15 Resolutions You Should Make this Year to Get Ahead

by Salary.com Staff - Original publish date: January 16, 2012

The start of a new year is always a good time to set new career resolutions. No matter where you are in your career -- entry level, mid-career, or nearing retirement -- there are always new challenges to tackle and goals to meet.

Make this year the year you shine at work and make some long awaited changes. 

Here are 15 resolution ideas to help make this the year you get ahead.

Resolution 1: Conquer a fear

Is there a pesky fear that's holding you back at work? Think about what that may be costing you. 

For example, if you're afraid of public speaking, it may be costing you opportunities to share your hard-won industry knowledge with others. Look for small opportunities to overcome the fear and you'll gain confidence and opportunities to shine. 

Resolve to: Sign up for Toastmasters and practice speaking up at any meetings you attend. Strive to speak up once in every meeting; then up the ante and aim to speak at least twice, etc., until you're completely comfortable speaking in front of a crowd.

Resolution 2: Set boundaries at work

Make this the year you stop being a doormat for your boss or needy co-workers and set some firm boundaries with your time and work load. 

If you're saying yes when you mean no to staying late, taking on more projects when you already have a full plate, or helping a co-worker catch up on their work (again), it's time to set boundaries. 

Resolve to: Practice saying no to seemingly small requests so you can focus on your own projects. If your boss is overworking you, begin to ask him/her for ideas on how to prioritize your load.

Resolution 3: Build your network

The importance of networking is nothing new; but a fresh new year is the perfect time to reach out to colleagues to wish them well in the year ahead. After all, networking is all about keeping in touch. 

Make this the year that you build and nurture business relationships. A strong network can expose you to new job prospects and help in building your personal brand. 

Resolve to: Meet more people. Join an industry association and actually attend their networking events and workshops. Set a reminder on your calendar to reach out to your current network either with by e-mail or in person.

Resolution 4: Become a mentor to someone new to your industry

If you're feeling a bit uninspired or burned out in your career, taking on the challenge of becoming a mentor is a good way to not only give back, but gain a fresh perspective on your industry. 

Someone fresh out of college or new to your field will bring an energy and excitement that offers you an opportunity to guide them along their path. 
Remember to be open to learning from them too -- since they may have a fresh approach to share.

Resolve to: Contact an industry association and offer yourself as a mentor.

Resolution 5: Be bold! Ask for a raise or promotion

If your company hasn't given you a raise since sometime before 2008 when the word "recession" became an everyday part of our vocabulary, it's time to be bold and ask for more. 

Many workers have spent the last several years picking up the slack and taking on extra work for the same pay -- just thankful to have a job at all. 

Resolve to: List all of the reasons you deserve a raise and/or promotion and make an appointment to review your accomplishments with your boss. Tell him or her that you'd like to earn more or get on the promotion track. Work with your boss to develop a firm action plan.

Resolution 6: Set firm boundaries and achieve a work/life balance

Are you the office go-to person for everything from staying late to taking on any extra work that needs to get done? If you're feeling that you have too much on your plate or that you'd like to enjoy your life outside of work more, it's time to set some boundaries. 

Resolve to: Put limits on your precious time. Unless it's mandatory (and if often isn't) say no to staying late or helping a coworker finish a project. You'll soon find that it's not career-ending to have firm boundaries around your work life.

Resolution 7: Start a business

Have you been secretly dreaming of starting a business someday? The start of a new year is a great opportunity to dive into starting your own business -- even if it's just a side hustle to earn a little extra cash. 

Are you good at photography, web design, or making jewelry? Start small, build over time, and before you know it, you'll either pave the way to a new career or simply do something that's gratifying to you. 

Resolve to: Write a business plan and take small action steps toward launching your own venture. Check out the U.S. Small Business Administration'swebsite.

Resolution 8: Stop using the recession as an excuse not to find a new job

Have you been holding tightly to your job, scared to venture out into the shark-infested job search waters for the past several years? 

