How To Make 2017 The Year Of Your Career

by Alexandra Cavoulacos

You have made up your mind that this year, improving your career is going to be your main priority. Now, you just need to figure out how the heck you are going to make that happen. Alexandra Cavoulacos, co-founder and COO of The Muse and co-author of the forthcoming book, 'The New Rules of Work,' has tips to help you meet your goals, starting right now. From sprucing up your professional social media presence to networking IRL, here are 10 ways to make 2017 an amazing year for your career.

This is it — you have promised yourself that this is the year you’re going to throw yourself full force into your career.

Whether you are planning to score that promotion, take that scary leap into a totally new industry, or make the most out of your current gig, you swear that this is the year you are going to make big things happen for yourself.

Are you worried about how you are actually going to keep that promise? Have no fear — we have 10 tips to help you actually make 2017 the year of your career.

Ready to kill it at your career this year? Check out Bustle's Facebook Live video with Alexandra Cavoulacos, co-founder and COO of The Muse, for more tips:

1. Brush Up Your Resume and Cover Letter

If you’re aiming for a new job this year, there are plenty of catchy ways to grab a hiring manager’s attention. But, singing telegrams and resumes delivered in doughnut boxes aside, you need to be sure that the nuts and bolts — AKA your resume and cover letter — are in place.

Before submitting any materials, polish up your documents by effectively targeting them to whatever jobs you’re applying for. Take a fine-tooth comb to the job description to pull out the keywords and major responsibilities, and then ensure that your resume and cover letter present you as a no-brainer fit for that role by injecting those same terms and skills (honestly, of course!) into your own materials.

Want a bonus tip? Have a close friend read your documents and guess what sort of position you’re applying for. That will clue you in as to whether or not you’re making your relevance obvious enough.

2. Knock the Cobwebs Off of Your LinkedIn Profile

Your resume and cover letter are important. But, so is your LinkedIn profile. So, if you previously set up a profile only to promptly forget about it, you’re due to take some time to update your information.

Add a new professional profile photo and cover image to make your page visually appealing. For details, check out this video on “How Your LinkedIn Photo Can Land You (or Lose You) Your Job.” Make some changes to your summary so that it grabs attention. Go back and take some time to actually fill in your skills section — rather than leaving it to collect dust. Finally, accept or reject any pending connection requests and then send out some personalized invitations to people you’ve recently met.

Bringing your LinkedIn profile up to date will let you rest assured that any hiring managers or networking contacts get the very best first impression.

3. Put Yourself Out There

You always promise yourself that you’ll network more, but you never actually make it happen. Well, this is your year to get out there, shake some hands, and make some connections.

Join a professional association in your industry, head to a formal networking event, set up some informational interviews with people you admire, or even sit with a co-worker you don’t know well for lunch in the breakroom. Once you reframe networking as a chance to meet awesome people who share an interest with you, you'll find you may even make new friends along the way.

Do what you can to expand your web of professional contacts. When it comes to your career, that’s never a bad thing.

4. Build a Personal Website

You might think that a personal website is only suitable for people in creative professions. But, we’ve heard from tons of different job seekers in all sorts of industries who swear by their personal websites — in fact, they credit their sites for helping them to land the roles of their dreams.

So, it’s time to kick those reasons not to build one to the curb and actually make it happen. Fortunately, it doesn’t need to be an overwhelming undertaking. Put a user-friendly platform — like Squarespace — to work for you. You’ll have a polished and impressive website pulled together in no time. In fact, that's what I used to make my personal site in just a weekend!

5. Take Care of Yourself

If you want to be better in the office, you need to take proper care of yourself outside of the office too.

Drink plenty of water, get yourself on a healthy sleep schedule, limit your screen time, take a few short breaks throughout the work day, and set aside a little bit of time to organize your workspace and your inbox.

If you're anything like me and that feels like too much to tackle at once, choose one element to make a big change in for the next few months — like getting more sleep. Once you've made that part of your regular routine, you can layer on other healthy habits. You’ll feel recharged, focused, and ready to tackle this year head on.

6. Learn a New Skill

Not many of us take a look at our resumes and think, “This is perfect — there’s absolutely nothing I could do to improve this.” There’s always room to grow and learn, so make this the year that you pick up a new skill.

Whether you take a course to learn a few awesome Excel tricks (my favorite), challenge yourself to become more comfortable with public speaking, or transform yourself into a Photoshop whiz, pick up a new skill that’s not only fun but also helps to boost your career.

7. Stay in Touch

You put all of that work and elbow grease into building your professional network. But, how often are you actually touching base with those people you tout as your “connections?” Probably not often enough.

If you want your network to actually be a benefit to you, you need to keep those connections warm. Mail out a few handwritten thank you notes or well wishes if that’s your speed. Or if you’re super digital like me, keep in touch by sending a quick email when you come across an article you think he or she would be interested in. For contacts you want to get to know better, I recommend getting together for coffee and each bringing a topic you want to get the other’s perspective on.

You can’t just build a network and assume you’ll reap the rewards. So, make this the year that you actually keep in touch with those professional contacts of yours.

8. Find Your Productivity Groove

Ah productivity, my favorite topic. I often see people try new tools and techniques, thinking that there is a “right” way to be productive. Let this be the year where you find the system that works for you, and ignore all the rest.

If you want to make a meaningful difference to your daily routine, the three areas to get right are email management, scheduling/time management, and to-do lists. Do an audit of each to think through whether or not they’re working for you. That means being taken off emails and meetings you don’t need to be a part of, consolidating your to-do list and prioritizing, prioritizing, prioritizing. If you’re like most people, answering emails isn’t your core job description, so you need to block time for that real work.

Your approach to your workday doesn’t need to be set in stone. Find what works for you and then don’t be afraid to make those necessary changes.

9. Work With an Expert

Our careers are a big part of our lives, but that doesn’t mean that navigating our way through them is easy.

If you’re feeling stuck on how to get hired, make a career change, climb the ranks, or really any other thing related to your career, consider working with an expert career coach this year. Sometimes it’s helpful to have some outside perspective.

Just like you’d invest in a conference or class to learn more, investing in a coaching session can help you gain clarity and hone in on next steps. So, find a professional who can help you make choices and progress in your career or job hunt. You won’t regret it!

10. Turn Off That Self-Doubt

Ultimately, you won’t be able to make this the year of your career if that nagging little voice in the back of your head is always shooting you down. That’s why you need to eliminate that pesky internal critic (or, at the very least, turn down the volume).

Celebrate your wins — yes, even the small ones — and always take some time to recognize the progress you’re making. One of my favorite rituals to celebrate progress is to keep a jar at your desk where you add wins at work, big or small, on a slip of paper. If you’re having a down day, reading a few of those notes can help you avoid feeling discouraged or frustrated. Even when you experience setbacks — which we all do! — you can rest assured that you’re at least taking steps in the right direction.

Did you promise yourself that this will be the year of your career? Put these 10 tips to work and you’re sure to make this your very best year yet.

Images: Tranmautritam, Breakingpic, Kaboompics // Karolina, Startup Stock Photos/Pexels