12 Month Career Plan: How To Uplevel Your Career or Side Hustle

Ahhh work. Sometimes you love it. Sometimes ya hate it. But at the end of the day, you need it. Whether you’re rocking a side hustle full time, of rocking a 9-5 (because yes, you can still rock a traditional career!), you might be in need of ways to be successful at work and uplevel your career (or side hustle!). And girlfriend, that’s why I’m here!

If you’ve been following me on social media, or if you’re subscribed to my #slaysquad email list, then you know that I just got a new job! (HALLE-FREAKING-LUJAH!) And I’m determined to make it an amazing year at this new job. So like I do with most things, I’m going in with a plan.

My Kill the Career Game 12 Month Plan is perfect for wherever you are in your career. Whether you’re starting your first big girl job, switching jobs or careers, or you’ve been rocking your job for a few years and just want to stay fine tuned.

Looking to get a promotion at work? Check out these tips on how to uplevel your career! Includes professional development, work/life balance, and networking tips!


Now before we dive in!: since I’m starting the new job in the new year, I decided to go with a 12 month plan. However, I didn’t make them month specific (i.e. do this in April, do this in May), but I put them in a suggested order (do this in month 1, this in month 5). I also make suggestions for how this fits into a traditional 9-5 and a side hustle (particularly blogging). I’d suggest reading through the post and making notes on how that month’s focus would fit into your work life!


How to Kill it at Your Career or Side Hustle

Month 1: Year in Review + Looking Ahead

Most people would start off with setting goals in your first month, but I think it’s important to know where you came from before you move forward. So try this instead:

  • Finish up last year’s list! I know I always leave with a few things still on my plate at the end of the year. And in the nonprofit world in particular, there’s always a lot of loose ends to tie up, financial books to close, programs to finish, and donations to secure. Don’t let those things fall to the wayside! Give yourself the satisfaction of checking off those final items. I got to inbox zero before leaving my old job and it was the BEST feeling in the whole damn world!
  • Look back at the previous year. What went well, what didn’t? Don’t forget to take a look at the analytics: numbers sold, pageviews, clicks, money raised, etc.
  • Do an audit. Take a look at your/your team’s processes and procedures. Do you need to send out project reminders sooner? Was communication with coworkers an issue? Maybe you need tracking sheets! If you’re new to the job, see where the gaps are, and how you can (or will be expected to) fill them!

This can also be applied to blogs/side hustle website. Go through your site with the eyes of a newcomer. Does your about page still reflect what you do? Do you need to update your headshot? Are all of your links still active and correct?

  • Look ahead at the new year! Finally take a look at the year ahead! What’s the company’s goals/strategic plan, and how do you fit into them? What are the trends in your industry, and how will they affect the work you do? It’s not quite time to make goals yet. Just do the research and get yourself ready for month 2.
Kill your career goals this year by finishing up that do list from last year! Click To Tweet


Month 2: Goal-Setting

I love me some goals! And now is your time to set some!

  • Learn from the past. Using your year end review as a guide, think of some changes that you could make that would positively impact your job. If you’re looking for some guidance, click here to read this post about setting intentional and achievable career resolutions from Kristen at The Sophisticated Gal!
  • Categorize. I like to categorize my goals based on the areas of my job. Since I work in the nonprofit field, I might make goals based on fundraising, events, program development, and professional development. For my blog, I might do social media, post, pageviews, and monetization goals!
  • Plan ahead. I’m also a huge fan of taking time to plan out my year, early on in the year. Knowing when big projects or events are due helps you pace out your week (and schedule those vacations!). And having a plan for your blog or side hustle allows you to theme your posts, automate your social media, and have more time for other things (like drafting an ebook, or pitching to a brand).

I try to have all my content planned out at least 100 days in advance. If you’re interested in doing the same, check out my 100 Day Blog Content Planner below! It will give you the framework to take your posts from a list of ideas to a 100 day plan, and give you the freedom and time to focus on the other things that will truly help your blog grow!


Month 3: Professional Development

I’m a HUGE fan of professional development, in fact, one of my favorite quotes is “I am still learning” by Michelangelo. So don’t forget to take some time to grow your skills, girl!

