It's not too late to get a fresh start on better work habits and a more strategic approach to advancement.
With the holiday hoopla behind us, it's common to feel an energy drop looking at the year ahead. You may feel worried about tackling everything on your plate, or unsure of how you will reach your ultimate career goals.
Instead of succumbing to discouragement, use the start of the new year to get intentional about what you want to achieve in your position and industry. These 10 resolutions are straightforward enough to start tackling today, and will make a significant difference in your career prospects and job satisfaction over time.
1. Learn to unplug. Digital fasting is not a new concept, but it's one that bears repeating. Planning blocks of time to go offline from your smartphone, social media and email can help restore your balance and focus. Temporary disconnection from your devices allows you to tune in to other things that are important to your career, such as face-to-face communication and undistracted lunch breaks with people who can help you advance to the next level.
2. Get better at salary negotiation. Many professionals -- even those who are great at their jobs -- leave money on the table by failing to maximize their negotiating power. To avoid being one of them, resolve this year to approach salary negotiation more strategically. Whether you're applying for a new position or seeking a raise in your current one, you should always do industry research before negotiating to find out average salaries for specific jobs. That way you can make an accurate case for your value. It's also important to leverage techniques, such as staying quiet and confident after you make your request, rather than following up too soon or lowering your initial number.
3. Avoid misuse of social media. You can damage your professional credibility by misusing Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn -- whether you do so while in the office or after hours. Don't assume that comments you make on Facebook are private since search engines can link back to your timeline through the site's default settings. Don't overshare in your tweets or posts. You can show some personality, but be discriminating about what you choose to share. If a job search is part of your career plan, use keywords on your LinkedIn profile to help recruiters and hiring managers find you.
4. Manage yourself, not your time. Time management can be elusive since poor work habits can foil your best efforts to rein in the clock. Instead, work on managing your own expectations about how much you can reasonably accomplish in one day. You can also resolve to get better about how you manage your boundaries for accepting new projects. And resolve to multitask less so that you can complete one project before starting another one.
5. Get more done in the morning. A smart start to your day can help make you more productive all week long. Instead of letting those precious morning hours disappear into the void of your email inbox, tackle your three most important work-related tasks first. Choose projects that take the most mental energy to complete. Save easier items, such as returning calls and reviewing emails, for later in the day when you are mentally tired.
6. Understand that busier isn't better. Many professionals equate being busy with being successful. But the fact is that what you are doing is more important than that you are constantly doing something. Pull back from frenetic efforts to check things off your to-do list. Start saying "no" to busywork that doesn't help further your career goals.
7. Sink your time-sucks. What wastes your time in the office? Your bad habits may be different than those of your co-workers, so it's important to recognize what's draining energy from your top priorities. Whether it's non-work-related social networking, mismanagement of incoming messages or planning meetings without agendas, you can get a lot more done each day when you avoid common time-wasters.
8. Avoid toxic people. You often can't control who you work with, but you can learn to set limits on how much time you spend with difficult personalities at work. Be on the lookout for constant complainers and those who are perpetually negative and dissatisfied. Associating too closely with these types can affect how others in the office see you. Also beware of office bullies, who can be difficult to identify unless you recognize red flags. If you are not receiving credit for your work, targeted by others for character traits you can't change or being aggressively managed, you may need guidance from human resources.
9. Reveal less to your colleagues. There's a fine line between getting to know your colleagues and oversharing. Err on the side of caution and avoid discussing controversial topics with colleagues, since you can easily offend someone who has a different opinion. You should also avoid sharing negative feelings about your job or those you work with, whether on social media or in confidence to a boss or co-worker. And reserve comments and complaints about your health, relationship and family problems for confidants outside the office.
10. Recognize when you've outgrown your job. Sticking around too long in a job that you've outgrown is a recipe for career stagnation. Be on the lookout for warning signs that suggest it's time for a change, such as feeling under-challenged, overlooked or unhappy. If you've discussed these concerns with your boss and not found support, be ready to seek new opportunities, either within or outside your company. At the end of the day, you need to be the biggest proponent for your own career advancement and take concrete steps to reach your goals.
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