It’s ironic that we spent the last few weeks promising ourselves that this will be the year that we succeed and surpass all of our resolutions that we set in place for the new year. Yet, on Monday morning of the first full week after the holidays, we cannot get out of bed.
The first full work week of the new year is never easy. We’ve built up high hopes that this year will be better than the last one. It’s unfair that societal pressures make us feel that on an arbitrary date we must make something positive happen. Our stress levels increase as we force ourselves to excel while we are still exhausted from the frenzy of the holiday season.
We have the anxiety to follow through on our promises while valiantly trying to summon up the strength to get out of bed in the dark, go outside into the freezing cold weather, fight to secure a seat on a crowded bus or train and endure an hour-plus commute into work. It doesn’t help that the train is late, you’re squished between a person who has some sort of the plague and your other neighbor is talking way too loudly on their mobile device. It wouldn’t be so bad if the obnoxious, brash phone guy actually had an interesting and intelligent conversation that we could eavesdrop on to liven up the monotony. It’s hard to maintain your positive outlook when everyone around you offers the thousand-yard death stare or seems miserable and defeated. Meanwhile, you fantasize about getting back into your warm bed, pulling the covers over your head and hope to win the lottery.
Since this is the reality for most of us, we have no other choice than to make the best of it. Rather than being that person in the office who grunts a curt “Good morning!”, complains about everything and goes about his business angrily and resentful because he actually has to do his job, here is what you need to do to set yourself apart from the crowd and get the new year started right.
Don’t place too much pressure on yourself to immediately achieve all of your work-related resolutions. Advancing your career or obtaining a new job is more of a marathon than a sprint. Reacquaint yourself with your goals and slowly and steady start executing them. It’s okay if you feel tired. It’s natural, so don’t feel bad about it. Instead, recognize that it is tough for everyone else too—only they pretend that everything is awesome and that they’re doing terrific. Focus on one moment at a time without worrying about how you can possibly make it through to Friday afternoon.
Go to sleep at a reasonable hour, wake up early and arrive into the office an hour before your usual schedule. Use this time to remind yourself of tasks that have been put aside, but now need to be done. Check your phone messages and emails and respond to them. When you respond super early in the morning, people will admire and respect your work ethic. You can accomplish considerably more during this time period since there is hardly anyone around to distract you. By the time everyone else drags themselves into the office, you’re already feeling good, your caffeine has settled in and you’re proud of your work productivity.
Set up a time to speak with your boss. Ask about her agenda and goals for the year. Inquire as to how you can play a part to help her succeed. Share any ideas, suggestions or constructive criticism that you’ve held back out of fear of repercussions. This is a time where it feels natural to have this type of dialogue. Offer some of the accomplishments you’ve had over the last year and what you’d like to achieve moving forward.
Start building and growing a tribe of people who share your values and ideals to help each other succeed. Seek out colleagues at the office, people you’ve met at conferences and on social media platforms (such as LinkedIn). Nurture these relationships, as they will help you find new jobs, brainstorm ideas, stay current with industry developments and have someone to vent with when things are difficult at work. Try to set up lunch dates, arrange corporate activities (like softball or Karaoke) or invite people to your home or apartment for dinner. In addition to helping further your career, the camaraderie will make work feel more balanced and happier.
If you are interested in seeking out a new job, this is the right time to start. The beginning of the year is when headcounts are approved and companies post positions online and need to fill open vacancies that have existed since late November. Last week, the Department of Labor released the December job report and the numbers were extremely positive. There is low unemployment, wages have ticked up and almost double the amount of new jobs were created despite what economists previously predicted. This is a bullish sign for job seekers that there are jobs available and companies are ready to hire and pay for talent.
Take a fresh new look at your LinkedIn profile and résumé. I’d recommend preparing several different versions of your résumé that are specifically tailored for the jobs that you are applying to. Think of the résumé as a working draft that will be strategically enhanced to ensure that it closely matches the job description. We are in a plug-and-play environment, in which hiring managers want candidates who possess almost all the requirements listed in the job description. Ensure that your LinkedIn profile is complete with a quality picture, all the jobs you’ve held for the last 10 years, along with in-depth details of your responsibilities, college and graduate degrees. When updating your profile, think of it as something that will be searched on Google. You’ll need to optimize it for search engines so that recruiters, human resource professionals and hiring managers can easily find you when they conduct searches for their job openings.
Plan a vacation for spring. Knowing that you will have something fun to do in about four months will make you feel incredibly better that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. There are a couple of three day weekends in January and February. It will be nice for your mental and emotional health to have a couple of breaks to recharge. You don’t even have to go away. Sometimes, it is more productive to have a staycation, so you can get some much-needed rest, socialize and decompress.
Pace yourself, as this is a long distance marathon. Understand that there will be setbacks along the way, but don’t let them get you down. As the winter drags on, it will be increasingly harder to stick with your plan. Don’t beat yourself up when that happens and try harder the next day. As you get into the groove, add on the new resolutions you promised yourself. Focus on being the person you promised yourself you’d be. Forget about the past, don’t stress over everything that needs to be done in the future and just live in the moment.
You are now ready to win the first full week of the new year!