Whether you hit a career slump this year or, worse yet, got demoted, there's no reason to think you can't quickly turn things around. With a new year right around the corner, now's the perfect time to map out a strategy for revitalizing your career. Here are six solutions that'll help you get back on track.
1. Take initiative
If your career hasn't been progressing the way you would've liked, perhaps it's because you've allowed yourself to grow complacent in your role and responsibilities. A better bet? Show your company you're not only motivated, but a competent leader, by volunteering to head up a new project in 2018. It might be something you propose yourself, or an existing initiative begging to be managed. Either way, if you take that project and run with it, you'll prove how valuable you are.
2. Learn to be more assertive
It's often the case that timid or reserved employees get stuck in a rut. If assertiveness doesn't come naturally to you, it's time to change your ways. Some people shy away from standing their ground because they don't want to come off as pushy, but the more confidence you exude, and the firmer you are in your decisions, the more people will start to take you seriously.
How do you go from shy to assertive overnight? You don't -- but you can build up to it over time. For one thing, kick the habit of apologizing for disagreeing with others. As long as you're respectful, that's not something to be sorry about. Furthermore, stop qualifying your statements in meetings or team discussions. Rather than say "I don't know if this will work, but...," try "Here's what I think we should do." You'd be amazed at how a few changes in the way you speak and interact work wonders for your reputation.
3. Expand your business network
If your career seems to have gotten off course, one of the best things you can do for yourself in the coming year is establish a solid business network. Contrary to what some might believe, your goal in networking shouldn't be to amass the longest list of contacts. Rather, focus your efforts on finding the right contacts and building strong relationships that can help your career.
You might, for example, ask a manager on another team to help you learn about a different area of the business you're interested in. Or, you might join a professional association and meet key contacts through conferences and events. Knowing the right people will open the door to new opportunities, which will help you revive your career more quickly than you'd think.
4. Learn some new skills
No matter your line of work, there's no such thing as having too many skills. If your career needs a boost, work on expanding your knowledge set next year so that you not only increase your job-related options, but become the sort of worker your employer comes to rely on. This could mean taking a course, getting certified in your field, or shadowing other people in your company to learn from them. Or, it could mean beefing up some universal job skills, like time management and communication.
5. Set a measurable goal -- and hit it
It's not always possible to precisely measure the value a given employee brings to the table. But if you're looking to move your career in the right direction, it pays to establish some goals that are easy to highlight with numbers. This might mean aiming to save your company $20,000 this year if you're on the operations team, or working to increase sales by 10% if you're a marketing manager. Though not every workplace contribution has a number attached to it, accumulating data points in your favor will work wonders for your career.
6. Work with a career counselor
Many people scoff at the idea of hiring a career counselor. After all, why pay a professional to help you find a new job or improve at your current one when you can enlist the help of friends and colleagues, or just pledge to work on things yourself?
The benefit of career counselors, though, is that they're trained to help you understand the things that hold you back at work, and the things that make you tick. You might, for example, keep working tirelessly to bust out of a dead-end job, only to realize that you're in the wrong profession entirely. Or, you might think you're incapable of moving up at your company, only to learn that a few key changes will likely improve your odds. Though not all career counselors are created equal, there are many who are quite good at what they do, so if you're stuck in a bad spot career-wise, consider giving one a shot.
The start of a new year is a great time to reassess your career and work to improve it. Follow these tips, and with any luck, 2018 will be your most successful one yet.