By Christie Day
It’s not just a New Year, but a new decade we have to plan for – what better time for some professional resolutions or even an entire career revolution? Let’s gloss over dry January, Veganuary, Gym January, because far more important than that self-inflicted abstinence is filling our bellies full of fire to achieve our career and business ambitions.
Every year, millions of people might pledge professional self-improvement but, without a carefully crafted plan, there is a high chance that these good intentions will fall by the wayside before the month is out. In fact, a whopping 80% of New Year resolutions are said to fail by the second week of February. Which is why our team of experts at Women in Business Expo have put together these five top tips to help you set the right goals and improve your chances of success. Not only to kick start your career, but to ensure you keep and achieve them beyond the first few months.
People’s career resolutions typically fail because change is difficult, and it’s so much easier to stick to the same professional routine. This is particularly true for women returning to work after a career break or people wanting to start their own business. It’s about having the confidence in your ability and embracing change. Yes, you need courage and commitment but it will be less of a daunting prospect if you focus on your true capabilities. There are several practical exercises you could do to help build your confidence - such as documenting your transferrable skills, pinpoint your personal USP or collating the compliments you’ve had from peers in your current/previous roles. Recognise your main strengths and get prepared to make a change.
Take the first step
When Nelson Mandela said “vision without action is just a dream”, he may have been talking about life in general but it certainly applies when taking charge of our careers. In other words, we can plan, set goals and create a list of personal KPIs for the year - yet it is only action that will bring results. Whatever the career ambition, whether it is progressing a business idea, changing sectors or working for a company more aligned to your values – you need to take the first step to make it happen. That ‘action’ could be as simple as signing up with a recruitment company, polishing your CV or registering for a business event for inspiration.
Make goals achievable
When we fear change but we need to take action – the common-sense solution is to take small positive steps to achieve your goals. After all, it is pretty hard to perform at your best if you think a task is too complex or a goal is out of reach. Ask yourself whether your end career goal is possible – do you have the necessary skills and commitment to make it work in the long term? Rather than pressuring yourself - set goals that are easy and measurable. For example, if you’re worried about start up costs for a business idea, make an appointment to see a small business advisor at a bank or research financial options online. If there is a gap in your skill set for a role you want, could you sign up to a short course to strengthen your knowledge? These box-ticking exercises will accumulate towards the long term goal and boost your sense of achievement.
Don’t let insecurity get in the way of your career ambitions. If we look at the most successful business people and entrepreneurs, their level of confidence in both their ideas and ability is unfaltering. Focus on the positives, whether it is in your personal capabilities or a new product or service idea. That doesn’t mean that you’re not open to constructive feedback or critique, but a positive mind set will see you through the inevitable knockbacks along the way. Frame failure as an opportunity to learn and make improvements.
No, we’re not back to Veganuary/Dry January! Although career-related resolutions can take a long time to accomplish so both physical and mental health are obviously important elements in sustaining a successful career. What we’re talking about here is investing in yourself - your ability to grow professionally will be driven by exposure to new ideas. Whether you are going for promotion or going for a complete change, embrace every educational opportunity both formal and informal. Online seminars, distance learning qualifications, local business groups or national career events. You are the priority and there are hundreds of options to help you build your knowledge, experience and contacts - and bolster your overall professional development.
So it’s a new year, new decade and a new events calendar to offer motivation and inspiration to all women looking to realise their career and business ambitions. The inaugural Women in Business Expo North takes place in Manchester Central on June 30-Jul 1 2020 and the Women in Business Expo will be held in Farnborough on 14-15 October 2020.