  • Help you, help yourself. Look at your goals, if you’re like me, then you set some pretty big ones! Ones that you don’t have all the knowledge to accomplish. And that’s ok! In fact that’s more than good, it’s GREAT! Think about what support you need to make it happen. Are you determined to become a Photoshop expert but have never opened the program before? Cool. Seek out the expertise! Watch webinars, take classes, sign up for email courses, or even just do informational interviews with coworkers or industry professionals.
  • Don’t pay if you don’t have to. There’s so many free ways to learn out there, and they contain a TON of useful knowledge (Career Contessa is a great place for free downloads and really cheap webinars and courses!) And if you’re dying to take something that costs money, talk to your supervisor about getting your company to pay for it. Most organizations have a professional development budget, so as long as you make a strong case for how it will help you in your job, you could get the cost covered!


Month 4: Phone a Friend

If you’re like me, then networking can be hard. I am far too socially nervous to do well in a crowded room full of people getting to know each other. So try a different approach.

  • Make an office friend. Get close to a veteran in the office. Have a mentor. Share your goals, the steps you’ve taken so far, and ask them for advice and tips. When they know where you are trying to go, they can help you get there!

Maybe they’ll throw your name in the hat when the CEO asks who might be fit for new project or a promotion. Or maybe that big blogger will suggest you for a PR campaign that they don’t have time to do! Make connections, and phone them often.

  • Study up. This could be two things. First, study up on the people you are trying to network with. It helps me feel calmer if I don’t have to go into a networking opporuntity blind.

Second, if you still don’t know where to start, check out these posts. They both helped me up my networking game!


Month 5: Find a Pet Project

  • Choose a project. You’ve done your research, set your goals, made some connections, and added some tools to your toolbox. Now it’s time to put it into action. Choose a pet project to work on this month. Something that will help you achieve one or a few of your goals. Focus in, do your best, and make sure to pay attention to how you’re doing. This will come in handy for next month when you do your mid-year review.
Looking to get that promotion at work? Def check out months 4-6 of this 12 month career plan! Click To Tweet


Month 6: Mid-Year Review

Woooh you’re at the six month mark! Way to kill it already girlfriend! Let’s do a quick check-up.

  • Celebrate successes. First off, celebrate any big wins you’ve had over the last 6 months. Make record sales? Meet your work/blog squad? Revamped a procedure that lead to crazy huge growth?! Two claps for you!!
  • Review progress. Take a look at your goals and your 100 Day Plan. Did you make good progress? Did you move backwards on some things? Be honest with yourself on these – it’s the only way that you’ll grow!
  • Reevaluate goals.  Remember it’s ok to change/adjust your goals! Maybe you’re really off track for a goal because business has been slow or your company changed a procedure that affects your ability to be successful at your original goal. Don’t be afraid to scale back is necessary!

Or may you’ve been killing the game and already crushed your goals. Don’t change your original goal (it’s important to keep that feeling of success, and it helps you get an adequate picture of your growth progress from year to year). In this case add on some stretch goals! These are goals that are above and beyond your normal growth patterns. These are your dream big goals! Keep them in line with what already going on (i.e. don’t make a goal to make an additional $750,000 from a product when you’ve only brought in $1,000), but make them a little more challenging.

  • Get input. Don’t forget to get input from others as part of this process! Get input from your supervisor. Survey your audience using Typeform to make them feel included in your growth!


Month 7: Take the Damn Vacation

Work hard, play hard right?! The key here is to actually learn to play hard.

  • Physically go. Literally. Leave the office. Stop saying you can’t. Take a day off. Hell, take a week off. Remember how you planned out your work schedule so you could see when you had time for a vacation? Yeah. Now’s the time to put that into action. And then thank yourself later.
  • Delegate. A “vacation” could also be something like removing a few things off your plate. You give yourself a little bit less to do, giving yourself a bit of a reprieve. This isn’t as good as taking an actual vacation, but I understand your type-A heart.
  • Make it fun. Take this month to make work a little more fun! Go to some happy hours! Have a dance party in your cubicle! Have a potluck with your coworkers!

Related post // What I Learned from Taking a Solo Vacation


Month 8: Don’t Be Afraid of Change

  • Change it up! Fresh from vacation, you probably feel renewed and have some new ideas and perspective. Put them to work! Review your mid year review results, see what still isn’t working (I guarantee there will be something), and then change something up! Even if it’s as simple switching around your office or workspace. Keep things fresh!
Career tip: don't be afraid to change things up! Improvements could lead to promotions! Click To Tweet


Month 9: Make the Leap

Your getting towards the end of the year, so now it’s time to do something big.

