12 Ambitious Career Resolutions To Kick-Start Your 2012

career advice and goals for 2012By Danny Rubin

By now, you're probably chipping away at your New Year's resolution: go to the gym more often, learn a new language, start a garden, stop biting your nails, etc...

Those are all worthy goals for 2012 and with enough dedication, you'll be speaking Mandarin and shedding pounds in no time.

But the New Year is also a perfect opportunity to take stock of your job or your pursuit of one. Like a car in need of an oil change, we too often forget about the basic maintenance required to stay sharp.

In case you haven't added any career-related goals to your resolution list, here are 12 that will help you gain momentum professionally in 2012:

1. Update your resume

Even if you have a job and don't plan on leaving, you just never know. Your resume should always be fresh and presentable. Once you update it, have a friend with a sharp eye look it over for errors. That way, when an exciting opportunity comes along, you'll be ready.

2. Back up your computer files

Put all your files on a backup hard drive or server like Dropbox. If you have a job, make sure you ask about your company's server and how to use it. That way, if your computer crashes this year, you'll have a plan to fall back on. Don't be that person who forgot to back it up!

3. Ask about or reassess your 401(k)

See if your company offers a 401(k) retirement plan. If you can't afford to max out your 401(k), at least contribute enough to get your employer's matching contribution (aka "free money").

4. Network, Network, Network

Set a goal to meet with 1-2 people in your industry each month, or folks who could help connect you to the industry you want. Again, even if you're in love with your job and could never imagine leaving, maintaining and growing your network is one of the best things you can do for your career. Keep your options open and your contact list robust. If setting up 1-2 lunches a month is too taxing, join a business networking group and attend monthly meetings.

5. Learn a new job skill

In between Mandarin verb conjugations and your flourishing garden, find time to add a technical skill to your repertoire and make yourself more valuable professionally. Most people like being asked for their knowledge and expertise, so sidle up next to a friend or co-worker and gain a new skill for free.

6. Develop quality habits

All those random business cards you collected over the past year? Store the info on your computer or cell. You might need one of those people in 2012, and this way you won't have to search all over for someone's email or phone number. Get in the habit of connecting with new people online right after you meet them in person, so you can toss the biz cards.

7. Have a sit-down with the boss

Yeah, I know. You would rather get a root canal than ask for a one-on-one with your boss. But it could be the smartest thing you do all year. Lay out reasonable expectations for 2012 and make sure you're both on the same page. Your boss will respect your initiative and maybe even give you more responsibility, which could equate to a raise.

8. Hit the road

If you are out of work (and can afford it), professional conferences are a great place to learn new skills and network. If you have a job, it's a terrific way to show you're serious about your role with the company and want to grow. You may even be able to convince your company to pay for it.

9. Take care of yourself

Ever get really tired in the mid-afternoon and want to crawl under your desk for a nap? Think about what you just had for lunch. What you eat has a direct impact on your focus and productivity. Healthy eating isn't just good for your body; it's also good for your bottom line.

10. Pick a distraction

Make it a priority to find something you love to do outside of work. Creating time for yourself provides balance and might even help you enjoy your job that much more.

11. Keep your chin up

If you're on the hunt for a job, stay positive. Some people won't return your calls/emails and others will shuts the door in your face. That's life. Work on the job search a little every day, and the results may surprise you.

12. Don't get too comfortable

This should be the mantra for our generation. So many companies are in flux, and even great employees can be let go at a moment's notice. Work hard every day, learn as much as you can and always have a Plan B. Hopefully, 2012 will go according to plan, but in the event that it doesn't, never forget to look out for yourself.

Cheers to a fabulous 2012, everyone!

Danny Rubin is a national news consultant for media research firm Frank N Magid Associates. He is a former television news reporter, lives in Washington, D.C. and tweets as @dannyhrubin.

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