Earlier this year, I read an article 5 Career-Boosting New Year’s Resolutions You’ll Actually Want to Keep by Lea McLeod, M.A. It was an inspiring read and I decided to put the ideas into action. I will share how I put the article into action for my career development. This article will serve as a case study in how you can take recommendations and apply them to grow your career.
1. Learn One Thing That Has No Career Application in Your Life
On this front, I learned more about the cultural influence of William Shakespeare. Specifically, I read the book, “How Shakespeare Changed Everything” by Stephen Marche which I picked up at the Stratford Festival last year. We can learn a lot from Shakespeare’s life (e.g. 8 Ways To Work Like William Shakespeare) and achievements. I was struck by how his works have been understood in so many different ways: as liberating to some and oppressive to others. I was surprised to learn that Tolstoy hated Shakespeare or several reasons including the lack of clear moral lessons. In contrast, I think Shakespeare points out the challenges of both knowing the right thing to do and actually doing it.
Lesson: There is much to be gained from enjoying Shakespeare’s works. If your last encounter with the Bard was in a dull classroom, I encourage you to give his works a new look.
2. Have One Experience That Stretches You
The open ended nature of this recommendation was a challenge at first. I decided to take a networking approach to this point and contact someone new. Specifically, I emailed a Senior Vice President at a large bank and asked to meet. I did have the advantage that this person was already presenting at a career panel (I was not able to attend the event due to previous commitments). The result? He responded promptly and referred me to a member of his team for a discussion. I had that follow up meeting and learned more about the executive’s organization and the opportunities.
Lesson: Look for ways to stretch yourself in pursuit of your goals. Specifically, I have been pleasantly surprised by how many executives and senior managers are open to meeting to me
3. Learn One Tech Skill
For this resolution, I decided to take a short course on Microsoft Excel skills. I use the application heavily for a variety of tasks so it made sense to test and deepen my skills in the area. Specifically, I have been studying Lynda’s 5 Day Excel Challenge. I have completed the first day of this challenge and look forward to continuing to use it. I like that this course is short and that it points out several solutions to a challenge. If you work with Excel frequently, I would recommend the course. Looking forward, I’m looking at earning an ITIL certification and a few possibilities on Coursera.
Lesson: Building on your technology strengths is valuable. It is one of the few areas where you can learn and apply shortcuts without losing quality.
4. Read 3 Books That’ll Push Your Career Forward
I love to read books so this was a great resolution to work on. The challenge was to decide on which books would be helpful. For this point, I will review four books that relate to career development. The challenge with business reading is to put the ideas into action. Sharing my notes on the books is my first step in application.
- The First 90 Days: Critical Success Strategies for New Leaders at All Levels by Michael D. Watkins. Aimed at executives and managers taking on new jobs, this book was a great read. The book presents some excellent models to analyze business situations (e.g. identifying whether a situation is “a start up”, “sustaining success”, “turnaround” or another case). The author makes an excellent point that leaping into action in a new organization is often destructive.
- Give and Take: A Revolutionary Approach to Success by Adam Grant. A book length exploration of how and why to help other people. Among other insights from the book, Grant finds that volunteering one hundred hours per year (preferably 2 hours per week) makes a positive impact to satisfaction, motivation and other success factors. The book also has a great chapter at the end with tips on applying the book’s insights. I look forward to reading Grant’s new book Originals later this year.
- The Start-up of You: Adapt to the Future, Invest in Yourself, and Transform your Career by Reid Hoffman and Ben Casnocha. This book makes the case that we need to see our careers as a start-up company. Each chapter ends with practical suggestions such as adding value to your network by introducing people. The book stood out most in the area of networking – that comes as no surprise given that the co-author is a key figure behind LinkedIn.
- The Productivity Project. Improving your personal productivity is important to career advancement at every level. Chris Bailey has made an excellent contribution to the productivity literature with his experimental approach. Earlier this year, I wrote a post about key insights from the book: Book Review: The Productivity Project.
Lesson: Books remain one of the world’s most important knowledge resources. A growing number of business books include action steps and other practical tips that make it easy to put the book’s ideas into action. If you feel overwhelmed by the number of ideas from a book, start by picking up one idea and putting it into action. You can always return to the book later for additional insights.
Resource: Explore 15 Best Books of 2015: Productivity, Perspective & More for additional book suggestions to move ahead in your career.
5. Plan One Unplugged Weekend—48 Hours With No Wi-Fi
This was a challenging resolution to keep and I mostly achieved it during a weekend trip last month. I went the weekend without using my computer and it was a refreshing change. I did bring and use my smartphone on the trip because I needed it for travel logistics and navigation.
Lesson: Stepping away from computers and your work from time to time is good for you!