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    The start of a new year is a great time to define your career objectives and create a plan for the year ahead. However ambitious plans have a habit of staying as such and so setting smaller actionable steps towards your goals is the key to making your career plan a reality. Here are 4 actions that will help you move forwards towards your career objectives whatever your current situation.

    Create a plan

    This is a fundamental first step to committing to your future career success. Careers as with life are unlikely to automatically go the way you want without a plan that you are committed to delivering. If you go on holiday, you create a plan, if you host a party, you have a plan. However many of us don't invest the same level of due diligence into our careers to ensure we achieve the desired outcome as we do with more trivial tasks.

    Define your career objectives for the year ahead (or even longer if possible) and start creating a plan made up of small actionable steps that are all focused on supporting your bigger objective. Focus on completing the steps not the bigger picture and in time the end point will come into focus as long you to stick to the plan. You will likely find elements from the points below to form part of your plan, so keep this in mind as you read on. 

    Extend your professional network

    The sports industry is very interconnected and your network matters. it's a social industry where the old saying, 'It's who you know matters more than what you know' still holds weight. Investing time and energy in building your network now will pay dividends in the long run. 

    Find people and groups of professionals both on and off line that are connected to your field of interest/expertise and create a meaningful connection with them. Reach out to individuals via linkedin for example, post on relevant forums and platforms and attend events to make connections. When you meet people, reach out to them afterwards via email to stay front of mind and connect with them on relevant social platforms. Your aim is to develop a broad network with genuine relationships that you can utilise in the future. 

    More: How to build rapport in business

    Strengthen your profile

    A great way to build your profile in our digital world is to start publishing unique content. Firstly increase your knowledge base within the business of sport by regularly reading and listening to industry insights, news and conversations. There is so much rich content out there on so many mediums - subscribe to podacasts, audio books, newsfeeds and more. This will provide you with both the confidence to form opinion based on your own experiences and an understanding of what people are talking about and want to hear. Your aim could be to eventually become an 'influencer' within your field as your reach and followers increase through the content you publish.

    Start by writing blog posts for your linkedin page or other platforms such as Medium or your company website and share on your social networks and teams. Focus on core topics relating to your interests and also use events as possible speaking opportunities to further build your profile. Once you have several posts published you can use these as examples of your work to get event speaking opportunities. Don't forget how these activities will also greatly strengthen your professional network. 

    More: The top Sports Business podcasts

    Build your skills

    In today's rapidly evolving commercial landscape, you need to constantly evolve your skills to keep pace with change. This will not only make you more marketable and more attractive to future employers but also give you the career confidence and motivation needed to rise above the competition. As they say, continued learning is the only sustainable competitive advantage.

    The most important thing is that you commit to investing in your professional development in the long term.

    You may feel that a formal education is required to fuel your career ambitions such as an MA or MBA and many can now be done in a 'flexible' approach alongside your work and even remotely. However there are more opportunities than ever before you learn new skills, improve weak skills or enhance existing ones. There are many excellent institutions and platforms that offer courses online to build your skills while also connecting you with like minded professionals and opportunities  to build your network. You may find that a short online course is a great first step to a more structure programme of continued learning and finding what method and commitment level works for you. The most important thing is that you commit to investing in your professional development in the long term and start working towards it.  

    More: Free short courses to fuel your career development

    Putting into action

    From the above, define the actions (or steps) that you will commit to undertake daily, weekly or monthly to help you achieve goals within each specific area. Importantly, monitor your progress and keep on top of achieving these actions to reach your goals within the bigger objective. For example if you want to build your network (your objective),  your goals could be to make 10 relevant Linkedin connections a week and go to one networking event a month, along with sending 5 personal network focused emails a week. With these goals in mind, you can create actions to ensure these goals are fulfilled.

    Make sure to write your actions and goals down, constantly referring to them to reaffirm your commitment to achieving them and monitoring your progress. This methodology will help you build habits for personal development within your daily life, which consistently performed over time will deliver huge career and personal rewards.

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