People at Work: Career-Management Tips for the New Year

The last few years sure have been challenging for U.S. workers. Many more Americans have lost their jobs, and those who remain are likely working harder to take up the slack left by those laid off. Though the economy is beginning to show signs of improvement, it will likely take several years to replace the 7 million jobs that have been erased since the Great Recession began in late 2007.%%DynaPub-Enhancement class="enhancement contentType-HTML Content fragmentId-1 payloadId-61603 alignment-right size-small"%%Though the odds may seem daunting, job seekers shouldn't view finding new employment as an impossible goal, says workplace expert John Challenger, chief executive at employment consultancy Challenger, Gray & Christmas. "The key to success is to take an active approach and make your own opportunities," he says, not a passive one that involves simply emailing résumés and perusing online job boards.

Challenger's advice is similar for those with jobs seeking advancement or greater security. "It is important to focus on things you can control and act on personally," he says, such as keeping your supervisor up-to-date on accomplishments and joining a workplace committee. Such actions will better position you for advancement, Challenger says.

Whether you're pursuing employment or a promotion, here are a few workplace resolutions Challenger offers for the New Year:

If you're looking for work:
  • Remain positive. It's easy to get discouraged when much of the job news is negative and the job search itself, even in the best economy, is full of rejection. Remember that companies are hiring, on the order of about 4 million new workers a month.
  • Join LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, etc. More employers are seeking candidates and advertising positions through these social and professional networking sites. Be sure to create and maintain a professional profile, keeping in mind that employers may see status updates. Don't post anything that might cause an employer to think twice about hiring you.
  • Get involved with community service group. This is a great way to build your network as well as hone your professional skills.
  • Join a professional/trade association. These organizations can provide training and education opportunities, and most hold several networking functions every year. The dues are worth every cent if you meet a person at an event who can help you find a new job.
  • Meet 10 new people in your field but outside of your company. Building these relationships may help you in your current position, and they'll definitely help when you enter the job market.
  • Rev up your skills. Build upon your established skill set. Explore online courses and local certificate programs to broaden your industry knowledge. That will increase your marketability to a variety of employers.
If you're looking to hold on to your job or pursue a promotion:
  • Seek more responsibility. Volunteer for challenging tasks and exhibit a take-charge attitude. By assuming additional responsibilities, you demonstrate how you can increase value for the corporation.
  • Meet your boss's boss. At the next company event, go out of your way to meet those at least two rungs higher on the corporate ladder. They're the ones who can advance your career.
  • Join a company committee. Whether it's a committee developing new workplace policies or simply planning the company holiday party, joining or volunteering can help you build relationships with other people in your company whom you might otherwise never meet.
  • Find or become a mentor. Mentoring and being mentored provide perspectives and new ideas about career goals and how to achieve them.
  • Align individual and company goals. Evaluate your company's goals and identify the similarities and differences in comparison to your personal career objectives. Look to bridge the gap in differences by attending meetings and company-offered development courses. This illustrates your willingness to be on board with the company's future plans.
  • Discover ways to save money. Figure out how to increase efficiency and performance while decreasing costs. This is especially important in a time when employers are looking for ways to reduce spending. You'll be making a significant contribution to the organization's profitability.
  • Become an expert on one facet of your field. It's important to be a generalist, but knowing more than anyone else on a specific issue or topic will help make you the "go-to" person for anyone in the company who has a question on that area. This specialized knowledge makes you extremely valuable and should be covered in your résumé.
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