5 Career Resolutions You Can Actually Keep in 2020

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Danielle Wood36
May 30, 2024 at 1:49PM UTC

The new year is upon us. And with new years, come New Year’s resolutions. This glance forwards and backwards gives us a chance to pause. It gives us the chance to think about how we’re offering ourselves to the world, and how we show up in the workplace. 

Most people give up on their resolutions long before February rolls around. With that in mind, here are 5 career goals you can actually achieve in 2020:

1. Give a TED talk.

Sure, you may give presentations all the time. But more than likely, those presentations are full of platitudes, and bulleted slides your audience skims as they listen to you with half an ear cocked. TED talks are different. 18 minutes, a topic, and an audience —  that’s it. 

Preparing for a TED talk is exhilarating, nerve-wracking, and a brutal look in the mirror as you fly without a net. You have left Powerpoint country. You should commit yourself this year to give a TED talk because it will push you to be better, leaner, and more of a storyteller than you were before. This guide, straight from the non-profit founders, will help you prepare.  Once you’re ready to rumble, search for a Tedx event near you and add your talk to the agenda, or launch your own program by recruiting a few folks to take the plunge with you. Then broadcast some of the best TED has to offer from their archives, and get studying. 

2. Help someone else get ahead.

In an era where job-hopping is growing steadily, many employees are focused more on their own career growth than the idea of growing within an organization over time. All that focus on our own selves and our own needs can make us forget about the other people sitting with us at the conference table. This year, make it a goal to figure out how you can amplify the voices of others — especially those from marginalized communities. 

In our current political climate, people are being actively targeted based on race, ethnicity, religious beliefs, gender identity, and disabilities more than ever before. You can help create an atmosphere where every voice is valued by supporting differing opinions and points of view. Multiple studies point to how often women are undermined at work or not given credit for their ideas. There’s also plenty of evidence about the exit of underrepresented minorities due to discrimination. For instance, 64% of queer employees who left said that bullying at work contributed to their decision. 

Regardless of your own background, you can support diverse colleagues by sharing their work on social media, connecting them to people within and without of your organization, reminding people where a great idea originated when others take credit for it, and keeping an eye out for who tends to dominate conversations so you can make space for others.

3. Talk to strangers.

It’s easy to get so caught up in your laundry list of to-do items that the days and weeks fly by. Part of what helps us get to the next step in our careers is the chance to remove ourselves from the immediate, and step outside of our obvious circle of responsibilities. Adaptive change experts call this “getting onto the balcony." In other words, stop dancing and get into a position where you can see the scene from a more strategic position. One of the easiest ways to do this is to schedule regular conversations with people outside of your everyday work —  people in close enough proximity to understand your organization or industry, but far enough away to give insights you may be too close to realize on your own. 

This year, I encourage you to think about 3 areas in which you want to grow, and then schedule at least one conversation a month that would allow you to learn more. Whether it’s through your alumni network or through LinkedIn, you’d be surprised how willing strangers are to talk to you about their work if you’re buying the coffee. Schedule a monthly time slot for both the conversations themselves, and for the research and outreach required to connect to someone you can learn from. Then honor that commitment, like you would any other meeting on your calendar.

4. Go to a conference alone.

The first year of a new job can feel like drinking from a firehose; there’s so much to learn. But as we get more competent at our jobs, we often get more comfortable. Too comfortable. Want to up your learning this year? Go to a conference you’ve never attended before. And if you really want to learn big, go alone. Flying solo will encourage you to focus on the learning, rather than on catching up with office gossip. Give yourself a goal to sit with someone you just met at every meal, and you’ll leave with new contacts as well as new knowledge.

5. Fix something that’s broken.

It’s easy to complain about what’s wrong with your current employer. It’s much harder to come up with a solution to a problem you’ve observed. This year, pick something that’s not working where you work, and come up with a way to fix it. Engage coworkers, set a list of measurable goals, and draw up a timeline. Not only will you “be the change you want to see in the world," but you’ll likely gain some empathy as to why tough problems can be hard to solve. 

Only a small fraction of people who make New Year’s resolutions actually stick to them. Making your commitments tangible, writing them down, and checking in with yourself will help you reach your goals. Make this year the year by becoming your own accountability partner. You can send yourself motivational messages, in your own voice, with the wonderful website, Futureme.org. Send a message to your future self, reminding you why you set these goals in the first place, tell Futureme.org when to send it, and when that date rolls around it will arrive in your inbox. Everyone needs a cheerleader, it might as well be you!

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Danielle Wood is Associate Dean and Director of Career Catalysts at BEAM, Stanford Career Education. Career Catalysts is an incubator at Stanford working at the intersection of diversity, inclusion, and belonging. We encourage students to learn by doing and believe that students gain greater clarity about their future possibilities through a cycle of experimentation and reflection.

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