As the frigid weather kicks in and we start to see holiday decorations around every corner, you might be feeling that Pavlovian itch for a winter break. But depending on your circumstances, the idea of rest could still feel far from reach. For my candidates and clients, the final weeks of the calendar year can induce a fair amount of work and worry. In the legal field—where I focus my recruiting—many last-minute projects are spinning up or settlement negotiations are heating up. And once you layer on the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, the stresses some of us feel as parents to make it all perfect…well, are your palms getting sweaty yet?
With everything swirling around, the year-end might come and go in a blur of eggnog and wrapping paper. Before you know it, the ball’s dropping in Time Square, and it’s time to start another year and get back to the grind.
Make time for a few questions (I know, but hear me out)
For all the things you are doing for others—your kids, your spouse, the rest of your family, and especially, your clients—are you putting yourself on that list too? Are you making time to reflect on the year? To give some attention to how you’re feeling? Because you deserve it.
Reflecting on the close of the year can be an important step in setting your goals and your vision for the new year. It’s also a good time to ask some important questions. Are your accomplishments this past year in-line with how you want to grow your career?
To get to the bottom of how you’re feeling, ask yourself:
What am I proud to have accomplished in 2021? Don’t limit this to your work accomplishments either…your career compass needs to take consideration from your life compass! List as many things as you can and don’t be shy!
What did I fail at this year and what did I learn from it? How will I use it to propel me forward?
When I think ahead to 2022, how do I want to grow? What and who can I reach out to for support to help me get there?
Your professional identity is important, but there are other dimensions in your life that are just as important. Checking in with yourself isn’t just about patting yourself on the back for finding the “right” job (or beating yourself up because you haven’t!) We put too much stock in the lens of prestige and accomplishment.
Ask yourself: Does my job encourage all the dimensions of who I am and want to be?
Maybe you finally landed that Top AmLaw job, but your health is suffering. Maybe you love your job but you want to know how to level up your skills. I have associates leaving law firms for hybrid or fully remote jobs so that they can spend time with their pandemic puppies. I think that’s great! I hope people make choices that reflect what is authentically fueling their whole life and their personal happiness.
For me, I think about creating a career that capitalizes on my strengths and fulfills my yearning to change people’s lives while allowing me flexibility and autonomy to spend meaningful time raising my three boys (age 2, 5, 5) and with my husband. That’s what led me on my untraditional career pivot from Big Law practicing attorney to legal recruiter.
What to do with the answers
So you’ve jotted down your thoughts, now what? For me, reflecting, recharging, and preparing for the year ahead helps me know where I want to adjust. Where am I this year compared to last year? How am I doing physically, emotionally, socially? And what do I want next year to bring? And listen to your gut when it comes to the answer.
Whatever the adjustments you make, don’t be afraid to make pivots, whether small or large, to have something that fits your vision for YOUR life. There’s no such thing as an “A+” for having “the best life.” This is about being in control of your career, your life and your story. At the end of the day, you’re in charge of defining what “best” looks like. And by the way, your reflection SHOULD have some gaps. A life lived is one where you are continuing to grow!
Don’t forget to celebrate
No matter where this year took you, I’m sure you accomplished things personally and professionally that are worth celebrating. So, as you reflect, don’t forget to congratulate yourself on a year well-accomplished. This one was a doozy.
Feb. 2021: We bought a house and moved to the suburbs.
Jun. 2021: I became a former attorney and started my new career as a legal recruiter.
Aug. 2021: I closed my first deal. My twins Lincoln and Theo started Kindergarten.
Nov. 2021: My new-to-me company was acquired by Korn Ferry. We added a French bro-pair to our family.
Dec. 2021: I closed 4 more deals. Lincoln won his first chess tournament.
There are things I’ll change next year and things I’m going to keep. Most importantly, I’ve found more purpose and meaning in my career in a long time. And I only got here after reflecting and evaluating what was important to me in my personal AND professional life. And then making the scary proverbial jump off the deep end. So much can change in a year.
As 2021 draws to a close, I am overwhelmed with gratitude. For my husband for believing in me, for my health and that of my whole family, for my manager for believing in me, and for my candidates and clients for trusting in me. And most importantly, for having the courage to try something new. So how will you be reflecting on the year? Whatever your plans, I hope you don’t let the close of 2021 or the start of 2022 happen to you. I hope you play an active part in the changing of seasons. I hope you chart a course to something amazing in the new year.
Cheers to you and all you have accomplished already!