A vector conveying a man on a journey to grow professionally and personally.
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The past two years have been a whirlwind, to say the least. Thankfully things are going back to normal this year!

Okay, maybe not.

We’ve all been forced to adapt—not just to advance our career goals, but to stay relevant amidst the chaos. The new normal of 2020 became the new new normal of 2021, and so on. Where does that leave us for 2022? Well, that depends on you.

Even if you’re still stuck in lockdown, there are plenty of opportunities to learn and grow at work in the year ahead. Here are just three ways to strategize and keep your career goals alive.

Create a plan for the year ahead.

Even before the pandemic, New Year’s resolutions had become a bit of a joke. It was hardly uncommon to hit the gym in January with the best of intentions, only to “leave your membership card in your other pants pocket” for the rest of the year.

Don’t let your career path go the way of the proverbial gym membership this year.

Sit down and consider three things that you really want to achieve in 2022. They don’t have to be earthshattering achievements like finding your life’s purpose. Setting realistic and achievable goals not only sets you up for a successful year, but also circumvents burnout.

Finding Your Life Purpose with Ikigai

Ikigai can guide you in your quest for self-discovery. Listen to Japanese brain scientist Ken Mogi explain why and how.

Personal development and career growth don’t have to be mutually exclusive either. Lots of goals can benefit your personal and professional development simultaneously.

New (or better) skills

You’ve got more time on your hands than ever before—don’t succumb to boredom. Utilize your time at home to learn a new skill, or even continue to hone skills in your area of expertise. While there’s certainly value in being a generalist in the workplace, you’ll enjoy a confidence boost by getting good (or better) at something.

Your resume will enjoy a boost, too.

Free certifications

You don’t have to break the bank to develop your skills, nor do you have to rely on YouTube. Free certificate programs from platforms like HubSpot Academy or Google Analytics Academy have a great reputation. Getting a certificate from such places will show your employer that you’re serious about growing professionally, even if it means investing some of your free time. And if you’re on the hunt for a new job, a certificate might just push you ahead of the competition.

Paid training opportunities

There may come a point when developing your skills on your own just isn’t enough. If you’ve hit that wall, think about investing more than your time. Discuss paid training programs or continuing education opportunities with your employer.

Don’t let your job description limit your search. While you may not consider yourself “a numbers person” or have the need to crunch numbers for your current job, making the choice to study accounting and finance can benefit you in a myriad of ways, especially in the long term. You can use that new knowledge to pivot internally, climb the ladder, or even transition into a leadership role.

Basic Accounting: Financial Analysis

Want to compare your performance vs. a competitor? Or evaluate a potential vendor? Then you'll need to conduct a financial analysis. This course will teach you how to use three financial statements and evaluate financial performance in terms of profitability, efficiency, soundness, growth, and overall strength.

Whether you aspire to run your own business one day or simply to grow as a professional, take the time to learn core business skills now while you’re working for someone else (and possibly while that someone else is paying for it).

iStock/jemastock

Get to know your team members better

How many times have you heard this: “Let’s catch up when the pandemic’s over!”

In the face of uncertainty, it’s tempting to put off teambuilding. But it’s time to face facts: the pandemic uncertainty isn’t blowing over anytime soon. Everything you pushed aside in 2020 and 2021—including spending time with your team—is still here in 2022.

Embrace the new year as an opportunity to get creative and really connect with your colleagues. After all, bonding with coworkers is important for boosting morale and staying productive. Doing that virtually can be tough, but the benefits far outweigh the complications. Getting to know your coworker’s lifestyle, work style, and other personal interests can go a long way to facilitating productive collaboration and enabling a more empathetic outlook.

How to Dream

Join globally renowned author and Columbia Business School professor Dr. Sheena Iyengar as she explains how to approach your dreams with a new perspective. Learn to reflect on what you long to accomplish and what stands in your way.

Virtual happy hour

A classic aspect of Japanese working culture is the nomikai, or drinking party. Particularly in cultures with a rigid social structure, cutting loose after hours is essential to teambuilding.

Although it may be difficult to go out for drinks in person, arranging a virtual happy hour after work is a great substitute. Give everyone some time to get changed into something comfortable, prepare their favorite cocktail at home, and then hop on Zoom for a laid-back hangout.

The best part: Once you’ve finished, there’s no need to call an uber. You’re already home!

Free chat space

Watercooler talk is something you probably never thought you’d miss, but micro-interactions like discussing the latest episode of The Mandalorian really bring coworkers together.

Luckily, that’s easy to emulate in an online work environment!

Try starting a separate channel in your company’s Slack (or communication platform of choice) in which work conversation is off limits. Share funny memes or gifs or theories about the next Marvel movie. Having that ongoing banter throughout the day will help everyone stay motivated. 

Remember that you never know what others are going through, especially in times like these. It’s important to genuinely listen to each other and become an ally in your workplace. Your team will be all the better for it, both professionally and personally.

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Embrace work-life balance

Our personal and professional lives are blending now more than ever before. Both work and play are happening at home—and likely in front of your computer. While it may feel like a dream to go fully remote, it can easily lead to your work-life balance falling out of whack. Sure, you can’t wear sweatpants to a meeting at the office, but you don’t have to worry about your kids vying for your attention, either.

Aim for a healthier work-life balance this year.

Unplug time

You may feel more productive thanks to remote work. Maybe even too productive.

As the pandemic forced the corporate world to go remote, employees started working an average of two hours longer each day. When there’s no physical barrier between your job and personal life, boundaries start to blur.

Enforce a healthy routine to unplug from work at a set time each night—perhaps the same time you’d leave the office to pick up your kids or get dinner on the stove. Shut your laptop and turn notifications off. Work will still be there in the morning, and you’ll feel better knowing you’ve established a balance.

The Pomodoro Technique

With an endless number of distractions ready to steal your attention in a fraction of a second, staying focused is important.

Francesco Cirillo faced this issue back in the pre-pandemic age of the 1980s. Overwhelmed, he challenged himself to buckle down and work for just ten minutes, using a tomato- (pomodoro in Italian) shaped timer to help himself stay on track. Cirillo found that he could accomplish much more when he broke his tasks down into smaller, twenty-five-minute sprints, followed by short five-minute breaks. It worked so well that he went on to published an entire book about his newly dubbed “Pomodoro Technique.”

This method works great in the age of distractions. In fact, it actually gives you time to indulge in distractions without feeling guilty. You’ll end up accomplishing more with a lot less stress.

Don’t let your career goals slip away.

Don’t let your resolutions sputter out before they get started this year. With the state of the world the way it is, we must improvise, adapt, and overcome.

Employ a bit of mindfulness, implement a few simple strategies, let yourself relax, and watch yourself prosper in a year molded to your new normal of professional and personal growth.

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