A Better Career in One Year: 12 Simple Steps

Career advancement is not just for the young and the hungry. In January 2018, the Bureau of Labor and Statistics reported the median number of years that wage and salary workers had been with their current employer was 4.2 years. The notion of staying at a job until you retire is officially GONE!

Your career is no longer defined by the company you work for, but by the skills you have mastered, the performance metrics you have earned, and your ability to advance the company’s objectives while keeping yourself relevant. That may sound like harsh and unwanted news to the more seasoned employee, but I’d like to offer a different perspective.

We work to make money, of course, but we also work to push our own limits and are often surprised (and even fulfilled) by what we can accomplish. If you have high expectations for your work performance, you are certain to meet those expectations and those around you will certainly take notice. Advancing in your career, no matter what age you are, means that you are engaged and curious, and an active contributor to the workforce.

How do you take your career to the next level in just one year without burning out or finding yourself at a dead end?

  • Plan wisely and take consistent, measured action.
  • Focus on one task each month, so there is room to explore and time to think about the information you receive, and what your next step will be.

“Success is neither magical nor mysterious. Success is the natural consequence of consistently applying basic fundamentals.” 
― E. James Rohn

I’ve compiled a list of 12 “get my career on track” ideas, one for each month. You can do these all in one month and repeat every month, if you like. Or you can take one at a time. How you choose to tackle it is up to you—there are no rules. Like everything in life; the amount of effort you put into it will show in what you get out of it.

1) Follow companies on social media. Make it a habit to be “in the know” about companies in your industry so you have a handle on the bigger picture. Use LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Glassdoor, Instagram, etc., to check out what other companies are saying, and make sure to be a part of the conversation. Comment on their posts and offer your perspective. Engage with others in the forum. This will make you more visible to the entire industry, and it will also make you feel more confident in your own role because you are contributing to a larger conversation.

2) Expand your industry network. Part of developing as a professional means growing your network, so find out about small groups or larger organizations within your industry. Attend their meetings and join the ones that suit you. Industry conventions and workshops are essential for keeping up with trends, new developments. Start by using LinkedIn to connect with people you want to get to know. You can also use LinkedIn to search for popular industry groups and events.

3) Nurture professional relationships. Grab coffee or lunch outside of the office with someone you’d like to learn from or collaborate with and begin to develop an equitable relationship with them. Schedule your meeting well in advance (a month is a good time frame), that way you both have it on your calendar, and there’s less resistance from the other person to avoid scheduling something without much notice. Before meeting think about what you would like to learn from them and how you may be able to help them. Try to keep it a win/win for both parties.

4) Reconnect with alumni from prior jobs or college. Keeping up with past relationships has paid off for so many of my clients. Be sure to use LinkedIn to officially connect with colleagues and friends. Add a personal touch by sending them a quarterly email or Facebook message to catch up and hear their news.

5) Create your own mastermind group. Masterminds are powerful tools for success. All of the members help each other achieve their goals and support each other through rough spots. It’s like creating your own thinktank for career success.

6) Mentor a junior colleague. Mentoring is a terrific way to give back and help your company at the same time. The mentor-mentee relationship is a special one that creates a positive ripple effect throughout the organization. It doesn’t have to be time-consuming. Quarterly meetings are ample.

7) Find a mentor for yourself. No matter how seasoned you are, there is always more to learn. The value of a mentor is his/her perspective. Seeing things from a different point of view opens up your career options at the moment and also long-term. A mentor can also offer their knowledge for your benefit. Again, it is a win/win situation.

8) Volunteer for an organization that shares your values. Having a productive work life means you need to recharge and have something to look forward to when the 5 o’clock whistle blows. Hobbies and projects, interests and activities all help you clear your mind from work issues, so you are fresh and ready to work again on Monday morning. Volunteering is an important part of your time away from work. Nothing feels better than giving back. And you’ll probably discover you have more to give than you ever imagined.

9) Read more. Make a list of the best professional development books for you and commit to reading at least one a month. It will help you learn, grow and succeed in your career plans.

10) Learn a new software. Having knowledge of a software program can be the key to a promotion, a better job or a little more job security. People shy away from learning software programs because they think it will be hard to do or they might fail. The truth is that technology could not be easier to learn or access these days. With step-by-step guides (and if you are learning from a video, you can pause and rewind it as many times as you need), or a class format, you are going to get the support you need to master the software. Make a list of all the software tools you want to learn, then ask: Why do I want to learn this? Which one would be most helpful to my career? Do I need to take a class, or just get started figuring it out? Pick the one that’s right for you to learn right now. Click here for some popular software learning platforms.

11) Take a class. Advancing your career means growing, and what better way to do that than by learning? You can take an advanced class for a skill you already have, or learn a new skill. Take a class or join a group (like Toastmasters). You can get a certification or professional designation or you can learn soft skills like negotiation strategies that will help you in your daily work life.

12) Send holiday cards to thank the people that impacted you in 2019. Research has shown how gratitude greases the wheels of our intentions. Thanking the people that have impacted you is a very professional and chic way to show your gratitude. The note doesn’t have to be elaborate, but it does have to be personalized. A few lines of thanks will go a long way.

Creating a better career path does not have to be difficult or complicated. Making some solid steps forward with will change where you are dramatically in one year.


Julia Holian of Holian Associates is a Career Strategist and Gallup-Certified Strengths Coach based in the Bay Area. She helps career-focused professionals pinpoint what that want to do with their career, then showcase their talents in order to move up in their chosen field or re-enter the job market. Julia leverages her extensive leadership experience in executive management, business development, team building and recruiting to help her clients navigate the nuances of asking for new projects or a promotion, networking, interviewing, creating a job search plan, negotiating compensation, and successfully assimilating into a new role. Learn more about Julia on our website and at  www.LinkedIn.com/in/JuliaHolian.

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