TIME Workplace & Careers

7 Ways to Get Ahead at Work Before the New Year

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Thomas Barwick—Getty Images Coworkers in discussion at conference room table

7 things you must do before January

You have a little more than a month to go before the end of the year, so make the most of it. Experts say these are the important things to get done now if you want to start your career in the new year off on the right foot:

List your wins. Think of the best three things you accomplished over the last year and write them down, says career coach and personal branding strategist Pamela Weinberg. “Having these accomplishments on paper will help you to be able to better articulate your strengths when you get a review, or bonus,” she says. And if you’re looking for a new job, you’ve just written a couple of your resume bullet points.

Deliver bad news. If you manage other workers, this is the time to have any hard conversations you’ve been putting off. “Think about needed discussions with your subordinates concerning ongoing work,” says career coach Todd Dewett. “What needs to be improved that you’ve noticed but not addressed?” Be as specific as possible so the employee knows how to improve in the new year.

Brace for change. “Companies are constantly evolving,” says Margaret Spence, an expert panelist at the Society for Human Resource Management. “This work economy doesn’t allow you to be stagnant in your career.” The end of the year is a great time to look ahead and figure out what you’re going to need to know for the coming year. Is the company shifting to a new tech platform or implementing a new process? Are there any legal or regulatory changes the new year will bring that will change how you do your job? Get out in front of these changes in advance, Spence advises.

Get people’s contact info. “Get in touch with people who are leaving [or] moving to new roles,” says Patti Johnson, author of Make Waves: Be the One to Start Change at Work and in Life. Get their personal phone number and email address so you can stay in touch, and make plans for an initial meet-up or get together now so you already have networking opportunities on your calendar for the new year.

Check in with your boss. “If you’ve signaled interest in a role shift or promotion and it’s been six months or more, it’s time to initiate conversation once again,” Dewett says. “You want to go into the new year with clarity about where to invest the bulk of your networking efforts — internally or externally.”

Plan on education. Consider your professional development and determine what skills you’ll need to make it to the next rung on the corporate ladder, Weinberg advises. Maybe a public speaking course or participation in an industry conference might give you the boost you need. “December is often a slow time business-wise so take some time to research how you might gain the skills you need to reach your 2015 career goals,” she says. Bonus: By getting a jump on this process, you won’t need to worry about a course or event selling out before you can sign up.

Say thanks. “It’s a great time to write hand-written personal notes of appreciation,” says career coach Glo Harris. She’s not referring to holiday cards, although those are important, too. The intent of this is to say thanks to standout clients, mentors and others. “Do the same with your team,” Harris says. Acknowledge what you appreciate about your colleagues — and be specific.

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