Questions about some of the terminology used in this article? Get more information (definitions and links) on key college, career, and job-search terms by going to our Job-Seeker's Glossary of Job-Hunting Terms.