Let’s face it: 2020 is a total dumpster fire the size of the event horizon of the massive black hole at the center of our galactic home. Thank goodness the year is almost over.
As you are contemplating your career and making plans to advance, there are a few actions you can take now as the year is coming to a close to position you for success in 2021 and beyond.
Take stock of your abilities
This is a perfect time to do an inventory of your skills from this year. Make a list of all the experiences you had over the last 12 months. Ask yourself: what problems did I solve? What tasks did I accomplish? And what skills did I utilize? Take this self-assessment one step further and determine what you loved and hated about the experiences. You might be surprised to discover that you loved working remotely (perhaps much more than you expected), and consequently, that you grew as a leader and developed multiple communications skills you didn’t even realize you had. Make a strengths and weaknesses list, and identify your career needs and wants. All of this is vital data to collect.
Consider your Covid experiences
Given the upending of almost every system due to the pandemic, there are bound to be lessons and knowledge you gained, and perhaps even additional abilities you sharpened as a result of responding. The very foundation of your response showcases your sense of resiliency. Take note of how you advanced as a person and professional as a result of Covid, and what you learned about yourself and your ability to work and contribute to your field. This step is especially relevant for those of us who faced significant professional setbacks during this year. You should know that even in the darkness, you emerged stronger and more capably than ever.
Update your marketing documents
The end of the year is an especially great time to review the materials you use to communicate your skills, experience, and problem-solving abilities. Once you do your skill and experience inventory, take a close look-see at your resume, curriculum vitae, cover letter templates, and LinkedIn profile. If you are in or interested in academia, you’ll also need to review your research, teaching, and diversity, equity and inclusion statements. Add your latest experiences and achievements, edit and refine to reflect what you did during the pandemic.
Organize your networks
Over the year, you have probably spoken with new people across the world. You may have connected with them on LinkedIn, through the AIChE membership directory or AIChE Engage, or saw them speak and chatted with them at the Virtual Annual Meeting. Now is the time to create and launch a system to organize these contacts so you can stay connected and keep the conversations going, growing, and flowing.
I use a system that combines LinkedIn (since almost all of my professional contacts have LinkedIn profiles, and my email and calendar (to keep track of when I want to follow up with contacts). Ideally, you want to use a customized system that works for how you collect and process data and allows ease of use and quick access to information. Experiment with a few ways to organize yourself and then leverage your process engineering skills to activate it! By organizing your networks, you will be able to see who you haven’t spoken with in a while. Now is the time to touch base.
Send holiday greetings
This is a terrific way to stay connected to your contacts and to show them you are thinking of them. You should not send a religion-specific, handwritten card. Simply email your contacts something like this: “I hope you and your family and colleagues are healthy and safe. I wanted to wish you a very happy holiday season and a happy new year. Here’s to a better 2021 for all of us.”
Make a plan
It is always a good idea to have a plan in place (at any given time) to ensure you are achieving the goals you have set for yourself. Take this month to design this plan for 2021. I appreciate using lists with specifically defined milestones and deadlines. Plan to take 10 actions throughout the year that will move your career forward in the way you want. Make a networking plan for the year, where you aim to reach out to 10 new colleagues every month. I typically start with the number 10, but pick a number that is reasonable and realistic for you to achieve.
Make a pay it forward plan
Who can you help this coming year? What actions can you take to give back to your community? Devise a strategy to make a difference in X number of people’s lives doing Y tasks. (Again, quantifying your actions is a huge motivator and creates an accountability system to actually get it done!)
Dedicate time to learning a new skill
We can always improve, so use this time to evaluate what skill (or skills) you could learn or hone to be stronger in the new year. Investigate mechanisms to gain proficiency.
Become a more engaged member of AIChE
Ask yourself: what can you do to leverage your membership, to serve the community and enable your career triumph? Contact the membership team to learn more about the many opportunities you can be a part of in the AIChE universe. Put key AIChE events and activities on your calendar, including conferences such as the Spring and Annual Meetings, as well as the Annual Student Conference and section meetings too. But also plan to apply for awards. Consider writing an article pitch for CEP or another of AIChE's publications. Look for chances to volunteer on committees and as a mentor.
Celebrate your success
You made it. No matter what your circumstances are and how you have been affected by the pandemic, you have a lot to celebrate. You demonstrated to and for yourself what you can do when faced with seemingly unsurmountable challenges. You proved your resiliency, fortitude, clarity of focus, and dedication to your field and community. The year was difficult to say the least, but here you are, ready for the next moment and experience. We don’t stop to honor ourselves as much as we should, so take this moment to appreciate how you made it through this flaming trash heap of a year. And recognize that that same strength will propel you forward to achieve your goals in the future. Here’s to your career advancement in 2021 and beyond!