Forget about vowing to floss more or lose 10 pounds—why not make 2013 the year that you focus your resolutions on your career? Here are 10 to get you started.
1. Ask for time off and take it without guilt. If you've been putting off taking a vacation because there's never a good time to get away, resolve to talk to your boss right after the new year to get some time off on the calendar. If there's never a good time to get away, then you'll never take a break—and that's bad for your mental health and even bad for your employer, since rested and recharged employees do a better job.
2. Stop complaining about your job. It's easy to get caught up in complaining about your work, your boss, or your co-workers, but constant complaining has a way of making unhappiness worse. Instead, talk to people directly when you have a beef so that they have a chance to make things better. And if your job is really that unpleasant, focus on finding a new one instead of surrounding yourself in negativity.
3. Thank people. Has someone made your life at work easier, connected you with a helpful contact, or simply been a pleasant person to interact with this year? Tell them—and vow to keep thanking people into the new year. Even better, take the time to write out your thanks in a note or email and it will probably be treasured for a long time to come. Never under-estimate just how much people value being openly appreciated.
4. Stop texting in meetings. You might think that no one notices or that everyone does it, but if you're constantly checking your phone or texting during meetings, you're decreasing your engagement—and if it's a small meeting, you might be insulting the people you're meeting with, too. Resolve to start giving your colleagues the courtesy of your full attention (even if you have to leave your phone behind to do it).
5. Ask for a raise. If you've been doing a great job but haven't had a raise in a year or more, resolve to ask your boss for a salary review. People often shy away from asking for raises in a tight economy, but if your value to the company has increased, it's perfectly reasonable to ask for that to be reflected in your salary.
6. Get involved with a professional society. Find a professional society in your field and get involved with its work. By joining committees or attending meetings, you'll expand your network, raise your visibility, and often get additional accomplishments for your resume.
7. Break a bad habit. Whether it's interrupting people, getting defensive when you receive feedback, or resisting change, vow to overcome it in 2013. Bad habits can start to feel like they're simply part of who you are, but they're all things that we can change—and you'll often see it pay off in your career and even in your general quality of life if you do.
8. Throw out your resume and write a new one focusing on achievements, not just job duties. Most people's resumes are bland and uninspiring, so vow to make yours an achievement-focused document that will truly wow a hiring manager. And do this even if you're not job-searching, so that it's ready whenever you are—or if a great opportunity falls unexpectedly in your lap.
9. Ask for feedback. If you wait for your boss to give you feedback on what you do well and where you could do better, you might wait a long time. Lots of managers aren't skilled at offering feedback on their own but will respond well to specific questions like, "What do you think I'm best at, and where could I focus on improving?" And even if you don't much like your boss, asking the question might get you some interesting insights.
10. Take control of your career. Unhappy with your job? Start actively working to find a new one. Want to change fields? Figure out what it's going to take and start down that path. Unsure what you want to do? Come up with a plan to figure it out. Whatever the obstacle is between you and being happy with your work life, make 2013 the year that you stop being passively unhappy about it and start taking active steps to changing it.
Alison Green writes the popular Ask a Manager blog, where she dispenses advice on career, job search, and management issues. She's also the co-author of Managing to Change the World: The Nonprofit Manager's Guide to Getting Results, and former chief of staff of a successful nonprofit organization, where she oversaw day-to-day staff management, hiring, firing, and employee development.