You probably didn’t sharpen brand new pencils or pack a new backpack once summer had officially had its last hoorah, but if you’re like most professionals, the autumn season proposes a renewed dedication to work. Co-founder of Early Stage Careers, Jill Tipograph says this “back-to-school” energy is an unconscious drive that many have adopted since elementary school, offering a burst of productivity and ambition.
“Starting from the earliest stages of our lives — through college and professional or graduate school — the cycle of dreaming big and getting underway is prevalent across industries,” she explains. “In the professional setting, early autumn is when the full complement of staff is finally all present and accounted for.”
During this period, Tipograph says teams overflow their calendars with deadline-driven, year-end commitments such as financial deadlines, project updates and finalizing performance plans and compensation plans to cap off the business year. Though you might associate goal-making with the New Year, the harder you push during the final three months of the year, the stronger you set yourself up for success in January.
Here, some of the underrated of plugging away from now until that ball drops on New Year’s Eve:
You will stand out
When you’ve managed younger employees or interns, who have stood out the most to you? Likely, the eager, hardworking and dedicated busy bees who worked alongside you during a late-night deadline or who were always the first ones to raise their hand for any task, no matter how large or small. Though you’re arguably further along in your career than those entry-level kiddos, Tipograph says when you work diligently in the fall and keep your colleagues and manager up to date on what you’re tackling, you position yourself as a stellar employee. The effort, she adds, won’t go unnoticed when review season arrives in quarter one, either.
“You can actively differentiate yourself by pushing to do more and wrap up loose ends for the team, based on work started earlier in the year. Everyone on every team wants to be able to document completed work for their year-end self-assessment,” she explains. “Helping make that happen leads to being recognized as the one who gets things done, building your professional credibility even at the earliest stages of your career.”
As she puts it: you want to be the person that others will always remember for your good work, since those accolades will stay with you throughout your career.
You give yourself time to look back
In high school, those three-paragraph essays required you to think creatively and retrospectively about a given topic. Though you likely won’t be graded anytime soon, conscious business coach Christine Agro recommends diligently reflecting on the progress — and pitfalls — you experienced over the past year.
“Look back at what you wanted to accomplish this year, check off and have a moment of celebration for all that you have done. And, look at what you didn’t get done, eliminate what is no longer relevant and highlight what you still want to accomplish,” she explains.
Then, you can start to think on how you will be even more prudent and accomplished in the months to come. “Break the remaining goal into small actionable pieces and remember to celebrate as you complete each piece. We always forget to stop and celebrate,” she adds.
You become more flexible with work/life balance
If summer is defined by overindulging, autumn is when we are prescribed a dose of reality. Perhaps you put on a few pounds from all of those rooftop cocktail hours, or you fell off the fitness bandwagon thanks to triple-zero temperatures. Now that you’re back into a more predictable routine, Tipograph says professionals who set goals for themselves not only in the office but in their health routine learn valuable lessons about expertly managing their work and life balance.
Whether you encourage your group of friends or your favorite coworkers to join you for morning or afternoon runs, or you develop a strategy for actually making lunch-time workouts, the art of compromise and strategy not only fuels your body, but your mind.
“If your fitness routine involved spending time outdoors after work, that may no longer be an option and you need to actively plan to engage in a different way,” she explains. “Plan to keep your workload at a steady clip while also planning for important things like eating well and getting exercise.
“The point here is test out valuable trade-offs, rather than doing ‘less.’ Giving up an important aspect of your day to day, is never good, try things out and adjust the plan to find different activities that can still blend with your work commitments in the community where you are living.”
You will know how you’re feeling about your job
When you’re wasting away on a lake or an ocean, dreaming of all the places you’ve yet to seen and adventures you’d like to take, coming back into a stuffy office can feel daunting. This is when Tipograph says you can figure out if the “honeymoon” period of your job is over and you need to be re-energized — or if it is time to look for a new gig soon. When the latter is true for you, it is time to start planning, well, now. But if you think you could perform at a higher level with more responsibility — you have to ask for it.
“If you are feeling that the novelty has not only worn off, but is perhaps tossed out with yesterday’s half-eaten bagel, you need to have a strategy,” Tipograph says. She suggests picking three things you like about the work and actively ask for more engagement.
“This is not to say that you would dismiss other aspects, but asking your manager to help you do more of the type of work you love and feel most productive doing, while not mentioning the other things, is a positive approach to getting back to a more balanced view of your role,” she adds.