Do you want 2015 to be your best year ever? After hitting bottom, analysts expect defense budgets to inch up. Increased scrutiny on the number of clearances is making every clearance more valuable, and particularly the highest-level clearances issued by the intelligence community. That means more jobs for cleared professionals and more demand for talent.
If you want your year to be great, don’t just sit back and wait for good things to happen – a new job or promotion won’t fall in your lap, and you don’t wake up instantly happier because it’s 2015. Here are a few tips to help make 2015 your #BestYearEver.
1. Get your calendar in gear.
Do two things: look long term and put important dates for the whole year on your calendar (conferences you know you’ll be attending, important birthdays), and short term. Whether it’s Outlook, Google or a basic word document, pick one method and stick with it. Don’t just update it for two weeks and then forget about it. Develop a system you like and that you’ll want to keep using.
2. Take the time to network.
Networking in 2015 is more important than ever. A defense industry rebound means new contracts awarded and new opportunities in the market. Don’t wait to build your career network. Invest time to network online, and off-line. Pick one industry or networking event to attend each month and use one hour each week to build your online profiles and make connections with companies in your industry. Put each event in your calendar and guard the time!
3. Keep your clearance current.
A short stint in the private sector can be a good thing. But if you’ve always thought you could leave the clearance world and then hop right back into work when you wanted, that might not be the case. Clearance processing times are increasing thanks to changes in interim clearance policy and new scrutiny from OPM. That means companies may be less willing to sponsor a clearance than they used to be. Keep track of your reinvestigation dates and if you move to the commercial sector, know exactly how long you have before your clearance goes inactive (and you have to complete the whole investigation process from scratch.
4. Start scheduling your days.
Time management experts say the best way to save time and protect your personal time is to schedule everything in your work day. Yes, everything – from when you check email to when you work on that major project. We all have those big agenda items that are so big, we never get to them. This is the year to break that project into bite sized pieces and get it done. Unemployed job seekers – calendar planning is even more important for you. Schedule time for networking, resume updating, actively applying for positions, and exercise – looking for job is a full-time job. A calendar gives needed structure.
5. Do something you love.
I love the Oprah Winfrey quote ‘Do what you have to do until you can do what you really want to do.’ But too many people also waste their time hating their workdays and never focusing on their passions. In 2015, work at something you love, whether you’re able to segment a half a work-day each week to a skill-set you’d like to expand or an hour a week developing a hobby you love.
6. Save Uncle Sam’s Money (and Yours).
2015 is a growth year, but that doesn’t mean the coffers are flowing. If you can add one bullet to your resume in 2015, making it something that shows how you can save the government and your employer money. How can you increase efficiency? How did you spot waste? While your at it, invest some money for yourself. If your company has a 401k, this is where you start. If they don’t, look into setting up your own IRA accounts or at a minimum a high-interest savings account for an emergency fund. Every unemployed job seeker I talk to says they wish they’d had more money in an emergency fund. 2015 is trending upward in defense contracting, so it’s a good time to invest your extra cash – rather than spend it.
7. Ask for a bigger raise.
2015 is a key year to know your worth and ask for it. Government contractors are still in recovery mode, but 2015 is definitely a year when many will start to see an uptick in the bottom line. If you’ve stuck with the company through the downturn, 2015 is the time you should start to see your salary reflecting the recovery. Keep your specific skills/demand in mind and know your value in the open market before you ask. Don’t focus on a specific percentage, but focus on what your worth would be if you took a new job. If you do get that big bump, don’t spend it on a new car, but see point four and start directing more money each month into savings.
8. Have more fun.
The past few years in government contracting have been a bit…depressing, to say the least. If you’ve been hit with lay-offs, salary cuts, seen friends lose their jobs or lost contracts yourself, you know what an emotional rollercoaster it can be. When the industry is hurting it’s hard to keep a positive attitude. But by all standards 2015 looks to be better. So keep a smile on your face and keep a positive attitude at the office – it’s scientifically proven to be contagious.
9. Find a hobby.
If you’ve been waiting to take up knitting until you really have the time, know it will never happen. But a balanced personal and professional life is important to your overall happiness. If you’ve always wanted to coach your kid’s soccer team but don’t think it would work with your schedule, explore ways to make it work in 2015 (there are always Saturday leagues!). All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy, and it makes all of us miserable. If your personal life is on track your career will be better off for it. Make family time and hobbies a priority in 2015.
10. Find harmony with your coworkers.
You don’t have to love the people you work with. It’s supposed to be a job, not a social club. But if you don’t respect the people you work with and for, you have problems. Prior to 2015, industry volatility made many people uneager to consider a move, even if they were in a toxic workplace. In 2015 consider what your office climate is doing to your professional success. Aspects of a job can change, overall company culture is highly unlikely to, and certainly won’t just because of you. Network, reach out, and explore new opportunities with a company that matches your professional goals and working style.