4 Resolutions for a Better Job

The start of a new year holds the promise of new challenges and opportunities to excel in personal matters. For many of us, the road to reaching our goals entails New Year’s resolutions.  Whether it’s an oath to right last year’s wrongs or make concerted efforts to improve certain aspects of our lives, New Year’s resolutions help us identify areas for development and, ideally, quantify the steps or outcomes needed to succeed.

While New Year’s resolutions are deeply personal, the most common ones fall into the general categories of enhancing physical shape, improving financial status and optimizing use of one’s time. However, if more loosely interpreted, these popular resolutions also apply to improving your job search. This enables you to present yourself as a tip-top candidate possessing the skills and experiences for a new position.

1) Lose weight

After a month of gorging on baked goodies and eggnog, many of us start a new year resolving to do more exercise, eat better and consume less alcohol in the effort to drop some pounds.

The same could be said for trimming the many representations of your career, including your resume and other professional profiles. Recruiters frequently skim social profiles and use software to vet online applications. You want the information in your profiles to be attention-grabbing and clear. Remove excess details that do not demonstrate your professional accomplishments and update your recently-held positions so that your profile best embodies your current abilities. A succinct resume is the best instrument for communicating your worth as a potential employee.

2) Save more

The vow to save more money is typically related to excessive last-minute shopping. However, it can also be a general commitment to saving for emergencies and unexpected situations.

Just as it’s a good idea to have emergency reserves, it’s beneficial to amass skills and areas of proficiency—particularly before it becomes necessary for you to prove your prowess. Take classes at a local community college or online courses through organizations like Khan Academy, Coursera or General Assembly. Whether you’re looking to progress in your current area of work or to make a professional transition, supplementing your portfolio of skills and knowledge helps you stand out and demonstrates that you’re the right candidate for a new opportunity.

3) Drop bad habits

We all have that one thing we do, that we know we shouldn’t do, and wish that we would simply stop doing. But as much as we know that our lives would be better if we finally kicked the habit, it’s just so hard to stop.

Since we’re human, this is bound to extend to work too. Whether it’s badmouthing colleagues or arriving increasingly late to work, we all have that certain vice that impedes our ability to be a better employee and adequately support the needs of our team. While it is important to reflect, identify and change these bad habits for the benefit of your current situation, it is also a useful exercise for enabling better coping mechanisms so that your bad habits don’t follow—potentially sabotaging you—throughout your career. Moreover, it will give you something to talk about in a constructive manner when you are asked about your biggest weakness during an interview.

4) Volunteer more

During the holidays, many of us realize the manifold blessings we have in our lives. Subsequently, we notice we could and should be more philanthropic with our time and resources. Non-profit organizations are always in need of volunteers, including specialized and skilled workers for IT, marketing and other strategic assignments. I am personally a volunteer with Taproot Foundation and work on marketing projects for local non-profits. Find organizations in need of assistance by joining groups like Taproot or using online resources such as VolunteerMatch.org.

More broadly speaking, however, you can also proactively volunteer for projects that match your abilities – even if it isn’t with non-profit organizations. When I was newer in my career, and in need of writing samples, I pitched story ideas and wrote for magazines and company newsletters. More recently, during a spell of unemployment, I noticed that my friend’s small business website could use improvement; I offered to redesign it and in the process, learned a lot about website design and effective messaging. The point is: there are a lot of opportunities to take on projects that will challenge and ultimately enhance your skill set, as well as benefit (and delight!) those in need of help.

So as you sit down to pen your New Year’s resolutions, don’t forget to drop in a couple of goals to ensure your job-seeking success. Here’s to six-pack abs, zero credit card debt and a great new job in 2014!