What do you wish you had completed this year? What do you wish you had started? What steps could you have taken to complete one significant item from your to-do list?
What could you do this year that you’ll be proud to tell your grandchildren about?
Clearly inspired by the time of year, some of these are also interview questions and essay prompts that students have sought help with for entrance to college or graduate school.
Yeshiva University staff completed our performance reviews over the past few weeks. It was a chance to review our accomplishments, remind our boss of them, consider where we may have missed the mark and examine why, and strategize our personal and team goals for the coming year. This was nicely timed with Elul and the approaching y’mei hadin – our performance review period with The Ultimate Boss.
Chassidic sources note the connection between shofar and l’shaper – to improve or enhance. What do we want to get better at? They encourage us to review and take stock of our accomplishments and achievements, not only list the al chet’s where we missed the mark. We need to be proud of our accomplishments and trumpet blast them from the rooftops. Sometimes it’s easier to judge ourselves and others regarding all that we could have been and what we failed to do rather than the arguably harder work of filling our sefer zichronos with all the great things we did.
To make this work easier, I always suggest keeping a running list of your achievements that you add to at least monthly. You can have lists relating to both your personal and professional accomplishments. The professional list makes performance review season a whole lot easier, enables you to proactively report on your achievements, and takes the work out of reviewing an entire year and conjuring up a quality list at performance review time. It also provides a convenient source to derive future resume content from. If, when reviewing the list, none of this year’s achievements are significant enough that they would feature on your resume for a future role, then you may be in the wrong job, or you may need to think very hard about how to gain significant skills and accomplishments in the year ahead.
As a team, we worked hard on content for our new website over the summer but it won’t see the light of day in 5781. My former chief rabbi, Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks, zt”l, would often quote: “Lo alecha hamelacha ligmor…” – We may not finish everything we’d like to, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t make a start.
One thing we did in preparation for the overhaul was collect student testimonials. (It’s not too late to submit one!) We nicknamed this collection our “brag book” and we’ll be selecting several submissions to feature on the new website and reassure parents that their son or daughter will be well taken care of by our team. (Needless to say, the student will still need to be proactive and seek us out. Lehavdil, one of the themes of this time of year is, “Dirshu Hashem B’himatzo…” – making the effort to connect when Hashem’s presence is more closely felt. (If only booking an appointment with Hashem was as easy as going online to book one with the YU Career Center.)
What does your brag book look like? What personal and professional accomplishments are you proudest of? Ask trusted friends, family or colleagues to help you with your personal performance review – especially if you feel like you don’t have much to brag about.
A friend of mine is a software engineer at Google. He recently moved into a new home, has several young kids, and is very involved with his shul. So I was surprised when he told me he’s found time to learn Mandarin over the last few months with the help of DuoLingo. Apparently when something’s broken down into manageable steps and done consistently for five minutes a day, a lot becomes possible.
What goal do you have that, if broken up into manageable increments, could be started before Sukkos and accomplished by Chanukah? By Pesach? Shavuos? Next Rosh Hashana?
Lo alecha hamelacha ligmor… plan and begin the first few steps – you’ll surprise yourself by how much you achieve.