“Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.” -Abraham Lincoln
You could say in one way that this quote promotes procrastination, or you can say that it encourages preparation for success. I believe that President Lincoln’s intention was to encourage preparation—the right kind of preparation. The best tool to chop down a tree is a sharp axe. If you try to chop a tree down with a dull axe, you will spend a lot of exhaustive time and energy on something that will take much longer than if you had spent time sharpening the axe. With a sharp axe, you are prepared and can chop that tree down in no time!
Of course, I’m no lumberjack; but this quote can also be applied to your career. With the right tools, you can get your career started much faster versus procrastinating and not sharpening or improving your tools.
Procrastination—a word that we hate the sound of, but an action, or rather an inaction that we embrace daily. January 2017 is right around the corner. You may tell yourself that it’s far away, that you have plenty of time to prepare for the new year, but it will come much faster than you think.
What have you done to prepare for the career you want in 2017? Are you spending time focused on sharpening your skills and talents now, in order to develop the career you want for yourself in the new year? Don’t expect your career to happen overnight. It will take hard work and time. Procrastination is your enemy and it’s time to kick it in the rear!
There are FIVE things you need to do NOW if you want your career to look different in 2017.
1. Make your Decisions
It’s time to stop talking and brainstorming about what you want to do. If you want your professional life to look different in 2017, it’s time for you to start making decisions. Decide what you want your career to look like and what skills you will need to focus on improving or building upon in order to start your new career.
2. Create a Plan of Action
Once you know what you want to do and the skills you need to focus on, it’s time to put your plan of action together. If you need to improve or update some of your skills, look into online courses or local courses at your community college that can help you with this. Don’t stop at the research stage; actually sign up for the courses and attend them.
Get your tools in order that will help you establish your career. This means that you need to include time within your plan to create your resume, cover letter, professional portfolio of work samples, and social media profiles such as LinkedIn.
3. Work at it Every Day
I recently viewed a webinar, “How to Writer Better”, lead by Joshua Millburn. Joshua pointed out that in order to improve your writing and be successful, you have to “sit in the chair”. What he meant by this phrase is that you have to work at it every day, even when you don’t want to. If you just simply “sit in the chair” and put pen to paper or fingers to keys, you are likely to produce something great or at least derive practice and learn what doesn’t work.
This same concept applies to developing your career. If you want to make it happen, you have to spend time every day working towards your goals. Maybe you have to wake up an hour earlier before work each day like Joshua did. Maybe you have to cut out your TV time in the evening, or the amount of time you spend on social media. Whatever it is, you need to make it happen—make time each and every day to work towards your goal of having the career you want in 2017. It may seem difficult in the beginning, but having the career you want will make it all worthwhile.
4. Hold Yourself Accountable
If you’re like me, and most people, you will create your plan of action and decide how you will work towards your goal each day, but then you will procrastinate. If your goal is to wake up earlier each day, when your alarm goes off at 0500 you need to have a reason to get out of the cozy bed and get to work. Sometimes, your goal itself isn’t a big enough reason when you’re groggily lying in your warm bed. Sometimes you need to have someone to answer to.
Consider getting an Accountability Partner—someone who will check up on how you’re doing with your goals each day and make sure that you’re following through. If you know that you have someone to answer to, you will be surprised how much it can motivate you to get up and slog through the hard work each day. Just imagine how you will feel when your friend, family member, or even your Career Coach asks you, “So, how did you do with creating your resume this morning?” Would you rather say “no” and make excuses, or would you rather be victorious and give an actual progress update? I would much prefer the latter, if I were in your shoes.
You should also consider using tools that will help you stay on track with your action plan. Calendar reminders, apps like Todoist, or any type of tool that reminds you and forces you to look at it and remember your goal.
5. Put Yourself Out There
Don’t just start all of these things and not tell someone. If you want to make it real for yourself, let your friends and family know what you are doing. Yes, you may hear some negative feedback or you may be told that it can’t be done. Get over it. Most of the time when someone tells you something is impossible or that it isn’t realistic, they are expressing their own insecurities and lack of motivation. This is about you and your career, not about them, so take the negative feedback with a grain of salt.
This is also the time you want to start putting yourself out there on social media, joining groups online that are geared towards your new career field, and making the right connections. Get active on LinkedIn, build your network with the right people, join the right groups, and you will be surprised what you will learn and the connections you will make. These connections can lead you towards resources that can help you improve your skills, and even lead you to possible opportunities.
“You may delay, but time will not.” -Benjamin Franklin
Remember, if you want your life and your career to look different in 2017, you need to act now and maintain momentum. January 2017 is just around the corner. Regardless of what you do, the new year is coming. It’s your choice—to create a new career for yourself in 2017, or continue talking and wishing, essentially remaining where you are today.
What will you do to prepare for your new career in 2017?