I can recommend more than four, but if you attend to these, you’ll be miles ahead of most people. I’ll introduce each with an important question to ask yourself:

1. “What’s working for me and what isn’t in my work life?” Many people go through life with only a vague sense of liking or not liking their jobs, work environments, or employers, without truly taking stock on a regular basis. The start of a New Year can be an ideal time to get clear regarding the health of your career, what you’d like to change, and action steps you can take to improve your work life.

  • Identify 2-3 aspects of your work life with which you are happy and feel a sense of ease or mastery.
  • Identify 2-3 aspects that cause you frustration, worry, self-doubt, or similar feelings.

Maybe the 2-3 positive aspects of your work life far outweigh any negatives. Having a plan to sustain or expand the positives is where to focus your efforts.

If the 2-3 downer aspects of your work life have been around for awhile, there’s no time like the present to start addressing them. Take a close look at the root causes of the things you dislike. If you have not done anything to change them, what can you do sooner than later? If you have concluded (based on thorough data gathering and not just assumptions) things will not change with your current employer or job, maybe it’s time to find new employment. Form a strategic game plan – before you just start sending out resumes.

2. “Is my resume ready – so I can take advantage of opportunities that come up?” Unfortunately, most of us discover our resume (if we have one) is way out of date and will take substantial time to whip into shape for that job posting we just found out about. And, of course it is closing in a few short days. Too often this discovery is made in the midst of an overly busy week at work, so finding the time and bandwidth to send a competitive resume is tricky at best.

Instead of overdosing on high octane coffee drinks to respond in a timely manner to openings, wouldn’t it be nice if your resume was ready at a moments notice, reflecting your recent goals, skills, knowledge, and accomplishments?

Resolve to take the time NOW to see if your resume reflects where you want to be in your career. If it doesn’t, put together the information you need to make it current and get a resume ready for 2014. You’ll sleep better this year.

3. “Who can help me in my career?” Unless we’re in an active job search, most of us don’t think to ask this question. Of course “networking” (if done effectively) can be helpful in your job search, but others can help in countless ways with our careers. Find at least two people this year who can help keep you informed in matters related to your profession or career search, give you honest feedback regarding your professional strengths and areas for growth, and/or open some doors for you.

Be sure to think of ways you can reciprocate or assist those individuals. If you don’t know how, ask. Your key contact people, advisors, or mentors will appreciate your efforts all the more.

4. “How current are my skills/knowledge?” In today’s ever-changing world of work, this question is a necessity. More than ever before, employers are placing a premium on candiates who demonstrate they are committed to keeping current through continuing education, learning new software, etc., etc. If there are new best practices or technologies in your profession, what’s your plan for keeping up to date?

On a more basic level, I’m often shocked at how many professionals enter an active job search without knowing certain computer basics like how to attach documents to e-mail or use the Web to do research and apply for a job. No matter what your line of work, the industrial age is over. In the information age, knowing how to use e-mail and computers is a fundamental skill… such as reading, writing, and arithmetic.

For anyone lacking basic computer literacy, resolve to make this the year you learn those basics. Many resources exist to help. The rest of us can assess areas to strengthen that will help us advance in our careers. These include social networking, video conferencing, or learning how to use ever expanding information age resources and technologies that are most beneficial to success in our chosen career paths. I can devote a whole blog posting to this area. I likely will at some point.

I wish you a happy, healthy, and abundant new year in all aspects of your lives and work.

– Doug Anders
Oregon Career Counselor, Oregon Resume Writer, Oregon Outplacement Services