While January kicks off a new calendar year, it seems like a hard time for resolution-making. Getting back into the rhythm of professional life is difficult after the holiday break, and powering through the cold, sunless start of the year can seem like a resolution in itself.
According to US News and World Report, around 80 percent of new year’s resolutions peter out by mid-February. Perhaps we stand to be more successful if we make our resolutions at a more favorable time of the year.
The close of an academic year offers a fitting occasion for reflection. It invites us to celebrate our students’ success and to be part of our institution’s graduation festivities.
This seems like a better season to contemplate what we’ve accomplished, what we’ve learned, and how we hope to grow. Campus feels different in the summer. There’s a sense of calm and ease. It gives us a chance to catch our breath and ponder our future. That’s a good frame of mind for resolution-making. Here’s what to consider as you reach 2022’s half-point.
Take Stock of Your 2022 Accomplishments and Challenges
What have you learned so far in 2022? What professional accomplishments made you proud? How have you surprised yourself? What challenged you?
List accomplishments that you feel good about; this can mean recognition like awards or publications. It can also include more everyday feats like learning to use technology better, articulate an abstract concept more succinctly, or reach a struggling student.
We’re more likely to be satisfied in our jobs when we feel like we are growing and learning at work. Some growth opportunities are obvious — like promotions that you know you’re ready for, new classes you want to take or teach, or committees that you feel ready to serve or lead.
Other growth channels are more subtle and unique to your own skill-building. Perhaps you normally feel technologically clumsy, for example, but after emerging from your covid cocoon, you feel versed and confident in ways you never did before. Maybe you took on a project or taught a class for a colleague, and it introduced you to a whole new area of strength and interest.
Much has been written about the challenges that have come with living through a global pandemic. But it has also built new skills and presented new opportunities for employees.
Robin Landaauthor of “The New Art of Ideas” and professor of design at Kean University explains how she invites growth: “Along with the institutional student evaluations, at the end of the semester, I ask my students to provide feedback so that I can assess my teaching from their points of view.”
Higher ed professionals have been through a lot, as have students. But challenges impart skills, lessons, and wisdom. How have you stretched and strengthened your professional self to meet the challenges of 2022?
Review Your Job Description
The roles we inhabit change while we’re in them. When is the last time you read your job description? How has your role changed? How do you feel about that? It’s an interesting exercise to revisit the job that you were hired to do and to see how it has evolved during your tenure.
Are you happy with the direction in which your job is growing? What skills do you want to build to move in the direction of the work that most excites you? Create informed development goals. Summer is a good time to research and plan for the conferences, classes, and workshops that can help you realize these.
Meeting your manager when you have an informed plan about your goals puts you in a position to pursue these aims. Doing this prep gives you clarity around your goals and aspirations, and it shows your manager that you’ve taken time to prepare and reflect.
“For most faculty in higher ed, we’re evaluated in three areas: research, teaching, and service.” Landa explains. “For faculty, it is critical to take stock of one’s research agenda and set attainable goals for the summer and next academic year. Break your research goal into objectives and take them each one by one.”
Whether you are staff or faculty, an informed plan is more than a resolution, it’s your road map to success.
Update Your Networks
As you’re reflecting on the first six months of 2022, take time to update your network. Track down people that you’ve met on campus or at conferences.
Routinely growing your network is an ongoing way to nurture your career. But it’s easy to neglect that when we come back from a trip and have so much catch-up weighing us down. Make it a priority as you do your half-year career reflections. Your connections help pave the road to your future.
Get Real About Mentorship
Having and being a mentor is an important and fulfilling career boost. It’s worth making time for mentorship. It stands to increase your job satisfaction and your sense of connection at work. You have wisdom to absorb and to share. Mentorship is good for your daily satisfaction at work. It’s good for your resume. It plays well in interviews.
Plus, a mentor can help you target and realize a fitting resolution. They’re seasoned. They know the ropes. They can see career advancement from a vantage point that you’re still honing. Whether it’s a stretch assignment that may propel you to the next level, work on a committee that can round out your experience, or the perfect press or conference to pitch your proposal, having a helpful nudge from a mentor can make all the difference.
“Finding a mentor also might support you or apply for a writing or research fellowship to move you along. Although most institutions claim to weigh three areas equally, many primarily focus on research when evaluating faculty for reappointment, tenure, and promotion.” Landa explains.
Being a mentor can be equally valuable. Imparting knowledge is what higher ed is all about, and it’s satisfying and skill-building to assume that important role for someone else.
A Resolution Worth Keeping
Make a half-year resolution you know you can keep. Take the opportunity seriously. Target something that matters to you and outline how you plan to achieve it. Request the feedback you need to get perspective on your performance.
Summer is an ideal time for self-reflection. Make that commitment to yourself. Then you won’t have to worry when 2023 strikes, because you’ll know that you have your own timeline for making resolutions worth keeping.