Ashley Stahl Career Camp

5 Tips To Start 2021 In The Best Shape of Your Career

It’s fair to say that a new year has never been more anticipated. And while many people are setting resolutions to get rid of the “pandemic pounds” or continuing their home renovation projects, another top area to be setting goals right now is in your career.

2020 has seen massive shifts in the workforce, the displacement of thousands of employees and a push for industries to pivot harder and faster than in recent memory. But while this past year may have felt bleak, your future doesn’t have to.

If you aren’t where you want to be in your career, this couldn’t be a better time to get serious about improving your work life. After all, career satisfaction directly impacts other areas of your life, such as your finances, personal relationships and even your own mental wellbeing.

Whether you’re facing a forced career change, or have taken this time as an opportunity to pursue something new, use these tips from SoFi’s recent Career Camp event as an actionable reminder that true career success is within your reach.

Get Clear on What Your Core Skill Set Is

It’s important to recognize the difference between the function of what you do, versus the industry that you’re in. Often, we ask ourselves, “Should I work in entertainment, or politics?” When we really need to ask, “Should I do something that requires me to write, or communicate with others, or solve problems on my own all day?”

The truth is, an industry is just a backdrop. What matters more is the skill set you’re using in your job, and your daily responsibilities.

I once had a client who worked as a medical device engineer. When I asked him what his favorite part of the workday was, he said it was talking with his team, saying hello to the workplace barista, and talking with customers about their user experience. This man was all about communication; he didn’t really enjoy using the skills expected of someone who works in design and engineering. No wonder he was burned out!

We worked together and eventually he moved into medical device sales, where he could communicate with people all day long—and he began to thrive. He was in the right industry, but not applying his core function, or skill set.

Determine Your Core Skill Set

One of the best ways to determine your core skill set is to reach out to those closest to you and ask, “When have you seen me at my best?”

From there, take notice of what skill set you are using in these moments: are you being a strong communicator? tapping into your organization abilities? analyzing difficult questions? Often, your core skill set comes so naturally that you don’t even realize you are doing it.

When you take on tasks you view in a positive light, you are more focused, productive and proficient, according to research by USC. The sooner you can become aware and harness your core skill set in the workforce, the faster your career will flourish.

Take Stock of Your Core Values

The average person spends more than 90,000 hours of their life working. Given that, chances are that the last thing you want is to work in a job or industry that violates a key component of who you are as a person. One of the best ways to understand where your career aligns with who you are is to look at your core values.

As a coach, I’ve had many clients who were unhappy with their job simply because it didn’t align with one of their deep rooted values, or was violating a principle they held close to their heart. For example, an individual with a core value of integrity might find themself struggling to promote a product that isn’t the best quality.

Your core values are the guiding principles by which you innately live your life, and they act as a filtering system for what is a “yes” or a “no” for you. Think of words that you naturally, innately embody and without them, you’re not you anymore. For example, my core values are connection, humor, freedom, creativity, and joy.

Determine Your Core Values

Take time to write out the top 5 core values you hold close to you, and then define them—because what freedom means to you may look very different to someone else. With these defined values, audit your current job, career path, and industry to see whether any of your values are being violated.

Often we chase goals because we think they’ll make us feel something once we achieve them, but what we’re really chasing is a feeling. Look to your core values as a roadmap for you to choose a career path or job that allows you to feel more like yourself in your work.

Upgrade Your Online Tool Capacity

So many tools and platforms exist to make our online experience efficient, convenient, and simple. While tech novices may be intimidated, the truth is new tools launch all the time, and it can be hard for anyone to keep up. The best thing anyone can do is set aside time to familiarize yourself with tools that can help you in your career.

Do a deep drive on the job descriptions for careers you are aiming to grow into and see what programs are listed most often. Then block out some time daily—perhaps an hour—for the next month, to learn a tool or software that fits within your ideal career path.

This way, at your next job interview, or during a conversation with your manager about growth, you can speak candidly about your experience, “I noticed this position requires familiarity with [insert program/platform] and I began to train myself on how to use it to prepare for this role.” This not only shows your proficiency but also illustrates your work ethic and clear commitment to your career.

There are plenty of online learning platforms such as LinkedIn Learning, Alison, or to help you master the ins and outs of tools like web design, Microsoft Office, or Facebook ads. The online world is an endless pit of information and automation magic, so it’s up to you to use it to your advantage in growing your career.

Prepare to Apply Your Skill Set to Different Industries

When Covid-19 hit, industries were scrambling. And just as some companies pivoted and found success, so did some workers: Job seekers who were adaptable and willing to pivot their skill set into different applications are the ones who are currently succeeding.

A swift change in business operations often means you many need to apply your skill set in a new or unique way. You must begin to focus on the what of your job, the skills you’re using, and the way you’re harnessing your energy throughout the day.

For example, if you previously worked as a restaurant manager, consider how you might apply your communication, leadership, and customer service skills in an industry that is on the rise, such as wellness or healthcare technology.

Even in a recession certain companies and industries experience growth spurts. Here are just a few industries to look into in the coming year:

•  Telehealth: According to the CDC, during the first quarter of 2020, the number of telehealth visits increased by 50%, and hasn’t budged since. For medical workers, software developers, and even virtual assistants or customer service reps, this is an industry to consider.

•  Education Technology: The demand for online learning for students from elementary on up to secondary education has grown exponentially this past year. An estimated 290 million students globally (according to UNESCO) are in need of online learning. If you are a teacher, writer, or entrepreneur, an online learning business may be a good fit.

•  Online Delivery Services and Logistics: With the increase in remote work, surge in online shopping and implementation of new methods to manage products, there are opportunities for a career in supply chain, logistics, or the online delivery industry. This might be right for anyone with an organizational skill set, customer service or event-planning background, and the ability to see the larger picture.

Don’t Shy Away From Pursuing Promotions

The US unemployment rate hit 6.7% in November 2020, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics—up more than 3% from November 2019. Not only that but, 60% of the businesses that closed their doors due to the pandemic will never reopen, based on data collected by CNN.

With all this turmoil, it can feel pretty sticky to pursue a raise or a promotion. And yet it is possible to continue to grow your career and ask for what you’re worth while remaining respectful and aware of the times.

How to Request a Raise or Promotion Right Now

First, get really clear on what you’ll bring to the new role you’re asking for. Determine two to three big needle-moving tasks that you plan to take on, and have a clear vision around what results these new responsibilities will produce for the company. A manager will want to see the ROI of promoting you or giving you a raise, so be prepared to share it.

Next, set up a meeting to discuss this specific topic. One of the biggest mistakes people make when asking for a raise or a promotion is to treat the meeting casually, like dropping the request at the end of a video call or stopping by someone’s desk. Instead, if you treat your career seriously, your manager will do the same. Consider approaching it as a growth conversation, with a calendar invite and a message that reads: “I’ve been brainstorming for what’s possible this coming year, and I would really like to talk with you about my vision for 2021.”

Just because 2020 wasn’t the best year for everyone, doesn’t mean it should hold you back from fostering the career you actually want and boldly making moves to grow yourself.

This is your career, and it is up to you to make it the one you want!

External Websites: The information and analysis provided through hyperlinks to third-party websites, while believed to be accurate, cannot be guaranteed by SoFi. Links are provided for informational purposes and should not be viewed as an endorsement.

Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.


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Ashley Stahl ABOUT Ashley Stahl Ashley Stahl is a career coach, keynote speaker, podcast host (You Turn Podcast), and author.

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