If you feel stuck in a rut and you're ready for something new, it's time to move past recession-based fears and put yourself back on the job market. Sure, the competition may be tougher, but that's no reason to remain on the sidelines. 

Resolve to: Brush up your resume and cover letter -- updating them so that if you come across an exciting new job opportunity, you're ready to be a strong contender for the job. 

Resolution 9: Change careers if you’re in a rut

So many workers are slugging away at jobs they hate simply because they won't take action to pursue their true passion. There are countless excuses: You're too young, too old, or you don't have the necessary degree or skills to catch a break in your dream industry. 

Put away your excuse bag and take action! Even if you have to take a few steps down the corporate ladder or completely stop climbing it, if you end up doing something you love, it'll be worth the sacrifice.

Resolve to: Use LinkedIn to contact people currently working in your dream job and ask them for tips.

Resolution 10: Take on more challenging projects

Stuck in a rut? Tired of slogging away on the same boring projects? Can you do your job while simultaneously listening to your iPod and reading your Facebook feed? If you want to get ahead, you'll need to position yourself for more challenging assignments at work. 

Learning a new job function or volunteering to lead a committee can provide you with the types of challenges that make work exciting. 

Resolve to: Tell your boss that you'd like to learn something new or volunteer to lead a specific project that comes up this year. You'll feel more alive in your work when you're challenged.

Resolution 11: Stop gossiping with co-workers

Gossip and its close cousin, complaining, are bad work habits that can get the better of many of us. It can also lead to dissatisfaction, strife, and overall bad morale in the office. 

Don't participate in silly and sometimes hurtful gossip. If there's an issue that's bothering you at work, take it to the source and work it out directly instead of gossiping to anyone who'll listen. 

Resolve to: Put the lid of gossip and complaining. It doesn't change anything; in fact, it only makes matters worse.  Challenge yourself to identify solutions to any problems that you'd normally just gossip about.

Resolution 12: Update your skills

Do you want a new job or promotion, but you're being held back because you don't have the right skills like HTML, Excel, or a foreign language? 

These days, learning new skills is easier than ever before. Distance learning, industry workshops, and continuing education courses are easily accessible. 

Resolve to: Take a class or develop a plan to learn on your own by reading books or online tutorials. Check online or with your local community college or university for continuing education courses.

Are you spending more time at the water cooler or on the Internet than you spend really focusing on that important project? 

The more time you spend goofing off, the less time you have to devote to activities that could propel your career forward.  

Resolve to: Avoid engaging in non-work activities while at the office. Limit the time you spend talking about celebrity gossip to minutes in the afternoon. Don’t be afraid to let your co-workers know that you’d like to devote more time to work. You never know, you may inspire them to get in gear too.

Resolution 14: Go back to school

Returning to school to obtain a degree is a popular "someday" dream for many workers. 

Before committing to a program, do your research to see what the job prospects and opportunities are in your chosen field. That way, you'll be making an informed decision based on current market trends. 

Resolve to: Research programs and enroll in a class or two to see if becoming a student again is the right move for your career. If you still feel excited by the prospect of going for a degree, keep going.

Resolution 15: Do something just for fun

Putting all of your energy into your career can be exhausting and will put you on the fast track to career burn-out. A little fun in life goes a long way.

By engaging in fun activities, whether a hobby or spending time with your family and friends, you’ll return to work refreshed. 

Resolve to: Start or re-start a hobby or passion that you haven’t made time for in a while. Paint, join a special interest club, take a trip, or hit the park with your kids.

A final thought: Set yourself up for success by setting realistic goals

Make sure your resolutions are important to you at this stage in your career and you'll be more likely to keep working toward your goals.

Keep in mind some resolutions naturally take more time to accomplish than others (you're not going to launch a new business or earn a degree overnight).

So try setting a mix of short-term resolutions (stop gossiping with co-workers) and longer term goals (going back to school) and it's more likely you'll stick to your resolutions and achieve success.