It’s the New Year, which can mean only one thing: The gym! And while that’s a worthy cause that I’m not going to talk you out of (because it’s where I’m headed myself right after writing this!) the New Year is also the perfect time to reflect on your career. When was the last time you actually asked yourself how happy you are in your job? Or identified a future professional goal that you are working towards? We spend, on average, one third of our lives at work, which means our working life is fundamentally tied to our overall well-being and happiness.

In the spirit of making sure that one third is lived and experienced as optimally as possible, here are five things I recommend every client look at when we begin working together.

  1. Stop keeping your goals a secret

You’d be surprised how many people I work with who tell me they were disappointed they got overlooked for a promotion, training, or other opportunity when in fact they’d never let anyone know they were interested in it. A key part of your career is advocating for yourself within the workplace. Let your boss know you want to be developed, have your sights set on progression to another role eventually, or would love extra training. If you quietly wait to be recognized, don’t be surprised when people get promoted around you.

  1. Remember – or find – your inspiration

Do you find yourself going through the motions at work, executing one task after another without ever stepping back to think about what you loved about your job in the first place? There is truth to the theory that we are so much more productive when we are “in the flow.” When we are inspired, we draw from a different place within ourselves to when we are just ticking off tasks. The passion behind this output typically leads to far more productivity and higher-level thinking. So identifying what it is that drives you and gets you up in the morning is more than sheer hedonism… It’s very often the driver behind success.

  1. Build a personal brand

What makes you unique? What do you offer that no-one else does? And how can you present that to people? These are the questions you need to ask yourself to create your own personal brand. It’s your brand that people remember about you, so dig deep and work out how to make yourself memorable. And remember – life is a permanent interview, so even those short conversations at the water machine or at dinner reinforce your brand and the impression you leave on someone. Make them count!

  1. Build a strong network

In his book “Never Eat Alone,” Keith Ferrazzi – a successful businessman and marketing expert – takes us through the secrets to successful networking. Spoiler: they go way beyond just exchanging business cards. In fact, networking should start within your own organization, because those relationships act as a foundation upon which to build the rest of your network. And, at the expense of sounding cheesy, Keep it real! Although it might be appropriate to dive into the minutiae of your job on one occasion, more often than not it’s the getting-to-know-you that goes a long way. Build genuine relationships with people, and you will find your champions when the time comes.

  1. Plan your roadmap

Chances are, unless you’re one of the rare few, there is a gap between where you are today and where you want to be. What is your roadmap to get there? Do you even have a plan? Each roadmap will look different, but yours might include gaining experience in certain areas you are weaker in, working on personal development, undertaking studies, or – you guessed it – coaching!

So by all means, grab your yoga mat, head to the gym, or join a local windsurfing club. But while you are busy pushing your body back to its pre-December form, spare some time to look at your career through a different lens. One that allows an angle of reflection, while also putting the future in clear focus. If you do this, you will find that 2018 will be the year you can sit in the driving seat of your career instead of simply being a passenger.

Here’s to a happy and successful New Year to all of you!