  • Take a chance. Whether it’s making a big pitch at work, or launching your new product. Take the leap.
  • Don’t forget what you’ve learned! Set up a plan that aligns with your goals from Month 2. Make sure you’re including what you learned from year year-end review (month 1), mid-year review (month 6), and your professional development (month 3). And don’t forget to seek guidance and insight from your mentor (month 4)! Basically take everything you’ve learned over the last 8 months, roll it into a ball, push it down the hill, and ride it down belting out your war cry like the badass that you are!


Month 10: Put Your Head Down

It’s the last quarter of your 12 month plan, and it’s time to start putting your head down and pulling a Rihanna (work, work, work, work, work, work)!

  • Take action on your big leap. Hopefully you’re pitch/launch/leap from last month paid off and you’re working on something new and exciting! Focus in on your project, and put your heart and soul into it.
  • Stumble gracefully. If the leap turned out to be more of a corgi flop, then use this as a way to learn an even more important lesson – how to stumble with grace. Figure out what held you back from success. Was it an ill-prepared presentation? Not enough experience? Not what your company/audience needed? Whatever it was lacking, fill in the gaps.
  • Learn on. Whether your leap was successful or not, you should still continue to learn! Do information interviews with co-workers or other professionals to learn more. Continue with more professional development to bolster yourself up. Whether you’re moving on up or planning a comeback, you’ll need the insight!
Career tip! Don't be afraid to fail. You still learn a lot as you fall! Click To Tweet


Month 11: Finish Strong

It’s not over til it’s over…but it’s almost over.

  • It’s gonna get crazy. You’d think I’d put this as the last month wouldn’t you? Well here’s the thing. If you’re using this over a calendar year, then month 12 will be December (and even you aren’t following a calendar year, you’ll probably just be itching for a break in month 12!). And December is INSANE. Like a small child who hasn’t had their nap and is being forced to take a picture on Santa’s lap, insane.
  • Get ahead.  For your 9-5 it’s full of finishing up projects and making those final sales. For your side hustle it can be either super fast paced (if you’re seasonal, sell products and run sales during the holiday months), or it can be slow (if you run a blog you know what I mean). So I find it best to fly through that month on cruise control. Buckle down now so you can enjoy the holidays.


Month 12: Cruise Control

It’s the final countdown! This month is all about skidding into the finish line (gracefully of course!)

  • Cruisin’. You’ve set yourself up for success! So just focus on keeping things under control for the next few weeks. Take a breath and try not to kill everyone as they all rush to put the final touches on everything.
  • Thank those around you. Now’s a great time to thank those who have been influential in your success this year! Not sure what to get? Check out this post from GenTwenty to for some workplace gift giving ideas!
  • Create a brag sheet. Another year in the books. You did the damn thing! And it’s time for the highlight reel to play! Focus just on the good stuff for now. Tearing your choices apart can come later. And while you’re at it, go ahead and update your resume with these tips from Logan at Signed Logan!

Now on paper this 12 month plan to succeed at your job might seem super easy, but there will always be a month or two that trips you up. Knowing that ahead of time is a great way to get a jump start on it! Let me know below what month you think will be hardest for you, and I can give you some extra tips to help ya out 🙂


And if you liked this post, check out these!

Previous Story
Next Story
  • This is a great post! I’m excited that I found your blog (referred here from Twitter)! I love the part about “stumbling gracefully” and emphasizing that mistakes and falls WILL happen. But it’s how you respond. I also love the Career Contessa! Thanks for sharing <3

    xo, Erin || Coffee Meets Polished

    • So glad you liked it Erin and that you found my blog! Stumbling gracefully has been such a life lesson for me, one I’m still learning! I don’t always respond well, but when I do it’s always so much better.

      And it’s the Career Contessa great?! I just discovered them at the recommendation of another blogger a couple months ago and love their content!

  • Girllll, this post was AMAZING! There are so many great tips for anyone looking to advance their career and/or side hustle 🙂 I think it is SO important to re-visit the goals you set for yourself in the beginning of the year every couple of months and re-adjust when necessary. Celebrating your wins is important too! We all get so bogged down by what we DIDN’T accomplish and forget how much we DID accomplish!

    Definitely sharing this post because you gave so many amazing tips 🙂

    PS – thank you so much for mentioning my career resolutions post! That just made my day!

    • SO glad you liked it Kristen!!! Revisiting goals is SO key! I definitely get so hyped up on the next thing that I forget to take a step back.

      And of COURSE I’d mention your post! You’re one of my top sources for career related content so it only made sense. 🙂