How to Finish 2011 Strong: Best Blogs, Books and Bits of Advice

Hard to believe it’s already nearly 2012. The holidays are always a good time to take stock of the past year and your accomplishments so, before you crack open the champagne, you may want to think about your goals for the coming year. Where do you want to go? How can you get there? Who can you rely on to help you? What kind of advice do you need to guide you?

 

As we look back on 2011 and our own accomplishments (most notably the publication of our first book, Be Your Own Best Publicist: How to Use PR Techniques to Get Noticed, Hired and Rewarded at Work), as well as our choices and key learnings, we thought we’d share some of our favorite founts of advice from colleagues, fellow career advisors and just plain ol’ smart folks.

While we believe the wisdom imparted in our book and blog posts is helpful to many, we also love learning from others who have interesting things to say about career, creativity and life in general. Here’s our short list:

 

 

Breakdown, Breakthrough by Kathy Caprino: We had the pleasure of serving as fellow advisors with Kathy in a Mediabistro Job Search Boot Camp this fall and were totally impressed with the advice she had to give to the students. Her book, Breakdown, Breakthrough, focuses on why women (though men can benefit from it as well) feel disempowered and teaches them how they can overcome their fears, obstacles and professional crises to find breakthroughs. As someone who spent years in the corporate world and had to navigate her own professional crisis and layoff after 9/11, Kathy went back to school to become a therapist and is now a successful career coach and speaker who draws from personal experience to help others.

 

Jonathan Fields: We don’t personally know Jonathan but Kathy Caprino actually recommended that we check out his blog and we absolutely love it (and then coincidentally saw that there’s an article about him in the January issue of ELLE magazine). He’s a former SEC lawyer turned entrepreneur and author/speaker on creativity, career, play and entrepreneurship who has written two books,  Career Renegade: How to Make a Great Living Doing What You Love, and more recently, Uncertainty: Turning Fear and Doubt Into Fuel for Brilliance. While we have not yet read either, they are on our reading list for the New Year and should be on yours as well. In the meantime, you can read some great advice, insight and interviews on JonathanFields.com.

 

Lindsey Pollak: Our friend Lindsey is the ultimate expert on Generation Y and her book, Getting from College to Career, is a must-read for any college student or recent graduate, all of whom could use some advice on how to navigate a very tough job market upon graduation. Lindsey’s blog is also fantastic and, though we’re part of Generation X, we glean great career advice from it as well, particularly on how to manage Gen Y employees, which can present its own unique challenges to any boss with young people on his or her staff.

 

College Bound and Gagged: Speaking of college, another great book comes from a lovely writer/self-coined “Stand Up Psychologist” Dr. Nancy Berk, who interviewed us for her radio show this year. College Bound and Gagged is the straight-talking survival guide for anyone (read: parents) who are trying desperately to navigate the pre-college time and remain sane in the process.

Careerideas.com: Kim Styler, who spent years working in the magazine industry, started this resourceful website to provide a behind-the-scenes look at as many careers as possible to help others figuring out their own path to learn as much as possible about what it’s like to work in various industries — such as book publishing, PR, film, HR, technology, etc. There are hundreds of video interviews with successful folks in these fields (including Jessica!) who answer questions such as “Who should or shouldn’t go into this business?”, “What’s your typical day like?” and “What do you like best/worst about your job?” Even though we’re not looking to change careers, we have enjoyed watching many of these videos just to hear more about what different jobs entail. Note: You can watch snippets of all videos for free but if you want to watch the full-length versions, you do have to sign up for a monthly or three-month package, at $14.99/mo. or $29.99, respectively.

And then a few nuggets of year-end advice from us that we hope will help you prepare for a successful and exciting 2012:

Look Back/Look Ahead: Take some quiet time to write down what you thought really worked in your career/job over the past year and what didn’t work as well. Determine what you can do better/differently/more of/less of in the coming year that will make you more efficient and effective in your job.

Be Thankful: Reflect on the moments — both small and big — that made you feel successful in 2011 and the people who supported you, connected you to someone else, and/or gave you positive feedback that helped you stay focused on your goals. Then, send those people a thank you note. It may sound hokey,but they will appreciate it, and you’ll stay top of mind for them in the New Year.

