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Your Year-End Personal Review 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 Workopolis.com 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 www.CareerActivist.com.

Question: I did o.k. this year at work. Met most of my goals, learned a few new things. Next year though I really want to do better so I can feel more accomplished. Do you have some thoughts on how to plan for this?

Melor T, Newcastle, Ontario

Dear Melor,

As the new year dawns, people often think about what lies ahead. How will it be different than the last? Is it possible to make it a better one, both at work and home?

A great way to start planning is by taking time to review the last 12 months. Consider the things you did well at work. Reflect on those areas you wish you could change. And start looking forward to what you can do to improve things in the new year.

For the sake of brevity I'll focus here on the world of work. Here are some questions you can ask yourself to get some clarity on what's been happening 1. What did I do well?

Maybe you helped to launch a new product or tighten controls on your employer's financial statements. Could be that you typed reports more accurately or increased sales by more than your quota. Wherever you've added value, your achievements deserve to be recognized. Try making a list (and counting it twice, of course), 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? Quantify the results you generated where possible. This makes a great beginning for your resumé update in 2008.

2. Where did things fall through the cracks?

Nobody's perfect. Not that you want to go shouting this out when everyone returns from vacation. Instead, choose one event or project from this year that you know you could have done better. Ask yourself a few pointed questions: Did you give it all you had? If not, why? If so, why do you think things didn't work out better? Don't be afraid to admit you may have made an error somewhere along the line. If you did, what would you do next time to increase the odds for success? And what valuable lessons have you learned about yourself and your employer?

3. What am I particularly proud of?

Even when you do something well, it's no guarantee you'll be proud of it. I've always believed that people excel when they're doing things they truly value. It's often not easy to get that in a job, so hey, let's celebrate the times we do. Is there anything you said or did last year that makes your chest swell? A client of mine was thrilled that she finally got the nerve to ask her boss not to go through her files at night. It's not life altering but she felt fantastic, setting an important boundary for herself.

4. Did I do anything I'm not too keen on boasting about?

Look, workplace pressures are enormous these days. Most people I speak to have at least one little episode they'd rather keep locked in the cone of silence. Like the executive who fired his friend because the board said ''It's either him, or you'' and, the office manager who spread rumours that her boss was an alcoholic so they'd demote the boss. The trick here is to start evaluating where your line in the sand is, should push come to shove again. How far are you willing to go to get what you think you want? What price are you willing to pay for it?

Once you've had a chance to answer these four questions, the next stage is attending to the future. Each year end gives us a chance to bring some closure, and the option of looking ahead as well, as is the case with Question 5.

5. What would I change about my work if I were able?

Finding it hard to put some balance in your life? Taking too much grief from co-workers? Or maybe you feel stuck in a rut but are worried about risking change. If so, you're not alone. There seems to be a growing sense of worry that standing up for yourself might cost you career-wise. It's not so easy to turn an existing job in your favour, if it's not already going in that direction. Still, identifying what you want more of or less of is a great beginning.

What's common to all the questions above is that they're part of personal strategic planning. It's a concept I first learned about in ''Creating Your Future: Personal Strategic Planning for Professionals,'' by George Morrisey (Publishers' Group West). Basically you get to set some clear goals and measures of success for the following year‚ 'like in your performance review at work, only this one's just for you.

A biggie for me in 2008 is to test my entrepreneurial leanings. What about you? Where will you devote your time and energy in the coming 365 days? Whatever you select, however you decide to approach things, I'd like to take this moment to wish you all the best: may the new year bring you more of the good things work provides, and less, much less, of the stuff that drives you nuts.

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