This year, I transitioned once again from being a student to a Career Girl. I had to remind myself of forgotten career lessons, and I had to learn some new ones. As always, some of those lessons weren’t easy, but I’ll take them into the new year as part of my professional toolkit. Review your professional life in 2012, and see where you might be able to learn a lesson or make improvements.
Here are 7 of my most valuable career lessons of 2012:
- Get out of the house and network. We all have those nights when we realize we signed up for an afterwork networking event and it’s the last thing we want or have time to do. While it’s certainly okay to take some time off when it’s really needed, if we cave and miss out on a number of events, it will start to become a habit. Make sure you’re making time to build your network, and get out of the house or the office. Once you get out to the event, you’ll find yourself slipping back into networking mode — and having fun!
- Follow up. We’re all guilty of taking home the stack of business cards and tossing them in a drawer, only to find them months later and not remember who anyone is. This is what happens when you don’t follow up right away. Make sure you take note of the people you really want to connect with again, and send them a follow up message the next day. Try not to just exchange polite emails, and instead meet in person for coffee or lunch.
- Help each other. I strongly believe in women helping women. When you see an opportunity to help a fellow female professional, take it. This can also be a part of following up — when you do meet with that new contact, look for ways that you can help her, even if it’s small. One referral or lead can go a long way.
- Learn what you don’t know. Don’t get frustrated and angry when you don’t know a certain skill. There are so many resources out there today to help you learn just about anything. Yes, returning to the classroom is always an option, but there are also hundreds of free articles and tutorials online that can help. Try doing a search, and carve out a little time each week to learn something new. Practice that skill with a small side project for work, for personal use, or for a non-profit that needs some extra help.
- Know your worth. This applies to both your skills and your time. Are you being adequately compensated for your work? And, if you’re taking on a lot of projects at once, where is your time best spent? Both your talents and time are valuable, and people will take advantage if you let them. If you seem to be giving quite a lot, assess whether or not what you’re receiving in return is worth it.
- Be humble and be kind. Yes, this is a lofty goal, and a bit warm and fuzzy, but it’s true. People who are often unkind to those below or around them eventually build a reputation, and over time, fewer people want to work with them. And if you have trouble accepting that you don’t know everything yourself and that you will need help, you’re setting yourself up for a long, frustrating road that likely won’t result in achieving your goals.
- Take risks. You won’t get anywhere staying in the job you’re unhappy in. If you know there’s something else you’d rather do, then take real steps toward making that a reality. Stop making excuses and being angry at work — instead, use that time to make a plan.
Some of these I learned from my own mistakes, and some from others. What have you noticed in the professional world this year? Share your tips and lessons with us.