Do What Makes You Happy: Most of us spend more time at work than anywhere else, so it’s important to be fulfilled in what you do. Think about what would make you happier in your career and what changes you might make to help you get there. It could be as minor as telling your staff that you need an hour of “quiet time” each day to focus on strategy and not be distracted by constant interruption or emails. Or, it could be as drastic as switching careers or starting your own company, as Meryl recently did after doing PR in-house and at agencies for several years. Now is the time to take a risk, make a change and figure out how to advance your career — and happiness — in 2012.

Have any New Year’s advice, book or blog recommendations to share? Tell us here, on Facebook or Twitter (@bestpublicist).

Four Career Resolutions You Can Stick To

We all do it — make resolutions at the outset of a brand new year that often fall by the wayside before the end of January (why do you think the New Year is a peak time for gym membership sales but 60% of them go unused?). So how do you strike a balance between setting reachable and unrealistic goals for yourself? How can you approach the “New Year, New You” mentality for your career and actually stick to your plan?  Here are four ideas:

1. Think about what you’ve learned. At the beginning of every year, we each gather our teams together for a “What I’ve Learned” meeting, where everyone shares their top lessons from the past year. This is a great exercise for anyone to do because it enables you to step back and review how the last 12 months went at work and what enlightened you along the way. By discussing it in a group, you also get the added benefit of other people’s lessons. These key learnings — drawn both from mistakes you made and things you did well — will help you plan ahead for the coming year, avoid making the same mistakes again and find ways to put your helpful knowledge to use.

2. Give yourself a few attainable goals and one stretch goal. Even better than creating a laundry list of big goals (e.g. lose 50 lbs., start the next Facebook), many of which you may not reach, break them down into bite-size lists of two or three realistic goals per quarter (i.e. work out 2x/week and cut 100 calories a day, organize your office, spend an hour a day on strategy). Then, just to push yourself, add one that’s a bit harder to reach, what we like to call a “stretch” goal. It should be something that you strive to accomplish but will challenge you and get you outside your comfort zone. For example, maybe there’s an industry award that you’d like to win for your work that’s tough to get. How can you go about getting nominated or creating something good enough to be recognized in 2011?

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GIVE YOURSELF A HOLIDAY GIFT: REASSESS YOUR CAREER

Where did the year go?  We feel like the dog days of summer just ended (summer, what summer?) and now we can’t go into a store without hearing Bing Crosby sing White Christmas. As the countdown to 2011 is in full swing, instead of focusing solely on buying gifts and decorating your tree — or lighting the menorah or kinara, what have you — now is an opportune time to take a good look at your career and assess where you want it to go in the New Year.  Are you vying for a new job?  More responsibility in your current position?  An entirely new career?

Here are a few key things you can do between now and the end of December to take stock of your career situation:

1. Check out the market. Speaking from personal experience, we’re actually hiring right now (and know of lots of others doing so as well) so it’s not true, as many people think, that the job market dies down between Thanksgiving and New Year’s.  In fact, we’ve seen some really stellar talent out there at this time of year and, because many people take a break from their search over the holidays, there’s also less competition. Check job listing sites but don’t rely solely on them.  Ask around — often the best jobs are the ones that aren’t advertised and, if someone is hiring towards the holidays, he or she will be eager to snap up a strong candidate who is ready to start as soon as possible.   No one wants to kick off the New Year without a full staff in place.

2. Spread some holiday cheer. If you’re not finding open positions in your field, try to book some friendly informational interviews at companies that interest you.  Things tend to slow down for people in December so they might actually have the time to squeeze in a quick coffee with you (or, if not, you can at least get on their calendars now for after the New Year).  Offer to come to their office or a convenient location for them — and be sure to pick up the check.  If you can’t get in to meet people face-to-face, send a nice note or small token to wish them a happy holiday season.  Be creative so you stand out from the pile of “Season’s Greetings.”  We just received a package of salted caramels in a small corrugated cardboard box with a hang tag that we absolutely loved — it was low-cost and simple but memorable (and delicious!).

3. Look back and look forward. December is a great time to analyze your accomplishments over the past year and set goals for the year ahead. Write them all down — having a record will come in handy when you want to ask for a raise or promotion in your current job, outline your assets for a potential new job or create a roadmap to follow as you move forward.  Ask yourself: Did I achieve what I wanted to this year?  What could I have done better?  What am I most proud of?  What do I hope to accomplish in 2011 and how will I tackle it?

How do you view the end of the year — as a time to get some rest and focus on friends and family, or an opportunity to reflect on where you’ve been and where you’re going?  Let us know your thoughts in the comments section.