Tis the season to begin thinking about New Year's resolutions. Get a jump start on your career and professional development by including some of these items to your list. If you believe your job will last a lifetime or feel your employer owes you training and development, think again. You don't want to get caught unprepared for your next move, either by your choice or someone else's, and you won't if you include these steps to your regular routine.
Create a rich work portfolio. You know doing the bare minimum probably won't get you promoted or recognized. But you also know you haven't received any awards for going above-and-beyond either. What's the point? Skill building! Think about the projects you could take on to build your portfolio of skills and expertise. Maybe you company needs a website redesign and you could lead a committee to brainstorm ideas. Perhaps you could suggest a process to bring customer service up to snuff. Or how about teaming up with HR to implement an employee recognition program, initiated by employees? Take on one project that is important to you and run with it. Don't expect recognition or a bonus. Do it because it is important to you.
Build your resiliency. When was the last time you really changed your routine? While we crave routine and consistency, our work seldom provides the stability we want. One way to cope is to force change on ourselves. Begin testing your flexibility and adaptability by doing things that are uncomfortable. If you don't normally get to work early, try it for a month and see what happens. Is there a colleague you don't know well? Ask them to lunch. By pushing yourself outside your comfort zone regularly, you begin to build your resiliency. Like a good workout at the gym, stretching professionally will make you stronger and give you greater career endurance.
Learn to love conflict. Don't run away from a disagreement or bite your tongue every time your boss comes up with a crazy idea. Stand up and be heard. Take a stand and learn how to defend what you believe in and what you know. The more experience you gain defending your points, the better you can get. Not every battle is worth fighting, and not every idea is worth defending. When you learn how to sell and negotiate your ideas you might just gain more respect.
Practice generosity. Who doesn't like it when they receive a genuine compliment or sincere recognition out of the blue? Do you spontaneously praise or thank co-workers? You could offer to mentor or help a new employee or stay late after work to help someone with a deadline. When you go out of your way to do things for others, you begin to establish a reputation for being generous.
Teach yourself. When budgets are tight, the budget item usually cut first is formal training opportunities. While this is unfortunate, it shouldn't deter you from getting the knowledge and skills you need to succeed. Seek opportunities to teach yourself the skills through free courses offered by Harvard, MIT, and Stanford's edX (www.edX.org). Other universities are partnering to offer their online courses for free too, Programs such as Coursera (www.coursera.org) and Udacity (www.udacity.com) offer courses from more than 33 universities for little or no money. Use your creative problem-solving skills to get the knowledge you need to stay competitive.
Time is all it takes. Finding time to think about your career seldom makes it on your daily to-do list. Set some measurable and time-sensitive goals to make these things happen and don't forget to write them down so you see them every day.
Hannah Morgan is a speaker and author providing no-nonsense career advice; she guides job seekers and helps them navigate today's treacherous job search terrain. Hannah shares information about the latest trends, such as reputation management, social networking strategies, and other effective search techniques on her blog, Career Sherpa.