I don’t go in for New Year’s resolutions as a rule, but I do have a goal this year: I want to lose weight. I lost over 4 stone a couple of years ago and maintained my goal weight for over six months, but since then my good habits slipped and a stone has crept back on.
Having succeeded before means I know exactly what I need to do this time, these lessons could easily be applied to getting off the dole, kick-starting a career change or breaking out of a career rut. So if your New Year’s resolution is to sort out your career check out my tips for success:
Define your overall goal. Be realistic you are not going to be leading the UN in 6 months any more than I am going to lose a stone in a week! In my case my goal is to get to a certain number on the scales, perhaps yours is to find a job you enjoy?
A big goal can feel insurmountable, which makes it too easy to think there’s no point in continuing when you hit an obstacle. It took me 14 months to lose 4 stone so that was a long time to keep plugging away.
The key is to break down the overall goal into manageable stages. I made a list of how much I had to lose to reach each quarter/half stone, 10/25/50lbs, 5%/10% milestone, when I reached a new stone bracket etc. Any scale of achievement I could think of I used, and the great thing was when I reached one goal the next was only ever a couple of lbs away which gave me incentive to continue! For a career goal think about each small step as a mini-goal: complete a self-assessment questionnaire, research a career option, have a careers appointment, rewrite your CV, write a LinkedIn profile, apply to 3 jobs, get shortlisted etc.
Reward yourself for achieving goals – give yourself a little treat when you reach a mini-goal. It obviously would be counter-productive for me to reward myself with a cream cake so I might treat myself to a magazine, song download or a new nail varnish. Even if money is tight (and lets face it it usually is for job hunters) you can treat yourself to your choice of ‘me-time’ is – a long bath, a evening of computer games, a night in with friends…
Inevitably there will be times when you feel down and want to give up, when it seems every job you want is out of your reach, when you don’t get shortlisted for a job you thought you were sure to get – or in my case when I REALLY want chocolate! So while you feel positive document your reasons for wanting your goal e.g. I want to get up every day and look forward to work, I want to make a difference, I want to be able to say to my friends I’m doing x. Then you can look at your list when you are feeling demotivated.
- Get informed
I joined Weightwatchers online (other weightloss organisations are available!) They give you an allocation of points to eat daily and list how many points various foods and activities equate to. The choice of what to eat and what exercise to do was still up to me, but having a framework made it easier to make informed decisions.
The Careers Service is here to give you the information you need to start you off, and an action plan if you need one. The direction you take is ultimately up to you, but we can help you look at your options, broaden your strategies and suggest ways you might be going wrong if you hit a dead end.
- Get organised
I know I need to make eating healthily the easy option by planning meals, making a shopping list and buying the right ingredients and always having a choice of healthy snacks on hand.
Keep on top of your career research/job hunting by allotting half an hour or so per day to check job sites, the email you are using for careers, your LinkedIn account, Twitter etc. Make folders on your computer to save copies of your applications and the job details for future reference. Keep a folder of favourite websites to check regularly. Maintain a list of contacts as you build them.
- Get support – and be accountable
Losing weight and looking for a job are both solo tasks so it can feel lonely. It is vital to get all the support you can. I use the Weightwatchers forum and blogs for inspiration and support, and my husband is great at saying ‘well done’ when I have a good weekly weigh-in and not sabotaging my willpower by eating chocolate in front of me! Think who your supporters can be, friends and family members obviously, but don’t forget the Careers Service is also here. Feel free to give us a call or pop in for an informal chat if you are feeling down or at a loss.
Knowing someone is going to ask you ‘how is it going?’ every so often can also motivate you to keep going!
- Enjoy the career equivalent of ‘non-scale achievements’
In weight-loss a ‘non-scale achievement’ is a positive result of losing weight that does not show on the scales – e.g. getting a compliment, into smaller size clothes, or being able to tighten your watch/belt by another notch. The career equivalent might be a contact complimenting you for a great CV, or getting good interview feedback even if you didn’t get the job. Take the positive from every situation and use it to inspire you to keep going.
- Don’t let inexplicable setbacks get you down
Every so often the scales show a gain even when I do everything right. Those weeks it is vital to keep going and trust that the next week will be better. The same goes for job hunting, sometimes you do everything right and seem to get no results. The important thing to remember is that if you give up you definately will fail, but if you keep going you will succeed eventually.
If your job applications continue to be unsuccessful it might be worth getting a second opinion and reassessing your tactics, just as if my weight keeps going up I would need to double-check what I am eating!
- If you make a mistake keep going
No-one is perfect. I am bound to slip up sometimes and gain weight every now and then. You will probably have times when you procrastinate and let things slip or make a mess of an application or an interview. Forgive yourself and move on. Learn from your mistakes and make it better next time, but above all keep going!
Good luck for 2013, whatever you set out to achieve!