For many people reinvention is front in center in their minds as we enter the New Year. While most focus on losing weight and saving more money, reinvention can also be about your career. Whether you are star employee looking to move up or dealing with a bad reputation there are multiple ways to reinvent yourself in the workplace.
“The beginning of a new year is always a perfect time to take stock and think about what you may want to achieve in your career,” says Cali Williams Yost, CEO and founder of Flex + Strategy Group/Work + Life Fit and author of Tweak It: Make What Matters To You Happen Every Day. “But it’s not enough to define what the change is. You have to put a plan in place to make the change happen.”
One of the main reasons people fail when it comes to New Year’s resolution is they don’t figure out realistic ways to reach their goals. Take weight loss as an example. Many people resolve to lose weight, but they don’t think about how they are going to achieve it whether it be going to the gym five days a week or forgoing the desert at night. Same can be said about reinventing yourself as it pertains to your career. Let’s say you want to move into another department. It’s not enough to say you are going to do that in 2014. You have to figure what skills you may need and you have to identify the right people to network with.
But before you can even put a plan in place, career experts say you have to engage in some self- reflection, especially if you are struggling within your job or company. “One of the first steps in reinventing yourself is taking a look at yourself and acknowledging some short comings you might have or development areas that need improvement,” says Paul McDonald, senior executive director at Robert Half. After that, McDonald says to make a list of the areas you think you need to improve and then seek out advice from your mentors or trusted advisors who will be willing to give you unbiased advice. You want people who aren’t afraid to tell you the truth – and not yes men and women who will simply reaffirm whatever it is you think about yourself and your work. “Talk to people who know you well on a professional and personal level,” says McDonald. “Some people will give you an honest answer and some won’t.”
Doing a self-assessment and asking for advice is one thing, but in order for you to be successful in your reinvention you have to be willing to take the advice, criticism and feedback you are getting, even if you don’t agree. According to Neil Lenane, business leader of talent management at Progressive Insurance, employees have to be open-minded to the feedback, particularly if it’s a different perspective than their own. “In today’s business environment people have to be agile and willing to do different things even when they are performing well,” says Lenane.
It also pays to be a good observer when you are trying to reinvent yourself. McDonald says to find someone you admire in the office and observe how he or she handles themselves in meetings, with other co-workers and out with clients. Keep in mind when emulating someone to make sure it’s an employee who is respected within the organization. The last thing you want to do is take a page from someone who is despised or is close to being on the chopping block.
With your feedback and plan in hand, the final step is breaking down your goals into small manageable pieces instead of trying to do it all at once, says Yost. Let’s say your goal is to learn a new skill to move up the ladder in your organization. Part of reaching that goal could include taking a class to learn the skills, finding opportunities to test those skills and identifying a mentor to help you progress. Once you have the basics you then have to figure out ways to make those different goals manageable so you stay committed to the reinvention. “It’s really about breaking it down into small actions and priorities and then intentionally and deliberately making it part of your work life week to week,” says Yost. “Over time you’ll get to your goal.”
Rightly or wrongly, often employees in an organization develop a reputation of either being a good or bad worker. If you fall into the latter, it’s not too late to turn that around, granted your reputation isn’t tarnished beyond repair. If you made a few mistakes along the way you can overcome negative perceptions and improve your personal brand within the company, says Amanda Augustine, the job search expert at TheLadders. A surefire way to do that is to demonstrate your improvements rather than talking about them. It’s not enough to proclaim you are going to be on time every day, for example. You actually have to do it. “Actions speak louder than words. Don’t tell people how you have changed; prove it through your actions,” says Augustine. “Look for opportunities to add value. No matter how you ended up damaging your brand, it goes without saying that you should strive to be the model employee for the foreseeable future.”