5 Actions to Level-Up Your Life & Your Career. Never waste a failure or a fresh start.
When I realized it was going to be the year of the Tiger, I knew I needed to climb out of my COVID-ridden January fog and funk, and get my life together.
If your year, like mine, started off in what could easily be compared to a long slow ride in a covered wagon in the winter on the Oregon Trail…the kind of trip where everyone got cholera or dysentery, and somehow you avoided drowning, accidental gunshot wounds, or the death of any oxen and made it to Oregon in one piece while traveling at a “grueling pace”… then consider this the sign you need to see to remind yourself that we’re going to be okay — heck, wayyy better than okay — and it’s finally time to start this year off right.
PS: Did you know that the Oregon Trail Game, which revolutionized personal computing,celebrated 50 years in December?! Wild. If this tugs at your nostalgia heart strings, friendly reminder to please apply your moisturizer responsibly. Also, R-E-S-P-E-C-T.
Anyway, back to us crushing this year.
Good news: February 1, 2022, marks the beginning of the Year of the Tiger (the TLDR: this year’s mantra is “YOLO”). Great news: This means we can write off whatever-the-F trainwreck-of-a-start to the year January was, and begin with a clean slate in February too, and with the best mascot.
A tiger symbolizes bravery, strength, power, and valor — all the things I needed to be reminded of to channel and possess; maybe you need this reminder too? I don’t always look to the east Asian Lunar calendar — which consists of a repeating twelve-year cycle, with each year corresponding to one of the twelve animals in the Chinese zodiac — for motivation and inspiration, but I’m so glad I did, what a gift for us all!
A new year offers us a once-in-a-365(ish)-day glorious opportunity for a fresh start, a reset, and a new beginning. Who am I, ahem, who are we to not make the best damn magic out of this fresh start as we can.
“The magic in new beginnings is truly the most powerful of them all.”— Josiyah Martin
I love new beginnings. Mostly because I love the blank slate of what I’m about to create, and because it feels so good to be reminded of the endless opportunities that exist and the many paths I can choose to take. We all get to do this, so let’s make the best of this 2022 opportunity in front of us, shall we?
It’s Time to Turn the Page and Level Up.
Whether you experienced a “failure to start” on January 1st too, or not, the reality is today is as good of a day as any to decide to make big things happen for you and your life in 2022.
How you start anything new matters. Now, I’ll be the first to tell you that there is no perfect method or process when it comes to starting a new year, only the one that works best for you with respect to the season of life you’re in today. And of course there are so many fantastic guidelines, best practices, insights from people who seem to have it figured out, and also pressure-tested methods from yours truly out there, that I prioritize and i’m sure you do too — from choosing a word of the year, to vision boarding, to goal and intention setting — so let’s just keep doing what we feel is working for us, okay? Even and especially in the years that start a little slower and a little messier than we’re used to.
However! There are 5 key actions that I consistently take at the beginning of each year that help me level up my life and my career regardless of how it starts or how “ready I am” and I guarantee that they will set you up for success too. I urge you to prioritize them.
Are you ready for the what and the why? Let’s get into it.
1. Update your LinkedIn profile
I know this seems like such a Basic B action but hear me out. First, too many people overlook the opportunity at the beginning of each year to update their personal marketing material. Things like your resume, your personal branding statement, your personal marketing plan, your bio, and your LinkedIn profile should be updated on the regular, and when they’re not it’s a huge miss for opportunities, network and overall visibility and impact. (PS: If you want a copy of my Branding Bundle, aka my favorite personal marketing material that helped me grow my network by 200% in 30 days, click here).
Second, how are you going to start off the year with your best self forward if the material that speaks most prominently about you in the digital space (at least for most) as a career professional or entrepreneur, has that “last year vibe” written all over it? Talk about telling the world that you are not ready for the now and all that is in store for you and your potential.
Lastly, LinkedIn is the world’s largest professional network and it is arguably the most important social platform of our time. Here are a few important fast facts to help you get your head in the game on this first action (and more here: 81 LinkedIn Statistics You Need to Know in 2022):
40 million people use LinkedIn to search for jobs each week
There are three people hired every minute on LinkedIn
92% of B2B marketers include LinkedIn in their digital marketing mix
80% of B2B leads come from LinkedIn
The average LinkedIn post reaches 21 industries and 9 countries
LinkedIn ads can potentially reach 13% of the world’s population
If you’re serious about what you do, you need to take LinkedIn seriously. Get it together.
2. Schedule a Personal Branding Shoot
I’d be willing to bet that your headshots are false advertising. Listen, it happens to the best of us, especially after the 2 years we just emerged out of, but let me remind you that if you haven’t updated your headshots in 2+ years, it’s time.
