For the New Year, Skip Resolutions--Make Goals!

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I've been thinking about what resolutions I should make for the new year, and, as usual, I can list many things: get healthier, become better organized, write a book (or three), and on and on and on... Basically, pretty much the same things every year. And every year, like most resolution-makers, I usually fail/forget before January 7.

So, I'm trying to find a better way to implement necessary self-improvement for 2015, and I think I found it.

Instead of a new year's resolution, set a new year's goal for your career in 2015!

What do you most want to accomplish in your career? If you are unemployed, you probably want a good job. If you are employed, you may want a better job - more money, a nicer boss, better working conditions. All are worthy and attainable goals, but they seldom happen automatically without planning and effort!

Here are some possible goals for 2015:

1. Figure out what you want next in your career.
Knowing what you want next is a major accomplishment and a very worthy goal! It is the basis of everything - from your career path to choosing your next employer or earning a certification or degree. When it comes to something as important as your career, take time to do some thinking and reflection. Read the classic career book "What Color Is Your Parachute?" If your library has only one book about careers, this is the one - for good reason. Be sure to do all the exercises in the book. Like millions of others, you'll find them very helpful.

After you've read Parachute, spend at least an hour, maybe two or more hours (you're worth it!), figuring out where you want to be in the future. That old saying about "not being able to see the forest for the trees" is about being buried too deeply in life's daily details to see "the big picture." Reading Parachute and then taking the time to think about your career is a very good way to see what is really going on, what your big picture is - or what you want it to be in the future.

If you finish this goal early in the year, you can add another goal (or two! See below)!

2. Create a list of your ideal next employers.
If you know what you want to do next (and even if you don't know), explore the employment options available to you. What are your selection criteria - location, industry, size, or something else? Think about where you and friends and family have been happiest working. Or, where you think you would have the best possibility of future growth. Research your options online. MapQuest and Google Maps are two great ways to identify employers.

3. Expand your professional network so that you will have more options in your next job search.
This may mean bringing your LinkedIn profile up to the 500+ connections level and becoming more active in LinkedIn groups related to your job and career goals. Outside of LinkedIn, consider joining a national association related to your profession (or your target profession). Employee referrals are employers' favorite method of filling jobs - you are five times more likely to be hired if you are referred by an employee than if you simply submit a resume or application.

4. Become more active in the local community to expand your local network.
To meet more people in your community, join the local chapter of a professional or industry association related to your career goals or volunteer for a non-profit in an appropriate role (like being an officer in the parents' organization for your kids' school). You could also go to your high school or college reunion. I met many interesting and influential people helping my PBS station with their annual fund-raising.

5. Learn something new that will help you in your career.
Perhaps you have a gap in your knowledge or the requirements for your next step up the career ladder or the salary scale. Make your goal for this year to - at a minimum - get started meeting that requirement. If possible, meet that requirement. Perhaps the goal is learning one skill: improving your understanding of effective email marketing, getting a law degree, or creating beautiful watercolor landscapes. Once you have learned that skill, use it as much as possible, inside your job or outside of it in your personal life or networking activities, to gain experience and confidence.

What are your goals for 2015?

The list above represents only a few possible goals for your career in 2015. Think about how you would like to be positioned for 2016, and create your own goal if none of the examples above work for you. Then, set your goal(s) for 2015, and go for it! Or, you'll be in the same spot next year that you are now.
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