Published: January 10, 2020 | Comments
The beginning of a new year is a great time to reflect on accomplishments of the past and energize ourselves for future pursuits. It's an ambitious-minded time of year for many of us, as we resolve to do things more, better, or differently in the year ahead.
Unfortunately, it can be a struggle to maintain our resolve as the year goes on. Life happens, and things come up. Work gets busy again. The things we set out to do with a clear and relaxed mind tend to fall by the wayside. I've found that the best way to keep myself on track is to begin tackling my objectives as soon as possible. By gaining traction early on, I have a better chance of making progress throughout the year. Here are some of my tips for achieving your professional goals, and you can get started on them right now.
Define Your Goals
From relaxing vacations to successful careers, every initiative requires planning to be successful. New Year's resolutions are no different. Too often, we aspire to better ourselves but don't think ahead to what it takes to get from our current state to where we want to be. Buying a gym membership is great, but we won't get far unless we work regular visits into our routine. As Antoine de Saint-Exupéry said, "A goal without a plan is just a wish."
Wishes are great, but the dreams we bring to fruition are even better! Achievements require planning and resources, especially if you're an awful procrastinator like me. Spend time early in the year, considering what you want to have accomplished by this time next year. Write down your goals, and the incremental steps it'll take to achieve them.
Using the SMART goal strategy is an excellent way to get started. Make goals that are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound. Then, share your goals with people in your life who can help motivate and keep you on track. Connecting with a community of like-minded people is a great way to ensure your success.
Whether your goals are personal or professional, having a strong network of support is essential! Family, friends, and colleagues can help to push us to the next level, hold us accountable for our commitments, and offer guidance when we get stuck. Sharing our goals with those around us makes them real, and it adds a healthy level of pressure to follow-through.
Finding the right people to socialize our ambitions with might seem daunting, but you often don't have to look that far. If you have performance appraisals coming up, talk about your plans with your manager. Ask them to check-in periodically about your progress, and many wonderful managers are happy to coach you along your path to success. It's also essential to build an external support network that can fill in the gaps and stay with you as your career advances.
I'm incredibly thankful for my external support network; they've dramatically expanded my horizons and stepped in to help where I needed help. Matt Beckwith encouraged me to publish an article that had been dying in my drafts folder. My blogging partner, Becky Roemen, is there to brainstorm ideas and offer alternative perspectives. Jeff Toister has offered generous advice that enhanced several of my projects. Nate Brown created a fantastic community of customer experience professionals. Leslie O'Flahavan always knows just what to say. I'll spare you the full list of people who helped me tremendously in 2019, but they all have one thing in common: I met them in #ICMIchat.
Tweet chats are a fantastic way to introduce yourself to a new community and build strong, mutually supportive relationships. ICMI organizes #ICMIchat on Twitter; it happens every Tuesday, at 1 p.m. Eastern/10 a.m. Pacific. It's completely free to join in; all you need is a Twitter account. Just jump right in and say hello! You'll never meet a friendlier group than customer experience and contact center professionals. If you're not already a regular, take a moment to mark your calendar right now.
I couldn't write an article about doing things "right now" without diving into online resources. The internet is an instant gratification machine, and you can leverage that for inspiration to achieve your goals. There are countless online resources to fuel your professional growth, and many of them free or extremely affordable. Lack of funding is no longer a valid excuse for stagnation.
Webinars and online events are a great place to start, and many of them feature the same subject matter experts and thought leaders that you might otherwise only see once a year at a live event. ICMI hosts at least one webinar every month. Here's the best part: they're all free, and past webinars are available on-demand, right now! Plus, many other companies offer webinars, white papers, and other free resources with no obligation. Your library is almost endless.
Going online is also a great way to expand the scope of your knowledge beyond the contact center and develop complementary skills. One resource I love is LinkedIn Learning, formerly Lynda.com. For only $30 per month, you can access over 15,000 online courses from experts like ICMI's Brad Cleveland and Fancy Mills. They also have courses covering graphic design, Microsoft Excel, marketing, information security, and career development. Speaking from experience, the managerial accounting courses by Kay and Jim Stice are binge-worthy. These topics aren't all typical contact center training, but they have real-world applications that will help you to be a more well-rounded leader.
Attend a Live Event
Attending a live event is probably the single-most informational, inspirational, and fun thing you can do to get ahead in 2020. ICMI's Contact Center Expo in Fort Lauderdale, FL kicks off on May 11, 2020; it's jam-packed with exceptional keynotes, contact center tours, in-depth training, and choose your own adventure breakout sessions. I stole a sneak peek at the agenda, and I'm already conflicted. There are too many great presentations to choose from!
If you register right now, you can take advantage of early-bird pricing. Better yet, bring your boss and a colleague, because groups enjoy generous discounts. Attending events as a group is an amazing team-building experience, but no matter how much you want to stick with them, divide and conquer instead. You'll be amazed at the information you'll exchange with colleagues over dinner.
Of course, we've got to get the boss to pay for it. Your well-defined goals and the other tips from this article can help. Connect in #ICMIchat, watch some webinars, pick out areas you want to focus on in 2020, and show your boss how this event can further those ambitions. They don't have to know that the conference hotel is literally on the beach, about the awards party, or free drinks in the Expo Hall. Start writing that proposal, now!
Invest in Training
If we're honest, we know that most of our colleagues won't go out and seek all of this information on their own. However, we're most effective when everyone is on the same page. As you plan out initiatives that are inspired by what you learn this year, be sure to find ways to include your team. Training sessions are a great way to get everyone up to speed so that they can share your enthusiasm.
Thankfully, there are many ways to train your team that are engaging, affordable, and accessible on any budget. ICMI offers online, virtual classroom, and on-site training on every topic from handling difficult customers to contact center strategy. Training isn't just about knowledge; it's about the conversations sparked by shared understanding. If you're able, bringing the team together in person for on-site training can be an excellent bonding activity. You might learn even more about your colleagues and organization than on the subject of the training. This insight is invaluable at every level of the organization.
All of these resources can help you to become a better version of yourself in the coming year, but they don't work by osmosis. You've got to dig in and pursue the goals you want to accomplish. The ICMI community is here to support you. Remember, there's no better time to get started than right now. 3... 2... 1... GO!