Maybe it’s because I spent so many years in the classroom– first as a student and then 8 more as a teacher, but for me the real “new year” starts in September. As much as I love summer, the final days of August often seem tired and worn out, and I look forward to the snap of fall that often occurs shortly after Labour Day, at least in Canada! September is a time of transition, as we shop for new clothes/haul out old fall favourites, stock up our kids with back to school items ranging from notebooks (or Notebooks!) to lunch box treats and celebrate the end of summer with camp/club/pool closing events.
September is the time we begin to prepare for a new cycle to start all over again. Even if the weather is still warm, the locus of our activity shifts from outside to indoors (although for Canadians the barbeque stays out all year!) No matter what the thermometer says, we know it’s fall when the yellow school buses punctuate our morning commute and political candidate signs pop up on lawns to compete with bedraggled summer flowers. We root around for sox and find ourselves thinking about apples and pumpkin lattes v. watermelon and iced tea.
September is also a month of renewed responsibility. Each fall, our low-key, laid back summer selves pull it together and recommit to getting serious. While January 1st New Year's Resolutions seem more like making up for holiday indulgence, those forged in September– whether a new hobby, a class you’re going to take or a career management plan– all feel appropriate for this time of year. And our inner calendar is mirrored by the professional, as the professional meetings and events that wrapped up in June often launch with a flourish this month.
As you head into this other new year, here are 6 “back-to-school tips” I’ve adapted to help you launch your September career planning:
- If you have fallen out of your routine this summer, get back on track. In terms of career planning, this means–planning! Identify some SMART career goals, determine what actions will be needed to achieve them and seek the help you need to be effective in carrying out your plans. Then put those actions you’ve identified into your schedule so career management becomes an ingrained habit.
- Prepare for career chats by doing your homework ahead of time. Researching the industry/company/contact and drafting a set of questions you want to ask will lead to a more productive meeting and prevent much stress in the long run (see my previous blog on networking). Both Google and LinkedIn are invaluable resources for this.
- Put together a “shopping list” of the factors that will give you career satisfaction. Determining what you want in a new job/career ahead of time will create focus for your own activity and help you clarify your message to others in a position to assist you. Self-assessment, targeted research and informational interviews combined with coaching from someone who can listen, respond and ask key questions can provide structure and support for the process.
- Save time on busy days by prepping for networking meetings and interviews in advance. This means keeping your résumé relevant as well as up to date, using a spreadsheet or contact management system to track your career exploration and/or job search activity and having a great go-to outfit for meetings that arise at the last minute.
- Talk with your coach about what to expect during a typical job interview. These days, many of my clients are seeing distance interviews via Skype, panel interviews, full presentations and interviews with all stakeholders, not just hiring managers. Preparing for every eventuality will help head off anxiety as you focus on being fully present to get your message across and to determine if the role is a good fit.
- Prepare for socializing in the job search. Learning how to balance the niceties of conversation with getting down to business is crucial; my corporate clients all tell me that they look for candidates who not only have the “hard” skills they seek, but are adept interpersonally as well.
Since September is clearly a month of new starts and fresh beginnings, I’ll leave you with one question: What’s your September career resolution?