I have your new year’s resolutions for your career

Before we get too far into 2012, make sure that you’ve taken some time to set some new year’s resolutions for your career this year. Here are eight to get you started.

1. Set clear goals. Instead of pulling yourself in multiple directions, pick one or two big things to focus on this year. Maybe you want a promotion, or to change jobs, or to get a raise in your current position. Whatever it is, get very clear on what a successful 2012 would be for you. If you’re unsure, try this exercise: Pretend it’s December 2012. Looking back on the previous 12 months, what would you need to have accomplished for it to have been a successful year?  After you’ve figured that out, make those things your concrete goals for the coming months. Write them out, form plans to achieve them, and then be disciplined about sticking to them.

2. Do what you say you’re going to do, by when you say you’re going to do it, or update people accordingly. Why? Because your word should mean something. And because your credibility is at stake. Those things matter. And if you develop a reputation for being reliable and keeping your word, no matter how tiny the issue at hand, people will notice.

3. Stop playing online during the day. If you’re using social networking sites or instant-messaging with friends throughout the workday, it’s impacting your work. Sure, maybe you’re still getting the basics done, but you don’t want to just do the basics – you want to build a stellar reputation as someone who routinely exceeds expectations, because that’s what will give you job security and open up future opportunities.

4. Rewrite your resume to focus on accomplishments, not just job responsibilities. If you’re like most people, your resume details your job description but doesn’t focus much on what you achieved in that job. But the resumes that truly stand out are ones that answer this question: What did you accomplish in this job that someone else might not have? And even if you don’t plan to change jobs anytime soon, chances are good that you won’t remember details of your accomplishments down the road if you don’t write them down now.

5. Decide what job you want next, and start figuring out what the path there will look like. By working backwards from your goal, you can figure out what you need to be doing now to be well positioned in a year – or two years, or five years – to get the job you’ll want then.

6. Stop complaining about your boss or coworkers. Instead, talk with people directly when you have a beef. When you talk to someone directly, not only do you act more fairly by giving them the chance to know about your complaint and to respond to it, but you may also learn new information that makes you see things in a different light. Plus you won’t get a reputation as someone who talks behind others’ backs.

7. If you’re miserable at work, stop complaining and start finding an exit path. Or find a way to live reasonably happily with your current job. Sometimes simply knowing what will and won’t change makes things easier to deal with, and you can surprise yourself by ending up pretty content with things that drove you crazy when you were focused on battling them. Whatever you choose, the key is to survey the situation calmly and rationally and make decisions based on how things truly are rather than how you wish they were. That’s a lot more satisfying than a constant struggle.

8. Help someone else in their career. If you work with someone promising but less experienced than you, consider taking them under your wing and helping them attain professional greatness. Look for ways you can help them get more experience, help them recognize when they’re capable of more, and talk with them regularly about the challenges you’re each facing.

I originally published this at U.S. News & World Report.

{ 7 comments… read them below }

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Ugh, sorry. My web host has been having server problems since yesterday. The good news is that the longer they’re going on, the sooner they are to end … and I’m probably switching hosts sometime this month to get a private server.

  1. Anonymous*

    With #6, I want to comment that this is a YMMV situation. I’ve tried this with two different co-workers (and these were legitimate complaints, which I addressed as professionally as possible), only to have both of them flip out and start screaming at me. Both of them also told me that if I had issues, to take it up with management, not with them, and our manager told me the same thing as well. So, really, perhaps it should be “talk with people directly when you have a beef (if you think it will be well-received).”

    The rest of the list is excellent though, and I’ve found #7 to be pretty true lately. It is definitely something that takes some practice though.

  2. Erica B*

    I totally fail at #3.. I don’t play games and such, but I read AAM, and some other blogs when I have down time, which can be often depending on my day and schedule. I have busy times, where it’s GO GO GO, and then I have down time. I set my schedule, so it’s completely in my control, and I have to take my work and spread it out.. There are often no opportunities for me to ‘step it up’ or ‘go the extra mile’ at my job. So, say, I decide to be Super Worker, in the end I have more obvious chunks of down time, and that irritates my boss…There is nothing more torturous than the task of “looking busy” :/

    1. Rana*

      Sympathies. That’s the hardest thing for me at work – when I get “too much” work done and end up having to kill time because all the extra busywork has also been done, my supervisor has nothing more for me, and I’m stuck there until 5pm rolls around. Temping’s particularly bad, because if you leave early, you don’t get paid for those hours, even though you’ve done a full day’s work, plus.

      I will say that’s one great thing about project-based freelancing; there’s a built-in reward for efficiency, instead of a punishment!

  3. Molly*

    I love these resolutions! I am going to print this article out and keep in my desk drawer to review every few weeks or so. Thanks, AAM!

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