Nearly everyone makes resolutions for the new year, but how many of these objectives are career-related? Not many. If you’re like most people, you think almost exclusively about your exercise regimen, spending habits or messy closets that need sorting. But the beginning of the year is an ideal time to reflect on your professional achievements over the past 12 months and set goals for the future. Here are six simple but specific objectives you might consider to help advance your digital career:
- Subscribe to design blogs. Chances are your daily routine includes visiting a few of your favorite websites for the latest news or celebrity gossip. Go beyond your bookmarks and add a few blogs dedicated to interactive design (in addition to HOW Interactive Design, of course!). These sites can be a great source of inspiration, clue you in to tips and tricks, and help you remain up-to-date on the latest developments in the interactive field. Not sure where to start? Here are three to start with: Smashing Magazine, Web Design Ledger and Web Designer Depot.
- Take an online tutorial. If you’re on the hunt for an interactive design job, think about the employment ads you’ve seen and the technical requirements most often cited by employers. If you lack certain skills that show up again and again, it’s in your best interests to develop them. The good news is that you can learn many in-demand digital skills, such as Flash and WordPress, from home. Courses offered by HOW U, Lynda.com and similar sites make it easy for you to learn at your own pace when it’s most convenient for you.
- Put your knowledge to use. Acquiring new digital skills is great, but firms want proof that you’re able to apply them to real-world challenges. After learning a new software program, complete a pet project or take on a pro bono assignment that demonstrates your newfound knowledge. Scale the project to your ability level, so you don’t get in over your head. While these projects might not be for real clients, they will help you practice your skills, identify areas for improvement and build your portfolio.
- Mix and mingle. Networking is one of those activities that everyone knows they should do but few people actually get around to. If you’re just starting out in the interactive field, especially, it’s critical to connect with other digital designers, particularly those who have more experience than you. These professionals can alert you to emerging industry trends, provide career advice and even point out job openings. Consider joining an interactive design-related Meetup group or user group in your area to make initial connections.
- Go on an informational interview. The informational interview is the job interview’s often-overlooked cousin. But you shouldn’t underestimate how valuable this type of meeting can be. The goal isn’t to land a job; it’s to learn more about the industry and those who have been successful in it. Target high-level contacts at firms or agencies you admire. Whenever possible, tap a member of your network for an introduction to the interactive professional you’d like to meet.
Setting career resolutions may not be top of mind as you enjoy year-end festivities and prepare to usher in the new year. But taking a little time now to identify and document some specific career goals will set you up for long-term success and propel your digital career forward.