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Tips for Getting Your Career in Shape

This morning while I was taking my walk/jog through the neighborhood, I made a mental note to log on to my account on the Internet when I got back home and record my distance. As is often the case, that thought triggered another and I began mentally reviewing how much I have accomplished in the past year when it comes to personal fitness. Then this thought popped into my head – wonder if professionals periodically recorded what they have accomplished.

With one week left in 2009, the air is a buzz with everyone talking about their New Year’s Resolution: Loose weight – get in shape – find a job – make a job change; all the standards. So these are my questions: If you were to accomplish that goal, what would your life look like one year from now? What would be different? How would you know?

I’d like to suggest an alternative approach to setting a New Year’s Resolution: Starting today, take time to write down on paper what you would like your career to look like a year from now. Getting the vision out of your head and on paper gives your vision “life” and “a voice” and makes it harder to ignore. Now, how can you make it happen?

Here are some things that worked for me once I described on paper what my life would look like a year from now if I accomplished my fitness goals:

Identify someone who inspires you. Be realistic, if you have never ridden a bike, Lance Armstrong might not be your best role model! Who do you know professionally that is where you would like to be? Choose someone who is somewhat like you in the way they think and act. Watch what they do and model their behavior.

Get a coach. I hired a personal fitness trainer for two reasons: 1) I needed an accountability partner to make sure I did what I said I’d do; and 2) I needed someone who would tell me when to push a little harder, “spot” me so I wouldn’t fall, help me realistically pace myself, acknowledge my progress and boost my confidence.

Keep a log. I actually recommend three “logs” that every professional should keep:
• A Professional Development Log * to document ever workshop or teleseminar you complete, every conference you attend, and every, credit, certification, or credential you earn.
• An Accomplishments Log * to document your “STAR Stories” and keep track of problems you have solved, processes you have improved, and money you have helped the company make or save.
• A Kudos’s File which is actually a file folder where you keep copies of any awards and recognitions you receive (silly as well as serious); thank you notes from customers, clients and or co-workers, email messages that praise your work, and performance appraisals.

Review your actions and strive for progress. When I map my walk, I compare how many miles I walked this week to last and challenge myself to walk further. Check your logs: if you have not added a professional development activity in a month, enroll in a class or complete a workshop. If you have not solved a problem or accepted a new challenge in a month, take action. If you have not been recognized by a customer or colleague, find a way to make a difference.

One year from now when you reflect back on your career, how will it be different and how will you know? It’s your career – if you aren’t managing it, then no one is. Don’t wait for the New Year’s Ball to fall in Times Square – start today!