I’ve got your new year’s resolutions

Last year, I assigned my friends New Year’s resolutions (upon request, not just like a dictator). I assigned one friend to learn to bake her own bread, another to learn everything she could about plantains, and many others. Inexplicably, no one followed through on their resolutions.

So this year, I am assigning them to you instead.

1. Ask for time off and take it without guilt. If you’ve been putting off taking a vacation because there’s never a good time to get away, resolve to talk to your boss right after the new year to get some time off on the calendar. If there’s never a good time to get away, then you’ll never take a break – and that’s bad for your mental health and even bad for your employer, since rested and recharged employees do a better job.

2. Stop complaining about your job. It’s easy to get caught up in complaining about your work, your boss, or your coworkers, but constant complaining has a way making unhappiness worse. Instead, talk to people directly when you have a beef so that they have a chance to make things better. And if your job is really that unpleasant, focus on finding a new one instead of surrounding yourself in negativity.

3. Thank people. Has someone made your life at work easier, connected you with a helpful contact, or simply been a pleasant person to interact with this year? Tell them – and vow to keep thanking people into the new year. Even better, take the time to write out your thanks in a note or email and it will probably be treasured for a long time to come. Never under-estimate just how much people value being openly appreciated.

4. Stop texting in meetings. You might think that no one notices or that everyone does it, but if you’re constantly checking your phone or texting during meetings, you’re decreasing your engagement – and if it’s a small meeting, you might be insulting the people you’re meeting with, too. Resolve to start giving your colleagues the courtesy of your full attention (even if you have to leave your phone behind in order to do it).

5. Ask for a raise. If you’ve been doing a great job but haven’t had a raise in a year or more, resolve to ask your boss for a salary review. People often shy away from asking for raises in a tight economy, but if your value to the company has increased, it’s perfectly reasonable to ask for that to be reflected in your salary.

6. Get involved with a professional society. Find a professional society in your field and get involved with its work. By joining committees or attending meetings, you’ll expand your network, raise your visibility, and often get additional accomplishments for your resume.

7. Break a bad habit. Whether it’s interrupting people, getting defensive when you receive feedback, or resisting change, vow to overcome it in 2013. Bad habits can start to feel like they’re simply part of who you are, but they’re all things that we can change – and you’ll often see it pay off in your career and even in your general quality of life if you do.

8. Throw out your resume and write a new one focusing on achievements, not just job duties. Most people’s resumes are bland and uninspiring, so vow to make yours an achievement-focused document that will truly wow a hiring manager. And do this even if you’re not job-searching, so that it’s ready whenever you are – or if a great opportunity falls unexpectedly in your lap.

9. Ask for feedback. If you wait for your boss to give you feedback on what you do well and where you could do better, you might be waiting a long time. Lots of managers aren’t skilled at offering feedback on their own but will respond well to specific questions like, “What do you think I’m best at, and where could I focus on improving?” And even if you don’t much like your boss, asking the question might get you some interesting insights.

10. Take control of your career. Unhappy with your job? Start actively working to find a new one. Want to change fields? Figure out what it’s going to take and start down that path. Unsure what you want to do? Come up with a plan to figure it out. Whatever the obstacle is between you and being happy with your work life, make 2013 the year that you stop being passively unhappy about it and start taking active steps to changing it.

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

{ 17 comments… read them below }

  1. AnotherAlison*

    I like these a lot. I’ve already got some big plans in the works related to #10. Excited for 2013!

    Semi-related – anyone needing some motivation to work hard should watch Jiro Dreams of Sushi. I watched this the other night. Jiro Ono started apprenticing at a sushi shop at 9 and has been working the same job for 76 years. So many of us get bored after 76 days!

  2. Jamie*

    Alison, that is a lot of work you’ve assigned. I am very tired – can’t I just learn about plantains and leave my career on auto-pilot for another year?

  3. Mike C.*

    So speaking of #6, is the American Society for Quality (ASQ) any good? I haven’t done much with them so far, but they seem to send me a *ton* of email.

