Another New Year’s has just passed, and if you’ve opted for one of the typical resolutions, you’ve decided to lose weight, exercise more, or quit a nasty habit like smoking. If you’re one to make resolutions, have you considered adding a career-related resolution to your self-improvement goals for the new year? Most of us spend a significant portion of our lives at work, so it makes sense.
Explore this issueFebruary 2010
Because self-improvement is rarely easy, people often find resolutions difficult to keep. But in many ways, even making a career-related resolution is more difficult than making a personal one. Figuring out what to resolve about work is usually more difficult because it involves one’s identity, probably one’s income, and almost always relationships with other people.
Nonetheless, the basis for deciding upon a career resolution is similar to that for deciding on common lifestyle resolutions: You look at what you feel is lacking in your work or career, what you would like to improve, or what you feel dissatisfied with, and make a resolution. The goal is to help you take charge of your career and make the hours you spend at work mean more than just the source of your paycheck. Here are some examples of workplace habits that might be in need of New Year’s resolutions.
- Are You a Workaholic Who Doesn’t Want to Be One?
Resolve to say “no“ sometimes, to use up your vacation days each year, not to be a martyr when you’re really sick, to spend more time outside of work (that also means away from your pager, cell phone, BlackBerry, etc.), and to spend more time with family or friends, at the gym, at the theater, or doing whatever you need to do to get your life back. Or, you might decide it is the time to start thinking about retiring, and your resolution could be to plan for that important next step.
- Are You a Perfectionist?
Resolve to strive for excellence, rather than perfection. You’ll be much happier and much less stressed.
- Does Your Career Need Some Enhancement?
If you are bored at work but don’t know why, first resolve to do some self-assessment and consider talking to a career counselor to determine the reason(s) behind the boredom. If you don’t know what the problem is, you can’t act to solve it. Maybe you need new duties, higher-level responsibilities (e.g., management), new challenges (e.g., taking on volunteer committee work, earning a new degree, or learning a new skill), or a different job in a new location.
- Is Management Driving You Crazy?
First, determine whether you actually have a bad boss, or—and be honest—whether you are a difficult employee (e.g., unreliable, a complainer, or hard to get along with) who, for whatever reason, is finding fault with your boss because he or she expects you to do your job well. Is it that your personalities or your career orientations clash? If the relationship can be improved or repaired, start working on it immediately. If not, make a decision about whether working under this boss is worth the stress and aggravation, or whether you should find a different job. If you’ve decided that you hold some fault in the situation, work to improve yourself before you look for a new job. It will help you to get a better reference and prevent you from repeating patterns.
- Are Employees Driving You Crazy?
If you’re the boss, you may be able to enforce some positive changes, in addition to modeling positive behavior and making personal changes. Are you fair in delegation of duties, shifts, overtime, and vacation days? Do you tolerate or engage in gossip or bullying? Are you communicating effectively? Do you keep your staff informed about things that may affect them? Do you encourage staff to voice their opinions, make suggestions, and participate in decision making? Do you provide feedback on staff work, and, when needed, provide criticism appropriately and fairly? Do you support your staff in terms of their ongoing development and in relations with other departments and levels of management? If you’re lacking in any of these things, resolve to improve. You may even want to tell your staff that you realize that you haven’t been doing well at, for example, communication, but have resolved to improve this, and would appreciate their patience and help. However, the problem may not be you. You may need to resolve to fire that employee who is causing problems for everyone else, and who has shown no improvement despite assistance, chances, and warnings, even though it will be difficult.
- Want to Spice Up Your Career With a Little Adventure?
Resolve to decide what exactly this means for you—changing jobs, working in a new city or a new country, or doing some volunteer work, then do the research, make your plans, and make it happen.
- A Resolution for Everyone
Resolve to update your CV or résumé at least once a year. To help you succeed, first believe that you can change things. Second, share your resolution with, and enlist help from, family and friends and, where appropriate, from your boss, coworkers, and staff.