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How to Use the Holidays to Advance Your Career

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Get clear on what you have to offer

Often during the holidays we have some extra time on our hands. Without work, college, or other distractions, we can take the time to catch up on our year and look ahead to next year.

For me, the most important goals for the coming year are always career oriented. I find when I’m happy with my career, personal development, and overall professional growth, everything else seems to come into place. I see more friends, have more time to exercise and focus on hobbies, and am just happier.

Here’s how everyone can make the most of this holiday season to get ready for our careers in 2015:

1. Get serious about LinkedIn.

LinkedIn, the worlds largest professional network. It’s very easy to be intimidated by this network if you aren’t already using it, but you shouldn’t be intimidated and you should be using it.

I know many people, including myself, who get multiple opportunities a month from LinkedIn. Whether they’re new job openings, freelance contracts, or connecting with other professionals, having a full and complete LinkedIn profile does wonders for your personal brand and can do wonders for you career, too.

When you sit down with your LinkedIn profile start by asking yourself these questions:

  • What’s my biggest career accomplishment to date and how am I highlighting it?
  • What do I like about other people’s profiles and how can I bring those qualities to my own profile?
  • What is my goal with my LinkedIn profile? For potential employers to find me, to bring in new client leads or to keep up with my professional network?

Once you answer those questions be sure to take action and include your biggest accomplishment, include elements you like about other people’s profiles and anything else you think can help your profile stand out. Having an amazing LinkedIn profile is easier than it seems.

2. Write down your ideal career situation.

A lot of us have ideas of what our dream job would be like, who our dream company is, and what it would be like to be there. But have you ever really written it down?

Take a minute to write down your ideal career situation and be very specific. Where are you working, what are you doing, what does an everyday look like, and why does this job make you happy?

Writing it down is different from just thinking about it because it forces you to get really clear on what you want. Once you have your perfect situation written down, you will start to see little steps that you can take in 2015 to slowly, but surely, get there.

(MORE: How to Rock the Job Search During the Holidays)

3. Get clear on what you have to offer.

Have you ever made a big list of all of your skills, knowledge, and other things that you bring to the table when you work somewhere?

Getting clear on this will help you advance your career in many different ways. It helps you figure out which job posting are really for you, it helps you know what you can offer clients, and the skills question always comes up in interviews.

Make sure you have this list on hand when you’re doing career-related things. It keeps you on your path of working on the skills you are best at.

4. Set goals for 2015.

Finally over the new year, I love to set goals and resolutions. Napoleon Hill said, ”A goal is a dream with a deadline.”

Don’t be afraid to give yourself a deadline for these goals. They give you something to work toward. Make sure your goals follow the SMART plan:

  • Specific: Instead of ‘get a job’ try ‘land an entry level position with company in X industry.’
  • Measurable: Make sure you can determine whether or not you’ve accomplished the goal.
  • Actionable: Can you take small steps to get to this goal?
  • Realistic: Taking into account your current situation, how likely is it you will achieve this? Big dreams are amazing–but it takes small accomplishments to get there.
  • Timely: Set a deadline–don’t be scared of the timeframe, let it motivate you.

I’m all for lofty goals that blow your mind when you accomplish them. I would say just start with the really small steps to get there.

(MORE: Merry Stress-mess: How to Not Go Crazy During the Holidays)

This article originally appeared on Levo.com.

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