10 Essential Career Resolutions for 2010

Try to make this year better than the last.

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Karen Burns
It’s the first week of January, and you’re back on the job. Or back on the job hunt.

But wherever you are career-wise, it’s a clean and shiny brand-new year. You’d like to make the most of it, right? Here are 10 ideas for resolutions that could make 2010 a lot better than 2009:

[See 9 insider secrets to getting hired.]

1. Look for something new to learn every day. Whether you are ensconced in a career you love, toiling at a job you hate, or unemployed and looking, building your knowledge base is one simple key to success. What’s more, learning is good for your brain and your mood—and it’s just plain fun. So, read books/articles/blogs about your industry, ask to learn a coworker’s job, consider pursuing a new certification or degree—you get the idea.

2. Rise above the insanity. No matter the state of the economy or country, there is always something to worry about or be afraid of. You can join the naysayers and the fear-mongers, or you can refrain from panicking and be the voice of reason. Looking for rational solutions to problems is a much better use of your time than, say, freaking out about them. It also (bonus!) makes you an invaluable member of any organization.

3. Build a wide, deep, and active network. A professional network is not just a nice-to-have, it’s a must-have source of new business, new jobs, support, advice, ideas, and consolation. So, this year, strengthen relationships with people you already know, and put energy into meeting new people. (Note: Networking includes your online presence, too. LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and the rest—they’re not just fads, they are efficient and effective ways to stay in touch with a whole lot of people.)

[See how to review the work you did last year.]

4. Find a mentor. A mentor is someone who’s a little smarter and a little more experienced than you, and who knows you, likes you, and cares about you. A mentor helps you solve problems and define goals, introduces you to possibilities you didn’t even know existed, and gives you a kick in the behind when you need it. Once you’ve found a mentor, take good care of him or her because this person is like gold.

5. Remember it’s not always about you. Professional life becomes amazingly less stressful when we realize that it’s business, not personal. Nine times out of 10, the decisions and behavior of bosses, coworkers, hiring managers, and recruiters have more to do with their own problems and priorities than with anything you did or said. So grow a thick skin and do good work.

6. Turn your focus outward and help others. Introduce people who might benefit from the acquaintance; offer to be a reference; listen to a colleague’s problems and offer solutions (or just listen); host a networking coffee; volunteer for that new company charity. Your good deeds will come back to you, tenfold.

[See networking tips for introverts.]

7. Say "thank you" as often you can. Sadly, gratitude is not that common. You can be uncommon, and memorable, simply by sending a thank-you note whenever it’s warranted. When you can, regularly (and sincerely) thank your coworkers, your customers, your suppliers, your boss, your friends, your enemies. The appreciation you reap can only help you. Plus, looking for the positive puts you in a positive frame of mind and that is a good thing.

8. Be über-honest. Whether it’s the big stuff (lying about your qualifications) or the small (calling in sick when you’re not), applying the “is this honest?” metric to all you do and say makes life clearer and simpler. What’s more, integrity not only makes people admire and trust you, it makes you admire and trust yourself. Honestly, honesty is a win-win.

9. Write down your goals. Do you want to earn more money, be a manager, open a second facility, change industries, move to a new state, or increase (or decrease) your hours? Achieving any of those goals will require many intermediary steps. But the very first step is to write it down. Writing something down defines it, clarifies it, gives it power, and—eventually—makes it real.

10. Establish a Plan B. Can you answer this question: “What would I do if I lost what I currently have?” Having a fallback plan on hand is always, always smart. Not to mention essential for your peace of mind. This is why career experts tell you to pay attention to the state of your industry, have an up-to-date résumé, and stay on the lookout for other opportunities.

You don’t have to do all of these. Start small. Pick the ideas that appeal to you, try them out, and see what happens. It’s your 2010. Make the most of it!

Karen Burns is the author of the illustrated career advice book The Amazing Adventures of Working Girl: Real-Life Career Advice You Can Actually Use, recently released by Running Press. She blogs at www.karenburnsworkinggirl.com.