7 Soul-Searching Career Questions to Ask Yourself Before the New Year

Originally published 12/20/18

Businesswoman holding notebook and pen and pondering while looking out window

The New Year is a time for self-reflection, for setting new goals and letting go of old ones, and in general for taking a pause in the daily grind to examine where you’ve been and where you’re headed. It’s also a time not just to reaffirm your goals or replace them with new ones, but also to take a serious look at how your habits, strategies, actions, relationships, and priorities are either helping to facilitate your growth and success or how they might be holding you back from having the career you want or getting to that “next step” in your professional life.

Here are 7 questions to ask yourself during the New Year to find out if you’re on the right path to achieving your career goals in 2019:

What are my biggest weaknesses/flaws?

In order to become truly self-aware, you must be able to answer this question. By understanding your own unique areas of weakness, you’ll be able to do two very important things for your career:

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  1. Focus your energies and actions around the things you have competency in and can realistically accomplish. In doing this, you’re pouring your energy into the areas that will get results, making you more efficient and more productive.
  2. Seek out the help or additional resources you need to offset your own shortcomings. If you don’t understand what your weaknesses are, to begin with, you won’t be able to create a clear, strong strategy for how to compensate for them or prevent them from derailing you from reaching your goals.

What do I get excited about?

What drives you when it comes to your career? What aspects of your job or career do you wake up thinking about and are excited to tackle each day? After you pinpoint where your true passions lie (the things you’d care about or be interested in even if you weren’t with your current employer), consider how much time or energy your current job allows you to spend on these things? Is it 10% of your day? 75? 0%? If you find it’s on the low end, this could be a sign of burn-out, and you should think about how much more time you want to spend with an employer or in a role that you’re just not that excited about. 

What are the top 3 or 5 priorities in my life?

This is a combination of the personal and professional, but it’s likely one of the most valuable questions you can ask yourself before the New Year (or at any time, for that matter). One of the most important reasons to ask yourself this question is so you can realistically evaluate whether your current professional situation moves you toward these goals and priorities or, on the other hand, whether it is in conflict with them. If you don’t clearly know for yourself what your priorities are, it will be impossible for you to enact a successful career roadmap in 2019 that will help you to support them.

What do I want to learn this year?

When you stop learning, you stop growing… the kiss of death to many a promising career. To avoid stagnating in your career, make a commitment to learn something new in 2019. Ideally, this will be both professionally and personally fulfilling to you, but you want to consider things that will support and help you to achieve those goals and priorities you have established are most important to you in your career and life right now.

What am I most afraid of in my career?

Fear, insecurity, and self-doubt are toxic career-killers that can send all of your goals and ambitions straight into the “ash heap of history.” If you know fear is something you struggle with in your career, don’t continue to ignore it in 2019 – it won’t go away on its own – but instead make a personal pledge to meet this fear head-on. Confront it, understanding it, think about it, spend time and energy researching ways to overcome… in short, make that fear your best friend in 2019. Only then, by embracing it and analyzing it, will you be able to release the hold it has on your career and your future. Fear and insecurity are the antitheses to growth and success. Make it a priority to overcome these bad habits in the new year.

How have I changed or grown in the last year?

If you can’t think of an answer to this question, that’s not a great sign. Part of setting goals and planning for your future includes looking back to see where you’ve been, how far you’ve come, what has worked or not worked, and what you’d like to then do differently in the year ahead. The new year isn’t just about looking ahead, but it’s also about thoughtful reflection on the choices you’ve made. Being able to answer this question is a valuable exercise in self-reflection, and it’s also a learning opportunity to understand where you went wrong (so you can adjust that behavior going forward).

What do I like most about my job?

Every so often, like around the new year, it’s a wise professional move to get back to the basics, the “big picture” so to speak, and remind yourself why you do what you do. What motivates you in your current job? Are these the same things that motivated you at the beginning of your career? If not, how have they changed, and are you satisfied with those changes? If you can’t think of anything that you like about your job besides your paycheck, then perhaps it’s time to start looking for other opportunities that are more fulfilling.

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