U.S. Markets close in 3 hrs 24 mins

7 Ways to Control Your Career in 2012

Miriam Salpeter

If you're looking for a job, then the new year requires a fresh focus. You want to keep ahead of the game to make sure you manage your own career. Cal Brown, author of When Life Strikes: Weathering Financial Storms, offers the following suggestions to help you maintain control and succeed with your career goals in 2012.

[See our list of the 50 Best Careers.]

1. Don't be complacent. Even if your company is solid and your industry is in a growth trend, you should always have a plan B. Ask yourself, "How can I earn income if I lose my job?" Don't be caught off guard; always think about how to replace your income. Identify your most marketable skills, your education and experience, and document your accomplishments. Focus on your interests (including your hobbies and extra-curricular activities), geographical preferences, and your financial situation. Reduce or eliminate debt and do your best to create a cash reserve.

2. Go back to school. Before you choose a degree program, do your research and learn what firms regularly recruit from your potential school. Be definitive in your planning--select a college or program that will stack the odds in your favor.

[See 10 Tips for New Grads Entering the Workforce.]

3. Think about tax implications. There are a wide assortment of jobs within any industry, and a tremendous variety within any company. Brown suggests you examine the Schedule C tax form, which is used by those who are self-employed. He says, "There are numerous 'principal business or professional activity' codes. This list is not exhaustive, but it gives you a sense of the significant number of occupations at work in our economy. The opportunities in this country are staggering."

4. Carefully consider trends for future growth. Your goal should be to land a job with a firm and an industry that is either growing or poised for growth. Brown notes, "Anything else is a slow and certain death, career-wise." Do your due diligence; research the company. First, carefully evaluate the organization's website. If it is a public company, you should be able to access its annual report. Critically review the site, the "About Us" page, and information regarding who is in charge. What can you learn about the company's board of directors and management team? (Tip: Google their names and take a look at the top players' LinkedIn profiles to learn more.)

Don't stop at the company's website. Check out resources such as Hoovers.com, which compares public corporations and can provide insights into where the organization stands relative to competitors. Vault.com is another resource to identify company standings. You can also Google your target employer to help identify useful information. Do an in-depth search and you may find lawsuits or personnel information to help you evaluate an organization's potential longevity. Brown suggests searching by company name and revenue growth to find useful data.

Other ways of determining current and future trends include industry publications, general business magazines, and major media newspapers and magazines. But beware; you are looking for long-term growth, not "flash in the pan," short-term blips.

5. Networking is an inexact science, but it works. Brown says, "Will texting and social media replace person-to-person contact? I doubt it. There is just no substitute for getting to know people and expanding your network. I'm not talking about going to one event once a year; effective networking is regular, consistent attendance at meetings and social events throughout the year, indeed several years."

In addition, Brown says, "If you have proven your mettle as an intelligent, ambitious, reliable person, someone will want you, but, be forewarned, results will not come overnight. It is consistency and quality over time that will produce your desired outcome."

[In Pictures: 6 Tips for Landing a Job in 2012.]

6. Stand above the crowd. Your resume and job search materials need to have some unique characteristics to stand out from the pack. Brown says, "What is it? Why are you different (in a good way)? Every firm should have a unique selling proposition: why shouldn't you?"

7. Don't limit yourself by geography. You could curb your earning potential if you are unwilling (or unable) to move. According to Brown, he once changed jobs to stay in Atlanta rather than get transferred to Houston. "My former college professor assisted me greatly but warned that my decision to not leave Atlanta would be a very expensive decision," he says. "And he was right."

Twitter: @USNewsCareers

Miriam Salpeter is a job search and social media consultant, career coach, author, speaker, resume writer and owner of Keppie Careers. She is author of Social Networking for Career Success. Miriam teaches job seekers and entrepreneurs how to incorporate social media tools along with traditional strategies to empower their success. Connect with her via Twitter @Keppie_Careers.

More From US News & World Report