As we move into year-end evaluation season, many professionals use this time to look back over the past year and review their accomplishments. In addition to adding those new accomplishments and skills to your résumé, it’s also a good time to review not only what you’ve done, but also how you’re doing it.
Keeping up with advances. If you’re an expert at something, it’s especially important to make sure you don’t become complacent. Are you keeping up with advances in technologies, techniques, and tools? This applies to management activities as well. For example, have you tried walking meetings to stimulate creativity and inject new life into boring routines?
Challenge your assumptions. As you get older and wiser, your tastes and interests change. Things you found completely uninteresting when you were younger may now become fascinating. Are there any opportunities you may have dismissed, or new tasks you have avoided, because you tried them a long time ago and didn’t like them? Maybe now is the time to try these activities again.
Look for biases. If everything you read or hear agrees with your worldview, you need to explore more information sources. With so much customization of news and information sources, it’s easy to get into a situation where everything that you see is filtered to match your tastes. Make sure you don’t get caught in a “filter bubble,” and actively seek out new sources of information (both tools and content providers) that challenge your assumptions about the way things work.
Find new sources. The decisions you make are only as good as the information you have at the time you make them. These days, technological resources come and go quickly, and “experts” appear and disappear with their 15 minutes of fame. How are you getting your technical and professional information, and is there a better way? Is there an old resource you’re using out of habit? Does it still serve your needs, or is there something new that might be worth the time to learn?
Develop your story. Looking back, can you identify a single theme that ties your career together? Is there a passion that explains all your choices? While it may not have seemed like it at the time, oftentimes when you look back, you can identify some patterns. Perhaps you’ve gravitated toward careers that let you do more teaching of younger scientists, interact more with the public, or explore a single technical topic in great detail. What driving force has propelled your career so far, and where might it take you next? Being able to sum up your career path in a single theme that makes sense to others goes a long way toward allowing you to figure out the next step.
As you get ready to enjoy the more relaxed professional pace of this time of year, spend some time reflecting on how you got to your current position and what changes you will make to continue moving forward in the coming years.
Get Involved In The Discussion. The ACS Career Tips column is published the first week of every month in C&EN. Post your comments, follow the discussion, and suggest topics for future columns in the Career Development section of the ACS Network (www.acs.org/network-careers).