It’s finally December, and you’ve worked hard all year long. You wrote enough emails to fill a novel. You spent an average of seven hours a day on your computer. And, if you were working full-time, you probably spent 42 hours of your life battling traffic during your daily commute.
Whoa. If anyone deserves a chance to kick back and relax, it’s you!
But as tempting as it may be to spend the rest of December curled up with a big mug of cocoa, a snuggly blanket, and a never-ending Netflix queue, you probably want to avoid hibernating all month long.
Regardless of whether your job status is employed or unemployed, you shouldn’t underestimate the importance of getting a jump-start on your career in the year ahead in the final days of the month.
Use the next few weeks wisely so that you can finish 2015 feeling clear, focused, and organized when the year comes to an inevitable close. (If you’re job hunting, this is an especially good time to get your ducks in a row because January is one of the best times to apply for a new job.)
Here are 20 career-boosting action steps to complete before the clock strikes midnight on New Year’s Eve.
1. Write Down Your Wins
Make a list of your top 10 professional accomplishments from the past year. You can incorporate these “wins” into your resume the next time you spruce it up—employers love seeing descriptions of “accomplishments” as opposed to “duties.”
2. Congratulate Someone on His or Her Career Success
By celebrating others’ “wins,” you’ll reinforce the belief that you’re a positive, encouraging person—two qualities that are on every employer’s wish list!
3. Redesign Your Professional Materials
Order beautiful new business cards. And then, when that’s set, think about revamping your personal website.
4. Clean Out Your Inbox
Don’t just delete old emails and archive others. Take the next step and unsubscribe from mailing lists that waste your time.
5. Send a Thank You Note
Think of a colleague, manager, or mentor who helped or inspired you this past year, and let that person know you’re grateful for his or her assistance or inspiration. Sure, you could use email. But it would be better to use pen and paper. A handwritten note is a simple, classy way to make people feel special—and strengthen your professional network.
6. Read Up on How to Get Your Resume Close to Perfection
More specifically, read these 43 tips. They will only get you closer to getting that job you want. So, tweak your resume accordingly, or don’t be afraid to start over from scratch instead of building on one you’ve had for years.
7. Make That Revamped Resume Stylish
Find a beautiful new template among one of these 275 free templates and go forward with confidence as you send it out. (After tailoring it for each job, of course.)
8. Contact an Expert if You’re Lost
If you’re feeling stuck or don’t know where to begin, it might be worth it to pay an expert or hire a coach to get you past your obstacle. (You can book a session with me or one of our other Muse coaches right here.)
9. Learn How to Answer the Most Common Interview Questions
Your resume’s only doing the first part of the talking. The interview step is hugely important and not one that you can risk blowing. Prepare in advance by running through these common questions and you’ll likely ace it.
10. Update Your Professional Wardrobe
Need some style inspiration, ladies? Or, gentleman? Make sure to purchase items that are both professional and industry-appropriate.
11. Invest in a Standing Desk
You won’t believe the health benefits, including reduced risk of cardiovascular disease. It’s well worth speaking to your office manager about getting one for the office.
12. Reorganize Your Workspace
Remove clutter. Add beauty. Make a vision board or write a career manifesto and hang it above your desk.
13. Get on a Healthier Sleep Schedule
It’s no news that many Americans are sleep deprived, and being chronically tired is just as bad as going into work tipsy. The more rest you give yourself, the sharper and more productive you will be.
14. Google Yourself
Distasteful social media content? Snarky blog comments? That YouTube video that you uploaded during Mardi Gras circa 2009 still around? Put yourself in a recruiter’s shoes, and make sure your online footprint makes a good first impression.
15. Take Your LinkedIn Presence to the Next Level
Start by adding a personal note when you send out invitations to join your network. You’d be surprised by how few people do this, so it’ll really make you stand out and get noticed.
16. Reach Out to 6 People You’d Like to Connect With
Start lining up coffee date for the first few weeks of January. (And before you go on any of them, make sure you know how to have the best coffee date ever.)
17. Choose a Skill You Want to Improve in 2016
It could be public speaking, time management, or creative writing. Sign up for a class, seminar, weekly writing group, whatever makes sense for you and whatever might get you motivated. Then decide how you’re going to develop that skill. Block out the time on your calendar now.
18. Read a Few Career-Boosting Classics
I recommend Stephen Covey’s Seven Habits of Highly Effective People and Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People. More of a listener? Subscribe to a smart podcast or two. Mmm. Brain food you’ll actually start to crave.
19. Fill Your Inspiration Tank to the Brim
Read these 45 beautiful pieces of career advice. Or these 50 inspirational quotes that’ll make you feel ready to take on the world. Or, at least your personal goals.
20. Write Out Your One-Year Plan
Whether you’re looking to make a move or are currently satisfied at your job, figure out what you plan to do to take your career to the next level. Maybe it’s telling your network you’re looking to make a move. Or, perhaps it’s getting a promotion (and a raise!). Whatever it is, figure out how you’re going to make it happen.
And if you do only one thing? Make an effort to re-connect with people you admire. Strengthen the relationships in your professional network. You never know how one follow-up email, thank-you note or holiday card might impact your career.
By Suzanne Gelb – TheMuse