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A new year is often looked at as an opportunity for making positive changes, and we’re all familiar with the tradition of making New Year’s resolutions — as we end each year and look forward to the next, we take stock of the things we want to improve upon or change in our lives.
Those among us who are diligent enough to take things one step further set a plan for achieving our resolutions, and some among us actually follow through by putting in the time and effort to achieve our stated goals. And for the most dedicated and focused among us, sometimes a positive change and lasting result is achieved.
Our New Year’s resolutions can vary across an endless array of categories — from finding love, making new friends, and moving to a new city to acquiring a new hobby or skill set. Among the most popular resolutions that people make involve job- and career-related goals. However, while making a New Year’s resolution for career change and success can be the beginning of a wonderful new chapter in our lives, it’s really just the first step.
Positive intent can be a powerful motivating force for change and growth in our lives, but the truth is that it’s often not enough—this is the reason why the majority of us fail to completely commit and follow through on the resolutions we make each year. The truth is, most resolutions flounder in the starting gate without any real forward progress ever being made, and many others are met with a feeble, half-hearted effort that eventually goes nowhere.) We need more than a positive attitude and hope—we need a plan.
According to a recent article on The Muse, “Those who took meaningful steps to achieve their resolutions—setting step-by-step goals or telling their friends and family, for example—were far more likely to achieve their desires than those who made no specific commitments… So if you really want to see results this year, it’s critical that you set your goals with sincerity, and set yourself up for success.”
What are your New Year’s resolutions for career success in 2018? More importantly, do you have a plan for achieving them? Let’s take a closer look at some of the most popular career-related resolutions, and some advice for taking them past the “good idea” stage and closer to the “goal achieved” category.
I want a promotion.
Who among us doesn’t want a loftier position with a more impressive sounding title and a higher salary, regardless of where we currently work? The truth is, this isn’t always an immediately attainable reality for everyone — maybe you’re just getting started at your current job and it’s too soon to start thinking about a promotion, or maybe the place you work at is small and there’s no clear upward trajectory. Whatever the reason, if you’re seeking a promotion and there’s no obvious path for growth for you in your current job, perhaps this means you should make a more drastic change as part of your New Year’s resolution planning.
However, if there are opportunities for growth on the horizon for you, then take a step back and a deep breath and think carefully before blindly charging into your boss’s office and demanding a promotion.
Take stock of your current situation — have you spent the last year working hard to convince your boss that you are ready, willing, and able to take the next step to a new job with greater responsibility? Has your boss been giving you positive feedback all year about how valuable you are to the company and how everyone is impressed with the job you’ve been doing? If so, then you’ve already been working hard to achieve your goal of getting a promotion — the next step is choosing the right time, place, and method for asking for one. This is highly subjective and based on your individual job situation. Do you have annual review meetings with your boss to discuss such issues? If so, then this would be the ideal time to broach this subject. Or perhaps your boss is open to feedback and discussions whenever they arise. If so, choose a day when your boss seems to be in a good mood and go for it!
Maybe you haven’t been getting great signals that your boss would be terribly receptive to the idea of you asking for a promotion. If this sounds more like your reality, then it may be wise to concoct a more long-term plan. Spend the next several months — maybe even the entire next year — anticipating your boss’s needs, doing your job to the absolute best of your ability, and sowing the seeds for popping the big “promotion question” next year. Like we said earlier, sometimes you need a plan, and there’s nothing quite as defeating or draining as asking for a promotion before you’re ready and meeting rejection.
I want a new job.
Okay so maybe you’ve reached as high and as far as you can possibly go in your current job, faced every challenge, conquered every obstacle, and mastered every skill that you could possibly acquire. It’s time – you’re ready for a change. It happens, and it’s a perfectly natural and healthy part of any career path. In fact, job changes are often great opportunities to climb to the next rung on your career ladder. However, you should consider some advance planning before you race out of your current job screaming, “I quit!”
Get a feel for the current job market in your field and area. Are there a wealth of opportunities available, or is it slim pickings? Take a subtle poll of the folks in your peer network who work at other companies. Does it sound like you may be able to go after an opportunity through your contacts?
If conditions out in the job market seem great, then plan for your next steps — polish up your resume and cover letter, make sure your interview clothes still fit, and get out there! However, if you’re seeing some warning signs that right now might not be the best time to jump ship, then bide your time and plan accordingly. Don’t forget, you can do some subtle and covert planning for your next job while you’re at your current one so when the iron is hot you’ll be prepared to strike!
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I want to make a major job or career change.
Perhaps you’re just not feeling completely happy or fulfilled in your current industry, and something is telling you that perhaps now is the time to make a major change. This could be a good thing—the truth is, job unhappiness is often a major cause of mental and physical distress and could have a wide range of negative effects on our health and well-being.
According to a recent Huffington Post blog post by Alexander Kjerulf, founder and Chief Happiness Officer of Woohoo inc, “Way too many people hate their jobs. Exactly how many is hard to say, but depending on which study you believe, somewhere between 20 percent and 40 percent of employees are miserable at work.” Kjerulf goes on to say that hating your job can weaken your immune system, make you gain weight, rob you of sleep, ruin your personal relationships, and even increase your risk of serious illness. Not a good way to ring in the New Year!
So, if you’re eager to make a major job or career change… you guessed it, make a plan. Consider making a list of pros and cons for taking the plunge. If everything in your life is pointing to making a major change, figure out what new goal makes the most sense for you. Take an inventory of your skills and experience, along with your interests and aspirations, and figure out which careers/industries you best align with. Do you have any friends or family who have jobs that sound potentially intriguing to you? If so, ask them more about it. Do your research — the Internet is a great source of information for researching new companies and careers.
Although making a big career change can be a wonderful moment in your life, acting impulsively could really backfire. There are countless stories of people who made quick decisions to leave their current working worlds for new ones, only to discover that they were ill-informed and really had no idea what they were getting into and wound up being just as unhappy — or even unhappier — as they were before. Don’t become just another unfortunate member of this group. Plan wisely and carefully, and you’ll be setting yourself up for a real shot at positive and lasting change.
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I want to build new job skills
This is a great goal for most of us and can really help put you in a better position to achieve the other resolutions on this list in the future — getting a promotion or a new job, or even changing industries. And even if none of these goals are in your immediate future, acquiring new skills can be a rewarding and fulfilling enterprise on its own and help us feel more empowered and effective in our current positions.
If you’re looking to acquire new job skills in the new year, consider the following. Do you want to acquire skills that will make you more effective at your current job or a new one? Your answer to this question will help you determine which skills you should look at. Also, are you looking to invest money towards acquiring new skills? If so, there are a wealth of career and adult education/skill-development programs available across the country; a great place to start is researching the offerings at colleges and universities in your area. You’ll likely come across a wealth of options, both in class and online — you just need to decide which are right for you.
If money is an issue and you’re looking for a more cost-effective approach, there are some great free and low-cost options online. One great resource is Skillshare, an online learning community created, maintained, and curated by veterans and experts in their respective fields who are dedicated to teaching others the skills they’ve acquired.
Here’s the bottom line — many folks who are unhappy with their work lives or who are just eager for a fresh start or new challenge take the new year as an opportunity to make a change, and it’s a great time to do so! Because so many people are focused on career changes at the beginning of a new year, many companies and industries ramp up their hiring during this time — and those among us who are serious and dedicated can take full advantage of this reality. If this sounds like you, perhaps now is a great time to move forward—but do so wisely and plan accordingly. Good luck and Happy New Year!
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The Job Network is a USA TODAY NETWORK content partner, providing career and job-hunting advice. Its content is produced independently of the USA TODAY NETWORK.