I love spring!
It’s my birthday season, I love my cute, pink, spring jacket, and I can feel and see nature blooming all around me. I also love any opportunity to get organized, tidy things up, and get both my physical space and my mind fresh and clean. And I don't think I'm alone!
Spring is a time during which many of us reset priorities, check in on things, and start thinking about the next quarter of the year. Spring is a natural moment to reevaluate, check in, and get your career in order. Here are a few things that are always helpful when emerging from your winter hibernation with respect to your career:
1. Clean Your Space
Your perception of your productivity may be negatively affected by clutter and disorganization. In an OfficeMax 2011 study, 90% of Americans admit that clutter negatively impacts their productivity, as well as their state of mind, motivation, and happiness.
Which of these environments makes you want to do your best work?
I know which I’d choose!
Clean off the desk, grab some Lysol wipes, and make it fun with some new fancy pens or colorful wall calendar. You may also consider getting a plant or something green. Studies of several European offices have concluded that adding some plant life to your workspace can increase productivity by up to 15%.
2. First Quarter Review
We’re almost done with the first quarter of the year. So ...
What were your big accomplishments?
Where are you on the goals you set for yourself?
Did you complete a big project?
Did you hit a new fundraising target?
Take a few minutes to jot these down in your work notebook so you don’t forget.
Here’s another idea: Create a new document to track your success stories and positive feedback. Every time you get a "great job on that project" email from your boss, or any good feedback from a colleague, paste that email into your running document so you’ll have it accessible should you need to easily reference all of that recognition and good work.
Pro Tip: Add a shortcut to this document on your desktop. Seeing it there will be a good reminder to keep adding to it.
You’ll be happy you took the time to take stock of your accomplishments and progress when performance review season comes along. And it might make you feel pretty good about how much you’ve already gotten done in the last few months.
For more ideas on why to track your work, read Why You Should Track Your Professional Accomplishments and How to Get in the Habit.
3. Identify Your Gaps
Are there skills or knowledge areas you’d like to beef up? Are there things you can do to grow in those areas?
Now might be the time to look into that class or training that piqued your interest a few months back.
Have a conversation with your manager about where you want to grow over the next few months. If you work for a large organization there may even be opportunities for in-house professional development like the kind they offer at Deloitte University or Girl Scout University where you can take a conflict management or a mind-mapping course.
If you like your job but don’t love it, putting yourself in a learning environment is often a great way to up your engagement and interest at work. Learning environments can lead to new ideas or projects to get involved in that could evolve into a different role or work stream you really enjoy.
4. Check in with Your Network
Spring is a great time to reach out to and check in with old references, bosses, and colleagues.
Every time you find yourself in the job market, you likely find yourself thinking, "Why didn’t I reach out to these folks when I didn’t need something, just to keep the relationship established?"
Well, now’s your chance. Pick two or three people and shoot them an email. Ask how their work, family, or travel plans have been and they’ll probably be happy to tell you all about it!
If you’re feeling like it’s time to give some colleagues or mentors a little love, these templates are great for checking in. You’ll be glad you kept up consistent communications with them when you find yourself in transition again. If you are in the market for a new position, check out some of these templates for easy outreach strategies.
5. Grow Your Network
Growing your network is one of the most important and easy ways to make valuable connections, stay up to date on key happenings in your field, and increase future job prospects.
Take a few minutes to search for conferences, symposiums, and gatherings that might be of interest to you.
Don’t know where to start? Google your field and add the word conferences or networks and you’ll likely find information about upcoming gatherings that may be of interest.
Whole Whale, a New York based digital agency working to up the impact of nonprofits, has published a seemingly exhaustive list of nonprofit conferences scheduled for 2017. Meetup.com is also a great place to find happy hours where you’re sure to meet others who share professional interests. And if you’re considering graduate school, Idealist Grad Fairs are a must!
Hold the dates on your calendar and talk with peers, mentors, and your manager about what you and your organization might get from attending a particular event. It can be a win-win opportunity for you and your organization as your attendance could help increase brand recognition among peer organizations.
6. Do Some Reflection on What’s Next
Whether you’re happy in your job or searching for your next position, it’s always a good idea to take some time to think about where you want to be or what you want to work toward over the next three-to-nine months.
What’s working in your career? What’s your biggest pain point? What would be the next ideal step?
When you identify what’s working, you can put more energy into those parts of your work. When you know your pain point, you can figure out how to solve it. And if you're thinking about next steps, turn the reflection into tangible action items and milestones.
Need some help thinking through these questions? Read Ready to Give Your Job Search a Boost this Spring? for more guidance, tips, and expert advice.
7. Plan your Next Vacation
Project: Time Off ‘s 2016 report revealed that since 2000, employee vacation day usage has dropped significantly, with 55% of workers claiming they had unused vacation days in 2015.
The most important step employees can take to ensure those vacation days get used is to plan their time in advance. The study shows that 51% of those who plan vacations in advance use all their days. And they found that those who planned ahead reported greater happiness. We all need a mental and physical break every now and then.
Need some inspiration? Here are a few ideas for some things to do while traveling that are sure to make your next vacation really special.
Get out your calendar, block your summer vacation, and run it by your boss as soon as you can. You’ll likely get dibs on that prime summer week, and may even save on airfare.
If you’re lacking the motivation to get going on these tips, recruit a friend. Cleaning is always more fun when you’ve got a partner!