Is your New Year's resolution to make career strides in 2012? Use these helpful tips as your starting point.
Do you want 2012 to be the year you turn your career ambitions into reality?
Despite the tough economy, there is hope.
No matter what phase you are in your professional life, whether you're unemployed, looking to switch careers, or in line for a promotion, there are certain steps you can take to help you reach your career goals in 2012.
While it won't be easy, consider these four helpful tips that could help you move your career forward.
Tip #1 - Figure Out What You Want in a Career
Before you can pursue your professional dreams, you should first figure out what you want in a career. Do you want a dynamic career? Do you enjoy working with people? Do you want to travel?
Knowing the answers to these questions, and ultimately to what your likes and dislikes are, can help you better figure out what you want in a career.
To help you work through your thoughts, write down what you enjoy doing, your strengths and weaknesses, school subjects you loved and subjects you dreaded, and similarly, past jobs you enjoyed and those you were happy to be rid of.
Once you're armed with your self-assessment results, you can research jobs that align with your interests.
The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Outlook Handbook is a great resource for finding more information about different professions, including education and salary information. Community colleges, universities, and other educational institutions also offer counseling services for those trying to find a good career fit.
Tip #2 - Set Boundaries at Work
If one of your career goals for the New Year is to maintain a better work-life balance, then it's important for you to set your boundaries at work.
First, you'll need to recognize your priorities.
Do you want family time every day after 5 p.m.? Do you want to limit the amount you travel for work? Define your needs simply and realistically, and then discuss these needs in a professional but concise way with your managers. Be clear, levelheaded, and polite.
It's also imperative to accomplish everything you can at work, while prioritizing and delegating some tasks to others.
When it comes to maintaining work-life balance, an important thing to remember is that you have the power to set boundaries at work.
Tip #3 - Advance Your Education
Think advancing your education can help you reach your career goals in 2012? While there are no guarantees that a higher degree will help you get ahead in your professional life, it could help.
For one thing, it could show employers that you're serious about your career goals.
For example, if you're interested in getting a promotion at work, but your education level just isn't cutting it, you could go back to school and get the necessary education to qualify. This could show your employers that you're willing to do what it takes to help propel your career.
If you're currently unemployed, advancing your education could also help you pursue a new career in the New Year - at least that's what the May 2011 unemployment statistics from the U.S Department of Labor suggest.
According to the Department, people with an advanced education, like an associate's degree or bachelor's degree, had unemployment rates of 7 percent and 5.4 percent, respectively. However, people with only a high school diploma faced a more troublesome unemployment rate of 10.3 percent.
Tip #4 - Network, Network, Network
Whether you want to find a new job or move up in your current field, networking could really help.
Networking simply means reaching out and getting to know people in your field or the field you hope to enter. These contacts could potentially be helpful for finding job openings, preparing for interviews, or simply to give you a better sense of your chosen field.
The career center at the University of California, Berkeley notes that networking opportunities are all around you. The center suggests informational interviews, career fairs, and professional networking sites, like LinkedIn, as some ways to make contacts.
Once you start making contacts, try to remember things beyond just their names and careers. If you remember certain details - whether it's their hobbies or favorite ice cream flavor - it could show that you're sincerely interested in making a connection, which can create a bond with a potentially important business contact.
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