The December push: Finish the year strong, reap the benefits all year long

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When you look at your career calendar, it’s easy to see December as a forgotten month. You stumble into the first week fresh off a Thanksgiving food and shopping hangover, and once the 20th hits, you’re days away from Christmas, which rolls directly into New Years. The “out of office for the rest of the year” and “let’s touch base in January” replies fly fast and furiously.

But before you put on your Santa hat, take a moment to cross off a few things on your wishlist and propel your career forward.

Here are 7 career tips to finish this year strong:

1) Summarize your accomplishments

I consistently advise people to keep a running list of accomplishments throughout the year, updating a text file or Google Document with notes about key projects, revenue numbers, and praise from supervisors. You have been taking meticulous notes all year, right?

Wait, why are you looking at me with a blank stare?

OK, so while there’s a good chance that you haven’t been diligent about jotting down notes all year round, that means now is the time to do it. Go into work an hour early one day and dig through your calendar, your email archive, and other files to really summarize your accomplishments for the year.

  • Did you launch a new project?
  • Sign up several new accounts?
  • Earn any special degrees or certificates?
  • Speak at an event?

Make sure you have all the details in one place, save out any graphics or website screenshots, and tally up any revenue that you brought to the company. You can also go a step further and add it to your resume or LinkedIn profile.

2) Connect with clients

Early December is a great time to reach out to clients you haven’t communicated with in awhile. You’ll catch them before the holiday rush and your name will be top of mind.

Many times companies will be trying to use up the last of their budgets, so see if there’s any final business you can close to finish strong and pad your bottom line.

3) Plan for next year

While you’re still in work mode, reflect back on the last 12 months. How many of your goals did you achieve? And more importantly, why or why not? After doing an honest assessment, set personal and professional goals that you want to achieve.

Depending on your position, think about goals for others… people you manager, your department, or the company as a whole. When you return to work after the holidays, you’ll be ready to hit the ground running.

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4) Scan the conference circuit

One of the most important aspects of business is having a strong network of connections. One great way to do that is to stay up to date on the latest industry conferences.

This will keep your skills sharp, allow you to connect with new friends, keep an eye on your enemies, and get you out of the office once in awhile to see the big picture. Plot out some of the top conferences you usually attend, and then dig deeper to find some new ones.

5) Find out what you’re worth

You might be 100% content and happy in your current position, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t keep an eye on your future. Set aside an hour at home one weekend to take a spin through current job postings in your industry and look up the recent compensation numbers on Salary.com.

Keeping up with the latest hiring trends doesn’t mean you’re “cheating” on your current company, you’re merely making sure your skills are up to date and you’re being paid fairly for the work that you do.

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6) Ask for that raise

Now that you have your accomplishments in hand, know your goals for the future, and have researched the latest salary numbers, it might be time to ask for that raise. Keep in mind that companies often lock down budgets around this time so don’t wait too long.

If you’re able to show that you’ve accomplished several goals, made the company money, and are a top performer in your group, you can push for the extra funds still sitting in the budget that your co-workers are too lazy to ask for. (Here’s the Salary Tutor GamePlan).

7) Relax and regroup

Congratulations. You’ve stepped up and finished the year strong, which sets you on the right path to reap the benefits all of next year.

Enjoy yourself at the holiday party (go easy on the spiked eggnog lest you find yourself regretting your diatribe to the boss about the lack of a foosball table), plan some downtime, and relax with friends and family. You’ve earned it.

Note: A version of this article first appeared in a post for Salary.com.