    Any thoughts?

  4. BR*

    Excellent suggestions! I had already started working on a few of these and it will be a challenge, but I will follow through.

    Thanks for all you do, Alison. Happy New Year!

  5. ChristineH*

    Going to really take the bull by the horns with #10, then work on #8. I’ve been saying it every year with only a little success, but this coming year, I’m DETERMINED to make it stick!!

  6. Cruciatus*

    I realize I can’t live her life for her, but I wish my coworker would do #5. She’s been at the company longer than I have (only by 4 months but still). I recently applied to another position and got it and for my loyalty got a (small) raise (raises aren’t very freely given–it’s definitely a place where you have to ask and be ready to be turned down immediately). But my coworker wants to stay in her position (and I think, even with my new position, she has a lot more responsibility than I do) but she won’t ask for one because she’s hoping that within the next year she’ll be pregnant and she wants to be able to telecommute a couple of days a week once the non-existent baby is born). I told her to ask for the raise now, it’s been 2 years, she’s due, and to worry about everything else WHEN it happens (she’s also my friend as well so we can talk about these things–I don’t just yell at my coworker about stuff that’s not my business–she brought it up to me!). We do have a very strict culture here that is micromanaged to death by the provost (she has to be involved in EVERY decision, and I mean EVERY decision). But I think the raise and telecommuting are two different issues and she isn’t even pregnant yet so it’s moot so far. Again, I realize I can’t make her do what she doesn’t want to do, but is she right to want to focus on only one request that isn’t even happening yet or should she go for a raise. She fears the provost will say “Why would I let you telecommute, you just asked for a raise 8 months ag0?!”

  7. Anonymous*

    Love, love, love this post. I’m going to do #1, #2, #3, #5 (good to know that it’s reasonable to do this within 1.5 years).

    I made a list of people to thank, and boy, it is long! Great suggestion.

    Any tips on finding a good professional society? (#6) Any commenters have experiences to share?

    1. Jamie*

      I’d look for one with training benefits (materials/classes/etc) as week as local networking opportunities (if you’re interested in that.)

      Every HR I know has been a member of SHRM and I like IIA for internal auditors (I’m a member of that one – so must be pretty prestigious! Ha.)

  8. Ali*

    For me, #1 and #10, and maybe #8.

    I just got a promotion at my job, and with it, I had to explain to my boss that some of the days I would have scheduling issues because of commitments I made several months ago. Because I am a contractor, my manager told me this wouldn’t be a problem as long as I followed protocol for calling off/switching shifts. However, I still feel bad that for the first few months of my job, I may have to leave a couple hours early here and there or need a day off altogether.

    For #10, this is especially important for me because I am transitioning out of a career path that was not working for me and am building my portfolio towards something else. I have been interested in this path for a year or so, but getting the promotion was my wake-up call to see it’s never too early to plan your next step, and I plan on working hard in my new role while focusing on my portfolio outside of work.

    #8 is a must for me too, although it’s challenging for me because I really haven’t had many accomplishment-based jobs. The most I’ve accomplished was being recognized for high performance, but even so, I was recognized with a few others, so I don’t really feel like it makes me stand out.

  9. AP*

    Seriously, handwritten thank you cards for everybody! It’s amazing how far 10 minutes and a $2 card can go when it comes to future good will.

  10. Waiting Patiently*

    These are great!
    #2,6,7,8,9,10 definitely for me.
    Stop complaining will be first on my list of bad habits that must go! I’ve slowly grown into a habitual complainer, which is so not me- but has so become me in the past year!

  11. DB*

    #2 (stop complaining) and #7 (break a bad habit) apply to me. Actually, my bad habit IS that I complain about work. Such a tough cycle to break. I am anxiously awaiting the next open thread so I can pour my guts out and ask for help, opinions, etc.

  12. Katie the Fed*

    yes on taking vacation!

    I earn it, I use it. It keeps me sane and happy. I don’t understand people who lose leave in “use or lose” situations. Enjoy it!

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