I know New Year’s Day is the traditional day for fresh starts, but for me, it’s always been Back to School time. Even though I am no longer a student, “Back to School” sales beckon me with the promise of new beginnings. I love the idea of new notebooks, new pencils, and new classes. There is something invigorating about a new school year. It’s a chance to learn something new; it’s a chance to re-invent yourself.

Invigorate Your Career

Tips to boast job performance for career satisfaction

Even if you are not heading back to school, fall can be a great time to energize your career. Here are five ways you can boost your job performance and your overall career satisfaction – and they all involve new beginnings.

Learn something new.

There is no better way to get the cobwebs out of your brain than by taking a class. Check out the continuing education classes at local universities and register for one that will advance your job skill set. Have you been mulling over that advanced degree?  Many colleges and universities offer online or hybrid (combination online and in-class) courses with flexible schedules.

Consider non-traditional ways to ramp up your job skills as well.  For example, if you feel your speaking skills are lackluster, try your local Toastmasters club. At a Toastmasters meeting, you work on giving speeches in a variety of styles and offer feedback to other speakers in a workshop setting.

Learning another language is a great way to set yourself apart from the competition in today’s business world. With over a billion speakers, both in China and other nations, Mandarin is becoming one of the most popular second languages amongst professionals. Check out the wide variety of Business Mandarin classes offered by schools or by individual tutors.

Mentor or be mentored.

Is there a new college grad in your department? You can not only offer some valuable information and insight to him or her, but you can increase your own profile at the office as well by becoming a mentor.

The word “mentor” comes from Homer’s epic poem, “The Odyssey.”  When he left home to fight in the Trojan War, the hero, Odysseus, entrusted his young son, Telemachus, to the care of a man named Mentor.  When you mentor someone, you share your business advice and expertise with him or her, thereby strengthening the whole company.

Helping someone else who is less experienced often helps us recall and re-own what attracted us to our career in the first place. In addition, when you take the time to consider what works and what doesn’t work in your job, it enables you to perform at a higher level.

If you are the new kid on the block yourself, take time to observe who would be a good mentor for you. Who is respected among your co-workers? Who appears to be taking on new challenges in your business? Who has a positive outlook? Go to that person and share what you have observed. Then ask if he or she would take time time to answer a few of your questions.

A mentoring relationship can blossom into a win-win for both of you that can continue having a ripple effect through your careers as you continue to mentor others and build a network of support.

Join a service club or trade association.

Although it’s great to network online and on the job, sometimes it’s a good idea to step out of your comfort zone and into the community. Service organizations such as Rotary and Kiwanis or even your local Chamber of Commerce are great ways to meet other professionals and to strengthen your community.  Whether you are working on a fundraising project for the local school or listening to a motivational speaker together, you will find that the contacts you make at a service club can prove invaluable to your career.

Does your field have a trade association you could join? Going to trade shows, symposiums and seminars in your industry not only keeps you on the cutting edge of your field, it also shows your company – and your competitors — that you are committed to the future of the industry.

Trade associations are as varied as career choices and include everything from the Information Systems Audit and Control Association (for accountants), to the Public Relations Society of America, to the American Institute of Architects.  These groups not only offer meetings and networking opportunities but also educational events, certification exams and other member benefits.

Volunteer your time.

The old adage, “those who can’t, teach,” couldn’t be more wrong. Those who “can” are the ones who get out there and teach in their communities. Are you a sports nut? How about coaching a kids’ basketball or soccer team? Do you love to read? Spark that feeling in a child by becoming a reading tutor. Not great with kids? See what you can offer at an adult learning center. You can make a real difference in someone’s life by helping her learn English as a second language or helping him learn to read and write.

How will this help you on the job? Just because volunteer work is not paid does not mean the skills you learn won’t pay dividends.  Many volunteer jobs provide great training you can use on the job. For example, you could learn how to be a counselor while volunteering at a women’s shelter or learn transferrable public relations skills while serving as a museum docent.

Volunteering can also help increase skills you already possess while you use them to benefit others. For instance, if you hold a successful sales position, you can develop your communication and marketing abilities—as well as get noticed by others in your field — while you help plan a non-profit organization’s fundraising event.

Volunteering also boosts your happiness quotient. Researchers at the London School of Economics examined the relationship between volunteering and measures of happiness in a large group of American adults.  Compared with those people surveyed who never di an volunteer work, the number of respondents who said they were “very happy” rose 7% among those who volunteer monthly and 12% for people who volunteer every two to four weeks. Among weekly volunteers, 16% said they felt very happy.

Follow a passion.

Since we are on the idea of happiness, it’s a good time to think about how following your passion in life, or re-visiting a lost one – can help energize your career.  Think back to when you were in college and undecided on a career path. What were the possibilities you considered? Acting? Music? Developing computer software? Now think about ways you could be involved in those areas for fun. Yes, for fun.

Audition for a part in your local community theater’s next production.  Dust off your old painting supplies and canvases. Seek out online freelance writing opportunities.

We tend to get so absorbed in our careers that we end up forgetting who we

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