How’s your career looking these days?
It’s important not to get too caught up in the rat race. Peer-to-peer comparisons are usually apples-to-oranges affairs. Your college roommate’s impressive new title might not mean much — maybe her company has more VPs than associates, or she works at a scrappy startup where junior executives double as data entry grunts.
On the other hand, don’t fight what’s obvious to everyone else. If you’re stuck in the professional doldrums, it’s up to you to make a change. These four simple decisions could pay dividends for your career this year.
1. Improve Your Personal Productivity
Start with a concerted effort to improve your productivity. Don’t announce that you’re doing this, of course — actions speak louder than words, and anyway, your work will undoubtedly improve once you’ve made some changes.
Not sure where to start? Seek out easy-to-implement productivity tips from experts, or use a low-cost task management system to keep yourself organized and motivated. If all else fails, hire a part-time virtual assistant to manage repetitive, low-value tasks, like fielding emails and updating your calendar.
2. Attend a Retreat Workshop
Take a break from the daily grind and refocus on what really matters at a multi-day retreat workshop. Opportunities abound — you might prefer a workshop for professionals in your field, a seminar that drills down into issues you encounter in the workplace everyday, or more philosophical enterprises that teach new tools and strategies for ordering one’s life.
“The aim of [our] Workshops is to provide you with the discipline, perspective, narrative and freedom required for a life of your own design — the rewarding experience of being in control of your life,” writes contemporary American thinker Arnold Siegel, of his Autonomy and Life Retreat Workshops.
Being in control of your own life — that’s a pretty tempting proposition for ambitious, upwardly mobile professionals.
3. Take Stock of Your Strengths and Weaknesses
Painful as it is, you need to have an objective understanding of your own strengths and weaknesses.
Before you gun for more responsibility within your current organization or send out feelers to other employers, it’s especially important to have a realistic picture of your personal weaknesses.
After all, you’re not truly ready to test the job market until you can honestly answer that all-important question: “What’s your biggest weakness?”
4. Learn How to Ask for a Raise — Then Do It
When all else fails, ask for a pay raise.
Actually, you shouldn’t ever be shy about asking for a raise. Confident professionals know that it’s perfectly acceptable to ask for more money and better benefits every year, even if regular step-ups aren’t built into their contracts.
In a tight labor market, compensation is a powerful negotiating lever. If your employer seems hesitant (or flat out refuses) to pay you more, start looking for a new employer that will. You can use any offers — even expressions of interest — to force the issue with your current boss.