AFR: How to use Q4 to boost your career in 2022 - Michelle Gibbings

Thanks for Tess Bennett and The Australian Financial Review for giving Michelle the opportunity to contribute her ideas on how to use the final quarter of the year to boost your career for 2022.

While large face-to-face networking events won’t be back this year, workplace experts are urging professionals to take advantage of easing restrictions to rebuild neglected relationships to set themselves up for career success in 2022.

It was easy to lose sight of career goals and neglect key relationships during the social isolation of lockdowns, said Melbourne-based workplace expert Michelle Gibbings.

“For many people who have had extended lockdowns, the focus has just been, ‘I just need to get through the day’. You don’t have additional energy beyond getting through today and perhaps thinking about what’s happening tomorrow,” Ms Gibbings said.

The easing of COVID-19 restrictions in NSW and Victoria offered a reprieve for professionals who would be in a better headspace to reflect on their career progress and revive connections, she said.

“Now is a great time, as we start to reopen, to ask ‘what’s my prioritised list of people I want to make sure I get back into contact with and catch up with face-to-face?’”

Bridget Gray, an Asia-Pacific vice-president at executive search firm Korn Ferry, expects networking will be a low-key affair for the rest of the year, with large events replaced with walking meetings.

“Even with the legal ability to meet up and do things, many companies will be reluctant to organise large gatherings, formal events and parties,” Ms Gray said.

“I think many Australian organisations are waiting to see what happens and, all going well, look to resume some semblance of the new normal early 2022.”

Ms Gray also urged professionals to schedule regular catch-ups with their boss to discuss career goals and plans.

“You want to make sure your manager understands the value you bring and that your career goals are kept on track.

“In times of uncertainty, like the ones we have found ourselves in, it makes more sense to set yourself shorter-term goals as well as longer-term objectives. This clarity of direction should keep you motivated and resilient, which are critical to keeping you at the top of your career game.”

Career stocktake

Ms Gibbings urged workers not to wait until the new year to set goals for 2022 and to use the final months of 2021 to reflect on what they have learnt and accomplished during the year.

Professionals should undertake a “career stocktake” to identify what projects they want to finish before the end of the year and think about how their industry or profession has changed.

This will help refocus their goals for 2022 and identify any skills gaps that need to be filled, she said.

“It’s much better to do that reflection now and start thinking about it before you get to 2022, so you are ready when the year kicks off,” Ms Gibbings said.

Book leave

After months of working from home, Ms Gibbings also recommended examining the habits workers have picked up while they have been away from the office.

“If they’ve developed new habits or new ways of working that have been really constructive or really helpful, keep those going. But if you’ve picked up habits that haven’t been helpful or healthy, now’s a great time to get rid of those.”

It was also time to lock in summer holiday plans to ensure recharging before the return to work in the new year.

A reluctance to take leave during lockdowns has meant many people have worked through the year without taking their usual holidays, Ms Gibbings said.

“People really do need a holiday. As a leader, I would be encouraging your team to make sure they take time off,” she said.

“You need time to rest, recharge, have fun and connect with family and friends.”