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September is a good time to refocus on career goals

With the kids back in school and the official end of summer just days away, this is the perfect time to refocus attention on serious matters of work and career goals.

Workplace issues author Michael Salmon said the end of summer is a natural milestone in the world of work.

"There are two dates on the calendar that signal fresh efforts and goal-setting -- New Year's Day and the Tuesday after Labor Day," Salmon said. "September is a natural departure point to kick it into high gear and catch lightning in a bottle."

Salmon, the author of SuperNetworking, and SuperNetworking for Sales Pros, stopped in Buffalo recently to conduct workshops for HSBC Bank USA staffers.

He noted that generations of school kids have taken advantage of the start of the new school year as a clean slate for their academic lives, returning to the classroom rested and eager to learn, with a new cast of teachers and courses. While most working adults don't get a completely new start with the arrival of fall (or a summer off!), they can still take advantage of refreshed attitudes and predicable, post-summer vacation schedules.

"There's no reason why we can't harness that same renewed enthusiasm, optimism and seriousness," Salmon said. "Create a mental picture of what you want to accomplish before the end of the year and put it in writing. It's the fall version of a New Year's resolution."

Salmon said he's big on list-making and goal-setting, because they provide positive reinforcement on the way to a major goal.

"It's easy to start off with good intentions, but things can slip if you don't have a way to hold yourself to standards. If you have a list, you can feel proud as you check things off," he said.

Whether your goal is to land a new job, sign a key client, meet a sales goal or broaden your circle of business contacts, Salmon has the following suggestions:

Put together a list of contacts you haven't spoken to in a while, be they customers who could send new business your way or open up a door for you with someone you want to do business with, people who work at other companies in a similar field, or people you know who could help you land a new job. Call five a day until you work through the list.

If you don't have an elevator pitch, create one. If you do, refine it. Make sure you could tell a client, friend or potential new employer or customer in 30 seconds or less why they should be interested in what you have to offer. Don't just rattle off fact. Tie your strengths to an objective.

Find a mentor and create a weekly scorecard to track your success. If you're looking for a new job, then it should be someone outside your company to whom you can report how your job search is going. Find someone who will hold your feet to the fire.

Do your homework on "warm" calls, instead of "cold" calls. The more specific you can be about your sales/job search/productivity target, the greater your chance for success.

Punch up your resume. Even if you aren't actively looking for a new job, this is a great time to update your resume and referral list just in case opportunity knocks.

The author said managers can utilize similar practices to motivate their charges. He said the first step is to effectively communicate year-end goals and strategies so staffers understand their roles. With summer vacations over and workers on regular schedules, September is a good time to reiterate 2005 missions and provide status reports.

"Set ambitious goals, but set achieveable, interim milestones. If you shoot for the stars, you'll at least land on the roof, but show your people how to get there by reaching certain percentages between now and the end of the year," he said.

e-mail: slinstedt@buffnews.com

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