Career Corner: Starting Off the New Year

Career Corner: Starting Off the New Year

The new year provides an opportunity to “reboot” and launch new strategies for career exploration. Though I’m not always a big advocate of New Year’s Resolutions, provided you have done some reflection on what was accomplished in 2018, it is not a bad thing to develop some reasonable and achievable goals for 2019. A critical component to the success of any commitment to change is having individuals in your life who can be supportive especially when you are facing challenges or are at crossroads. So, make sure a trusted colleague, friend, or coach is along for the ride in 2019. We might call this person your “career wingman.”

David J Smith — career coach, author, and Fulbrighter

So, here are a few things I would recommend you consider in 2019:

First, develop good personal and physical habits and routines. Consider what dietary and exercise goals you might incorporate this year. Don’t forget about the need for mindfulness in all you do. Can you incorporate some mediation or a daily walk into your regime?

Second, surround yourself with positive rather than toxic influences. Having people around you that can be supportive and empowering is important. This is not to say that having individuals who can speak honestly to you, even when the truth hurts, is not a good thing.  But their advice must come from a place of encouragement.

Third, review your social and professional networks. Are you underusing some? Are there others that you really don’t need to continue with? (Like membership in organizations that are really not helping you).  Are there new networks that you can explore and join? Maybe join your local Fulbright Association chapter. Ask trusted colleagues about appropriate “spaces” where you should be.

Fourth, monitor and even limit your social media and screen time.  Increasingly science is showing that overloading on social media and screen time can have a harmful and adverse effect on your health and as result, you career searching.  This is not say that applying online, having an active LinkedIn presence, and engaging in social media strategies are not helpful.  But there is a point where it may increase anxiety and stress. Personal interaction – an afternoon coffee or Saturday morning meet up – can be energizing and act as an antidote to too much screen time. So, turn off the screen, shut off the phone, and get out and meet people.

Finally, set reasonable expectations for yourself. Take full measure before you set expectations of both the limitations and possibilities that are present in your life. How much time do you reasonably have to commit? In your current job, can you take leave to work on career exploration? Do you have financial commitments that restrict how much “risk” you can take in changing careers? Do you have family commitments – a partner, children, or aging parents – that you must factor into your strategy? This is not to say that you can’t think in an expansive way of the possibilities. Creative approaches might require that you use your time in a way you haven’t before or reach out for help to a coach or your wingman to move ahead.

I hope you achieve your goals in 2019, be it a move to a new career path or getting your first full-time job. Happy New Year!

—David J. Smith

David J. Smith (Fulbright Scholar, Estonia 2003-2004) is a career coach and the author of Peace Jobs: A Student’s Guide to Starting a Career Working for Peace (Information Age Publishing 2016). He is on the career advisory board of the Peace and Collaborative Development Network. David writes regularly on career issues at He can reached at

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