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Somewhere between excitedly entering the graduate job market and becoming used to the realities and pressures of modern working life, I lost the sense of optimism I once had at this time of year.
Autumn now brings a sense of trepidation — it can be an unsettling time for those who are starting new opportunities and a source of anxiety for those who feel stuck in a rut while others move on. Meanwhile, we are adjusting back to our routines with workplace obligations ramping up and our calendars filled with meetings we wish we didn’t have to attend.
However, I’m looking at autumn a little differently this year, seeing it as a time to reset and an opportunity to make small changes to my routine without the cynicism that is attached to new year’s resolutions. I’ve grown tired of the pressure to have ambitious goals and hit the ground running on January 1. That’s a situation that will lead to feeling overwhelmed and thus abandoning good intentions by the end of March. Instead, a little refresh now can go a long way.
Pinterest says its top trending searches for Autumn 2019 are topics such as organisation, routine, positivity and goal setting, which the social media site calls the “back to life” mindset. Searches for career planning are up 101 per cent and goal planning up 128 per cent from 2018. However, the “back to life” mindset isn’t about an overhaul of our goals, it’s more about making time to check in with them, to realign and reprioritise.
The first step is to check in on your long-term goals, the ones you want to achieve in a few years. Is your current trajectory aligning with those goals? If not, why not? What can you implement today to get you back on track? Understandably, we get so wrapped up and busy with our day to day work life that we may not have the time to think strategically about our long-term career ambitions.
With end of year reviews looming for many employees, our work objectives and goals can easily go into overdrive. Get a head start by writing down what you’ve achieved this year and positioning it within the overall business objectives that show your individual impact. This will mean that you won’t be blindsided when you receive that end of year review notification.
I’m also a big journaler when it comes to both long-term and weekly career planning. Spending time writing down objectives and reflecting on how best to get there in the coming weeks and months helps me feel more in control.
As I am managing various projects, prioritising is essential to maintaining a healthy work and life balance. I use my journal to write down five goals for the next four months and then place them in priority order, then cross off the bottom three, to leave the two most important ones, where I need to focus my time and energy.
I love apps such as Wunderlist and Trello for keeping me organised on a daily basis. Breaking tasks down helps avoid overwhelm as things start to get busy and I’m balancing work life and personal commitments.
Take the opportunity to update your CV and put it alongside the specification or requirements for the next job you want. Are there any gaps? And even if you don’t want to move, could you benefit from some additional training or development that could help you feel more challenged in your present role?
I also like to listen to podcasts that help the “back to life” mindset: they can inspire a new working habit or an insight into other people’s inspiring career journeys. (Good ones include How to Fail with Elizabeth Day, Better Life Lab and Without Fail.)
Finally, I would urge you to “find your tribe”. A sense of community is key to battling the loneliness that this time of year can bring. This could be done online by signing up to a newsletter (The Roundup by Otegha Uwagba is my favourite), or via community groups and live events.
There are so many conferences at this time of year: identify networking opportunities to step outside your office bubble and meet other like-minded people. Though not all are free or cheap, if you pitch the conference to your manager as a development objective that can support your career aspirations, companies are often more receptive.
Whether you want to make a career change, aim for the next promotion or start a side project, the nights drawing in offer us a meaningful opportunity to reflect, plot and plan on how best to get there. Sneaking small changes into our working life can make all the difference.
The writer is co-author of ‘Slay in Your Lane’