By: Sara Jensen, VP of Business Development
Published By: The San Diego Patch.

It is never too early to start thinking about changes you want to make in the new year. Employers are now discovering the importance and benefits of high-quality professional development and career education opportunities for employees. “Nine in ten organizations surveyed by the Hay Group division of Korn Ferry (KFY) in 2016 said they use four or more alternative methods of rewarding employees, including career development. Eighty-seven percent of respondents from this survey also agreed that alternative awards in addition to a salary are essential to retaining talent from an organization.” Educational opportunities from employers can be great, but you don’t have to wait until the next lunch-and-learn to sharpen your skills. More than ever, employees have the opportunity to take charge of their own careers to advance and grow on their terms. Now is the time to take a deeper look at your career as the new year begins!

Tip 1: Write a one-year plan

Take some time to think about where you want to be this year in your career. Are you looking for a career change or are you looking to grow within your existing industry or career? After narrowing down your end goal, work backwards and identify what steps you must take to achieve your goal.

Tip 2: Connect with five people you respect

Brainstorm a list of people you admire both professionally and personally. After you feel satisfied with your list, invite them out to coffee. This is your opportunity to network and learn how they got to where they are today.

Tip 3: Seek professional development opportunities

Continuous learning is always beneficial. Look for ways you can continue to develop within your current career or in areas that will help you move to a new career. Consider attaining a new credential, joining an industry association or volunteering for a “stretch” assignment at your job to help you cultivate new skills.

Tip 4: Consider having a portfolio career

Are you looking for a new challenge, but still like your current career? Change the mindset that you can only have one career at a time and research a “portfolio career.” More and more individuals are adopting this new style of career path that entails combining a full-time position with one or more part-time or freelance “gigs.” Some even work multiple part-time gigs that are equivalent to a full-time job. Professionals who explore this path enjoy the flexibility and independence it can offer in addition to the opportunity to pursue passion projects.

Tip 5: Tell others your goals

Others will hold you accountable if you let them know you are actively trying to revamp your career. You can tell whoever you are comfortable with or a trusted person who can help keep you on track. This can be you family, colleagues or a career coach. Communicating your plan and asking for help to remain committed will help ensure your goals remain a top priority.

Take the new year as an opportunity for personal growth and reflection. Do some research and remember to write down all your ideas as you craft your one-year plan and identify your goals for the year. Taking this approach will allow you to take control of your career path and open doors towards opportunities that align with your professional goals. A solid plan accompanied by support from friends, family and colleagues can guide the way to a more purposeful new year.

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