New Year: Time for Change!

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By Lori Smith

It is a long-held tradition to celebrate with family and friends to ring in the New Year and to make New Year’s resolutions. Each year people hope for a better year than the one before, a new year that encompasses health and happiness. While we are not certain about what exactly the year ahead has in store for us, we can be relatively sure that it will involve change. This is a perfect opportunity to reassess your career planning. To get started, conduct a Personal SWOT Analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) on your current position.

Strengths/Weaknesses: Identify your strengths. Think about your values, interests and skills. What differentiates you from the competition? How can these help you obtain a position or advance in your current position? Next, identify your weaknesses. What are some things that you could do better or need to learn? Do these impede your ability to advance in your career? Do you need to further your education, obtain certifications, or complete an internship to meet your goals? These are things that ARE under your control.

Opportunities/Threats: Recognize and search out opportunities which can propel your career. Is there a position opening that you would like to apply for? Do you have an opportunity to make a connection which can help you in your career? Take advantage of these chances by taking action and making the necessary change or commitment. Detect any threats that are out there which can stand in the way of your career goals. Is the outlook for your field bleak? Is there a large amount of competition? What can you do to avoid these threats? Although opportunities and threats are both things that ARE NOT under your control, how you react to them is.

Now that you have a better understanding of your current position, you are ready to make necessary changes and strengthen your strategic career plan. Work on your personal branding to make sure it highlights your strengths and is in line with your career goals. Last year, I had the wonderful opportunity to meet and listen to Nacie Carson, CEO of Working Life Media, LLC. Nacie also is the author of, The Finch Effect, a book about personal branding and making the most out of opportunities. I would highly recommend this as a resource in your strategic career planning.

What’s On Your Winter Break Bucket List?

By Lori Smith

December not only marks the beginning of winter but also the holiday season. Although this is certainly a happy time for most people it can also be a very stressful time as well. It is crunch time for students to complete class projects, assignments and final exams. In anticipation of the winter break many students create a bucket list of things to do such as relaxing, catching up with friends and traveling. It is important to take time to slow down and partake in relaxing activities to rejuvenate. While this is true, it doesn’t mean that you should only focus on “fun” activities. Take advantage of this time off to also advance your career development. Consider adding some of the following to your bucket list:

Resume
Update your resume. Review your accomplishments, add courses completed, activities, internships, volunteer experiences, and GPA. Your resume is a living document and will always need to be updated. It is easiest if you keep it as current as possible so that it will be ready whenever an opportunity arises.

Social Media
LinkedIn is a valuable tool for networking and the job search. Take this time to update your account or to create a LinkedIn account if you don’t already have one. Upload a professional picture of yourself; create a professional summary, list positions you have held, and your achievements. LinkedIn provides many tutorials to assist you.

Make Connections
Winter break provides many opportunities to network: parties, family gatherings, meeting up with old friends and making new acquaintances. Sharing your career goals and asking others about theirs is a great beginning. Networking is all about making connections and seeing how you can help one another.

Volunteer
Not only is volunteering a much needed community service, it will make you feel good about yourself and help others in the process. Many companies are looking for well-rounded candidates. Be sure to include any volunteerism on your resume.

Job Shadowing/Informational Interviews
Job Shadowing and informational interviews are a great way to find out more about a position that you feel may be of interest to you. Use your network to identify and reach out to someone you may be interested in shadowing or interviewing. Many people would be flattered and welcome the opportunity to give back to others. Chances are that someone helped them along the way.
Having a well-balanced bucket list will allow for you to make the most out of your winter break. It is never too early to begin preparing for your career. Taking some steps along your career path will allow you to return spring semester feeling refreshed and self-confident.