Also, while scheduling and preparing for a personal branding shoot can feel intimidating at first, when you actually commit to doing it and decide what you’re going to outsource — I always recommend investing in at least the photographer — you will be so grateful you did. Who doesn’t want a photo (or a few) that feels good to share with someone when you get asked for it? Also, since you’re probably in the camp that needs a LinkedIn update too, your headshot is the most important part of your profile. Lastly, if you plan on doing anything professional this year like being a keynote speaker, getting interviewed on a podcast, changing jobs, trying to get press, showcasing yourself on the world wide web, attending a conference, you likely need a headshot.
Need a little help executing a killer personal branding shoot? I gotchu.
3. Complete a Calendar Audit
If you want to create a life on your own terms you have to manage your calendar and your time like a boss. Here are two truths to live by to get your mind right:
You are the CEO of your life, act like it.
Time is your most valuable asset; manage it wisely, use it deliberately, and don’t let other people spend it without your consent.
“Time is the most valuable asset you don’t own. You may or may not realize it yet, but how you use or don’t use your time is going to be the best indication of where your future is going to take you.” — Mark Cuban
It’s incredibly important to manage your time (calendar) like you would if your potential, ability to avoid overwhelm, aptitude for achieving your desires, and your future depends on it…because it does. If you don’t, and if you let other people and circumstances manage your time, you will live a life on their terms, constantly helping others achieve their dreams and not your own. We all know that is not a way to live.
At the beginning of every year, and whenever I feel out-of-balance or overwhelmed with my schedule, I complete a calendar audit. And you should too. Look back at your calendar from the previous year and review where you spent your time, what worked and what didn’t, and adjust your time blocks accordingly.
Here are a few things we should all prioritize on our calendar, in non-negotiable windows for life/career success and alignment:
Monthly 1:1s for networking/career growth
Quarterly check-ins with yourself to review SMART goals and intentions
An hour at the beginning of every week to review your weekly schedule, prioritize your To Do List, and make adjustments as needed (I recommend “Monday Hour One”, a process that I live by that I learned from the Life Coach School, explained well here)
Be the CEO of your life and take full responsibility for your bandwidth, your priorities, and your success.
4. Find 3 Ways to Invest in Your Growth
You can never go wrong by making an investment in yourself and your growth game. I spent more on my personal and professional development last year — through coaches, classes, trainings, growing relationships through business memberships, and outsourcing things I needed help with to level up — than I ever have, and I have never evolved more profoundly in my entire life.
“Grow so remarkably that people have to get to know you all over again.” — Anonymous
Hire the coach, pay for the personal trainer, go to therapy, invest in a financial advisor, pay for the thing that feels like an expensive-but-worth-it investment in you because you’re worth it. Do whatever it takes to evolve and save time by investing in experts, programs and learnings that help you accelerate your growth and make you a better human. You will never regret it.
So, what 3 big investments are you going to make in yourself and your glow up this year? Do it.
5. Create a Personal Mission & Vision Statement
If you don’t know where you’re headed, you will consistently be surprised when you get there. You may even find that the things you want and need, and the dreams you desire don’t come to fruition. Or that other people’s priorities take a front seat to your own. Or that you’re stuck in a place that’s not serving you. This doesn’t feel good.
How do we avoid that? By learning to listen to our intuition AND by creating focus for our lives that remind us who we are, what we want, and how we want to live, and say ‘NO’ to anything that’s not that.
I’ve found that creating a Personal Mission and a Vision Statement are powerful tools to help us do just this; because it helps us with our focus, and helps us ensure that our actions and decisions align with our goals and intentions. A mission is what you want now and explains the HOW; a vision is future-focused and explains the WHY.
When we write a personal mission statement we should consider the following questions:
Who am I and what do I do?
Whom do I serve?
How do I serve them?
For vision statements, consider these questions:
What are my aspirations and dreams?
What problem am I solving for the greater good?
Who and what are we inspiring?
Why do I feel called to do what I want to do?
I love this article by Britt Skrabanek, Co-Founder of Superneat Marketing and Content Strategist, on the difference between mission and vision statements, and it has some great examples. Check it out for inspo.
When you have a clear mission and vision for your life, it’s easier to see if a shiny opportunity is a fit for you or not, and to determine what to do when faced with indecision. If it doesn’t seem to align with your personal mission and vision, it might be a pass. Trust yourself, and while you’re at it, listen to Oprah:
“Create the highest, grandest vision possible for your life because you become what you believe” — Oprah Winfrey
Keep Overestimating Yourself
My failure to start this year on January 1st was a gift. It gave me the time I needed to reflect on all the lessons from last year; time to figure out who I want to be now, and zero in on what I want to create. It’s been a process — like every year — except it’s forced me to slow down and listen more closely to myself (not easy). And now I’m ready to rock. What did the beginning of this year give to you so far? Never waste a failure or a fresh start.
A new year is a perfect time to level-up, and so is today. Envision the life and career of your dreams, and do whatever it takes to create it. Your future self is waiting.
Danielle Vardaro is an Aviation Executive, Proud Working Mom, and Global Speaker. She’s also the co-founder of the Unstuck Your Career Bootcamp, where she coaches ambitious women on the verge of change.