5 Smart Career Resolutions for 2011

Plus: Suggestions on how to keep them.

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Tim Tyrell-Smith
It is a popular tradition to choose a resolution or two for a new year. But how do you choose a smart and achievable resolution?

Here are five practical career resolutions you can choose for 2011. Each includes a suggestion on how to turn resolution into reality.

1. I will re-focus to keep my boss happy. Coming out of a busy and sometimes distracting holiday season, re-focus on your core role (the reason you were hired) and confirm that it is still in line with the department’s key objectives.

How to keep this one: Schedule a meeting for mid-January with your boss and ask this question: “What can I do to help this team succeed in 2011?" This will help you and your boss confirm the best place to use your talents. And that may open doors to new assignments, cross-functional roles, or a key internal job interview in 2011.

[See How to Choose a Career That's Best for You.]

2. I will invite new people to lunch. Instead of eating lunch at your desk or with the same old crowd, pick a day each week and invite someone new to lunch. Social networking creates new friendships and more productive work relationships. Choose an internal contact for the first week and an external contact the next.

How to keep this one: Set up a recurring appointment in Outlook today. So on Monday you are reminded to send an invite for Friday. Make a target list of 10 internal and 10 external people so you have a place to start.

3. I will complete or kick off a key education objective. Completing your degree or setting sights on a new one supports career development. It shows others your desire to remain relevant. And it gives you a sense of pride. Check with your boss or benefits department to see if you qualify for financial help and if the company allows for a flexible schedule so you can attend classes.

How to keep this one: Pick one objective. It could be a certification, your undergraduate degree, or an advanced degree. Share this objective with someone who can become an accountability partner. And build a timeline for the key tasks and dates. Put this printed calendar in a public place (on your refrigerator) to keep the conversation going.

[See 10 Jobs That Offer a Big Bang for Your Buck.]

4. I will clean up my cluttered workspace. If you think a desk (or floor) full of papers and file folders says “I’m important,” think again. Having a cluttered office environment sends the wrong message. It says “disorganized” mentally and physically to all who pass by. So resolve in 2011 to send a different personal branding message, such as “I am confident and prepared to take on the next job.”

How to keep this one: Start with a clean and organized office for January 1 and you’ll find it easier to keep it clean. Come in on a Saturday for a few hours to get it done. Take a before and an after photo and keep those in a drawer. Organize an office clean-up day for your department. Starting this initiative helps you remember to set a great example.

5. I will send shorter and crisper E-mail messages. E-mail can be a great tool when used correctly. It can also be misused and abused. Send short, well-written E-mail messages and target them to the right people. Your team will thank you for reducing the number of incoming messages. And they are also more likely to read and act on your messages. Isn’t this what you intended?

How to keep this one: Find a great E-mail template and keep it next to your computer. Make notes about why it works and strive to get ideas across with fewer words. Each time you create an E-mail or respond to one, consider who it is addressed to and why. When in doubt, write an E-mail and save it for review the next day.

Which of these resolutions will you choose for 2011? What are the odds you’ll keep it?

[For more career advice, visit U.S. News Careers, or find us on Facebook or Twitter.]

Tim Tyrell-Smith is founder of Tim's Strategy, a site that helps professionals succeed in job search, career and life strategy. Follow Tim on Twitter, @TimsStrategy, and share his 30 Ideas Book with job-seeking friends.