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Planning for Success in the Coming Year Mark Swartz, M.B.A. M.Ed.

About the Author

Mark Swartz, MBA, M.Ed., is Canada's Career Activist. His insights reach millions yearly as the Career Advisor, as author of the best seller "Get Wired, You're Hired," also as a professional speaker and coach on career/work issues. A former Toronto Star careers columnist, Mark's advice is forthright and practical. For Canada's biggest directory of free career articles, and for personalized coaching, please visit

Mark Swartz
Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Dear Mark: Id really like the new year to be a good one for me at work. Im not very adept at planning though and I think this has held me back in the past. Any thoughts on how to be a little more strategic?

-- Francois V., Quebec City, Quebec
Dear Francois,

In January it's natural to turn our thoughts away from celebrations, back toward getting down to work. And there's no better way to start the year than by planning ahead.

I generally encourage my clients to start the process not by immediately looking forward, but actually by reviewing the previous 12 months first.

Some standard questions to consider:

1. What did you do well at?

Maybe you helped launch a new product. Could be you typed reports more accurately or increased sales by more than quota. Try describing each accomplishment in some detail. What was the background situation? What actions did you take to solve the problem or create a new opportunity? Then quantify the results you generated where possible. (Make sure to include these on your resume and at your performance review time).

2. Where did things fall through the cracks?

Nobody's perfect. Choose events or projects from last year where you know you could have done better. Did you give it all you had? If no, why not? If so, why do you think things didn't work out better? What would you do next time to increase the odds for success?

3. Did you do anything you're not too keen on boasting about?

Workplace pressures are enormous these days. Most people I speak to have been asked to go against their values at least once. It's good to start evaluating where your line in the sand is. How far are you willing to go to get what you think you want? What price are you willing to pay for it? Do you have options should push come to shove?

Now, back to the future. Questions to ask yourself for the coming year include :

- What direction is your employer heading, and how can you help them achieve their goals?

- How can you make your bossand the people who report to you (if any)look like winners?

- In what areas do you need to improve your own performance? (And what type of training, upgrading or mentoring might you need to reach the standard expected of you?)

- Is there anything special you want to achieve this year, such as getting that promotion you've been hoping for, or achieving more life balance, or networking internally to boost your profile? If so, what series of steps do you need to take to get there?

The idea is to direct your efforts so you get the biggest bang for your buck. It's part of personal strategic planninga concept outlined in Creating Your Future: Personal Strategic Planning for Professionals, by George Morrisey (Berrett-Koehler Publishers).

The process is pretty straightforward. Ask yourself some penetrating questions; be willing to learn from your experiences; and set clear goals that can be measured over a set period. By putting aside some personal time to reflect and plan, you really do improve your chances of making 2007 a banner year on the job.

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