The five secrets to getting your career back on track in 2021

What do you want more of in your career right now? More stretch? fun? Visibility? Meaning? Money? Impact? Or something else?

Whatever your answer, it might feel quite challenging to identify what you need to do to obtain it.

After a challenging year where we’ve had to adapt and change the way we work and live, we’ve ended up in survival mode. Thriving and being proactive about our career choices or activities can seem a million miles away.

Plus recent research from Microsoft in 2020 found that remote working and the subsequent disconnect from our work places is having an impact on our creativity and sense of purpose, and is leaving us feeling burnt out.

The five secrets to getting your career back on track in 2021

So what can you do to get your career back on track, and replenish your low energy reserves? Here are five strategies to try.

1) Take care of your mindset

Research by the University of Pennsylvania psychologist Katy Milkman and others has shown that you are more motivated to tackle new goals at shared temporal breaks, than at random times of the year. It’s something she calls the “fresh start effect”.

This could be big like the start of a New Year but it can also be a birthday, a Monday morning or the first day of a new month or season. Fresh start moments give us a boost of motivation by focusing our attention on the big picture and what we really want out of life, including what we want out of our careers. Choose your fresh start moment and harness the energy it brings.

2) Get super clear

When you think about what comes next in your career it can all be a bit overwhelming, particularly now, and any move, even internally can feel risky. That’s why its good to know why you’re doing this. Simply ask yourself “if I achieve xxxx in my career what difference will it make to my life?” 

Imagining the change in your life that the next step in your career will bring can be very powerful. Maybe having less stress and overwhelm will help improve relationships at home, maybe having more money will enable you to book that amazing family holiday, maybe doing something that you really love will give you that sense of fulfilment you’ve been craving or maybe taking that leadership role will enable you to feel you are stepping into your potential.

Whatever the benefit, it’s a powerful motivator to harness and will enable you to be super clear about why you are devoting time and energy to your career development.

3) Find your focus

Finding focus is hard right now because we have so much to do and so much to distract us. Plus anxiety can make it difficult for our brains to concentrate on one thing. Brains like certainty which is currently in short supply. Your brain is flitting around trying to create some sort of security which makes it hard to concentrate on one area.

But if you want to move your career forward you need to focus. Focus can take on many forms from focusing on where you are right now but where you want to go, that may mean deciding to retrain and gain new skills. There are so many options available right now such as Victoria University Online

So back to my earlier question: ”What do you want more of in your career right now?” Your answer will be your focus for this year. And remember ‘Action conquers fear’ so by focusing on a specific areas of your career and taking action this will also help you manage some of the uncertainty. 

4) Be strategic

Now is the time to make the most of what you’ve got. A quick audit of your top skills and your latest achievements will give you a confidence boost and help you work out a strategy for what you want to develop further, or plug any gaps you’ve spotted.

A career plan can really help you stay on track, give you a direction and enable you to chart your progress.

5) Build momentum

The practical definition of momentum it is ‘the strength or force gained by motion or by a series of actions’. The hardest part of gaining momentum (think of riding a bike) is the starting but once you’ve started then the motion or actions drive the momentum (and before you know it you’re freewheeling!).

It becomes a virtuous circle as more momentum is generated then you begin to see new opportunities or gain new ideas, and things seem more possible.

Just start!

So the first element is to just start. Your plan doesn’t have to be perfect, it just needs to give you an initial focus or direction.

The second element is to be aware that if you lose momentum for what ever reason, maybe you haven’t had time to take the actions you’d planned because other areas of your life or work got really busy, don’t give up or feel like you’re back at square one.

Focus instead on what you have managed to achieve or complete in your career plan, and not what you haven’t done. Then work on your next action in your plan to start building momentum again. 

And don’t forget to recharge your energy by doing things that make you feel good – we can’t do a 20 mile bike ride with no rest breaks or energy giving food!

So don’t wait to start moving your career forward, use this five-step approach to kick start your career success in 2021.

Sarah Archer specialises in helping ambitious professional women discover work they love and achieve their kind of career success. Download her FREE Career Success Planner packed full of tips and ideas to boost your career this year.

Photo by Helena Lopes