As 2008 begins, it’s the perfect opportunity for a Career Tune-up. The New Year provides a natural time to evaluate how your career progressed over the past year and to determine what you want for the year ahead. Investing time in assessment and planning will enable you to have a greater impact on your professional development.

The Past Year

When you review your career milestones of the past year, you’ll want to take a candid look at what worked and what didn’t work for you, your clients and your organization. Defining this will help you to make decisions about next year.

First, start with what went well this year. What accomplishments are you most proud of and which have had the most impact? In what situations were you successful? Where did you significantly contribute your expertise and your energy? For what situations did you receive great feedback?

Once you’ve defined these positives of the past year, celebrate or reward yourself. Accomplished, achievement-oriented professionals are very good at figuring out ways to improve or defining what did not work well, but often forget this valuable step of acknowledging what they did well. How and when will you celebrate your past year’s victories?

Next, review the year looking for challenges you’ve had, mistakes you’ve made and skill areas that you want to improve. As you create this list, be analytical not critical. Come from a perspective of ‘what would have made this year better?’ not ‘what was wrong with me?’ Remember, you can’t change what has happened in the past. You’ll want to use it to help you be more effective in the future.

Now you’ll use the challenges list that you just created. Use hindsight to evaluate and learn. With each item on the list, describe how you might have done things differently. What would have been the preferred action, response or result? Think creatively about changes you want to make for yourself and how you operate.

So far, this exercise has been focused on you. Now you’ll want to look beyond how you impacted your performance this year to examine external influences. Identify which people in your professional life encouraged, supported and enhanced you - as well as those who might have discouraged, hindered or harmed you professionally. What mechanisms within your organization were supportive and where did politics or policies get in the way of your progress?

The New Year

With a detailed review of the year completed and a clear picture of what happened in 2007, you can now move in to planning mode to define what you want for 2008.

Start by identifying your professional priorities for the year ahead. How do you want to grow and change in the year ahead? Where do you want to focus your expertise, talents and skills? If you imagine yourself looking back at the end of 2008, what will you be proud of having accomplished?

Select only three or four items as your professional priorities. You’ll be working on more areas during the year ahead, but you want to be clear and focused on what is most important. Be sure these priorities are written in a SMART way. SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Relevant and Time-based. This will increase the likelihood that you will accomplish these goals.

Now that you know what you’ll be working on the year ahead, you’ll need to quantify who and what can support you. First, identify the people you want on your team. Who can assist you with advice, mentorship, sharing experience and wisdom?

You’ll also want to define what new knowledge or skills you’ll want to obtain. Are there training classes or further education that you want to enroll in? What interpersonal or organizational skill development might enhance your overall professional presentation?

Most people begin a new year with a resolution to shed a few pounds. The next part of the Career Tune-up requires you to determine which people and habits you need to shed from your professional realm.

Look at the list above you created with people who have negatively impacted you professionally the past year. How do you need to alter your relationship with them? This might include giving them feedback on how their behavior has impacted you, requesting that they change their behavior or setting a boundary on how you will interact with them. All these activities have the common goal of eliminating drains on your productivity, performance and confidence.

Now you need to look inward. What behaviors or habits do you regularly engage in that limit your career progression? Do you regularly arrive late at work? Talk negatively about colleagues? Miss important deadlines? Forget to return phone calls? What do you need to stop doing in order to continue on your desired career trajectory?

Finally, and most importantly, you need to define how you want your new plan for professional success in 2008 to fit with the overall big picture of your life. Your career does not occur in a vacuum. Therefore, you can not make plans for professional change and development without considering what else is important in your life.

Think about how much you want to work, how you want work to impact your time away from work, what is missing in your life that would make you feel better about yourself, and thus better about work. You are now creating your vision for your career and life for 2008.

Dive in to this process, and have a planned and productive 2008.

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Author's Bio: 

Julie Cohen, PCC, is a Career Coach. She helps her clients clarify and achieve their professional and personal goals including greater career satisfaction, life balance, leadership development and personal growth. For questions, comments or to discuss this article, Julie can be reached by visiting