Every day is a new beginning, but a new calendar year offers a particularly great opportunity for fresh starts. This year more than ever, career-minded people are craving new opportunities and new strategies to carry out in January and beyond.
As you think about your plans and goals for 2009, here are 12 career-related resolutions to consider adding to your list.
1. I will do one thing every day to find a job or advance my career. Spend some time every day, even just five minutes, researching potential employers, reading advice articles, following up with people you've met, practicing for interviews or doing anything else to help your career prospects. Keep moving forward. Momentum matters.
2. I will update my resume once a month. Especially in an economic downturn, your resume needs to be ready to send at a moment's notice. Make a note in your calendar to review this important document once a month to be sure it sells your skills and experience in the best possible way.
3. I will regularly review my online presence. While you're keeping your resume up-to-date, review your online professional presence as well. Google your own name and make sure the results reflect the image you want to project. Many organizations are now relying on social networking sites like LinkedIn and Facebook for recruiting, so it's quite likely your next employer will review your online profile before seeing your official resume.
4. I will read or watch the news every single day. By keeping up with the news, you'll read about new companies forming, industries that are expanding despite the recession, upcoming events and more. You'll also arm yourself with things to talk about as you network. Chitchat is a big part of professional networking, and people often discuss topics straight from the headlines.
5. I will become an expert on the organization(s) I want to work for. In addition to keeping up with the general news, set up free keyword news alerts for the companies and industry you want to work for. This will ensure you are the very first to know when the organization appears in a news story, press release or blog -- invaluable knowledge when you're networking within your industry or selling yourself in a job interview.
6. I will practice introducing myself. When asked to introduce yourself at a networking event or in a formal job interview, don't wing it. Be prepared to introduce yourself with a short, positive description of who you are and what you want to do (this is often called an elevator pitch, because it should last about as long as a typical elevator ride). Keep your self-intro conversational (rather than canned) and smile when you say it. For help formulating and practicing your pitch, check out www.15secondpitch.com or www.surespeak.com.
7. I will join a professional association. No matter what your career interests, there is a professional association to support you and introduce you to new people (for a directory, check out www.ASAEcenter.org). Benefits to association membership typically include free subscriptions to industry publications, discounts on event attendance, online learning programs and one-on-one mentoring. Often the career value of such benefits more than justifies the annual membership dues, especially if the association offers student membership rates.
8. I will set a goal before any networking event I attend. Too many people attend events -- conferences, job fairs, association meetings, alumnae get-togethers -- hoping that something positive will happen. It's your job to make something happen! Set a goal for every event, such as meeting one helpful new contact, getting a referral for a great career coach or asking the speaker a question about current industry trends.
9. I will keep in touch with the people I meet. Spend maybe 30 minutes a week sending a few "hello" e-mails to people you haven't spoken to in a while -- friends at other colleges, former teachers or employers, family friends, etc. Ask your connections if there is anything you can do to help them, and ask them to keep an eye out for career opportunities that might be a good fit for you. Seventy to eighty percent of jobs are found through networking, so the more people you know -- and who know you -- the more opportunities you will be exposed to.
10. I will e-mail like a professional. E-mail is big part of your professional image, so be very careful with your career-related correspondence. Avoid cute acronyms (LOL, BRB), emoticons and writing in all lowercase. Double-check every important e-mail for spelling and grammar. Also, limit your bubbly nature to one exclamation point per e-mail!
11. I will visit (or revisit) the career services office. College career services offices have plentiful (and usually free) resources -- exclusive job and networking databases, resume critiquing, mock interviewing, personalized career counseling. The problem is that most students don't take advantage of these resources. If you think you're too busy to visit Career Services, think again. If you've already graduated, your alma mater will still provide these resources to you.
12. I will not be afraid to fail. Failures will happen to you during your career and probably already have. Some employers won't hire you. Some "dream" internships will turn into nightmares. Some bosses won't promote you. And my response is: Congratulations. Get the help you need to get through the pain and disappointment (talking to friends or family, writing in a journal, seeking therapy if necessary) and move on. Once you've got some certified failure experience, you'll be better at knowing how to recover the next time it happens. Failing stinks. But real failure comes from never trying something in the first place.
I look forward to helping you succeed in whatever goals you set for 2009. Happy New Year!