How to create a new year's resolution to boost your career

New year’s resolutions are an interesting phenomenon. When people ask, “What’s your new year’s resolution?”, they rarely entertain the idea that you may not actually have a resolution. Instead, they demand to know.

To rescue you from hurried brainstorming and save you from spurting out one of the most common resolutions - losing weight, getting organized, or spending less money - here is a 7-step plan for setting (and achieving!) a strategic, creative, and inspiring new year’s resolution to boost your career.

Reflect on your accomplishments this year. Really think about them. 2016 has been a wild collection of 365 days and you’ve done some awesome stuff - as a student, volunteer, employee, or all three. Here are some questions to kickstart this process:

How did I contribute as a team member?

  • What weakness did I strengthen?

  • How have I matured as a professional?

Reflect on where you want to go. Merriam-Webster defines a goal as “the end toward which effort is directed”. This end goal needs to be somewhere you truly want to go. Not what your family expects of you. Not what your boss requests of you. Not necessarily what you thought you wanted three years ago - it’s okay to adjust. What do you value right now? What are you passionate about today? One great way to reflect is by elaborating on the questions above:

How can I become a better colleague?

  • How can I improve in my current position?

  • How can I mature as a professional?

Determine the gap between where you are and where you want to go. If you have even an ounce of an ambition left as we roll into December, there is most likely a gap between where you are and where you want to go. What does this gap look like? Uncovering this gap is key to an effective professional development plan. Once you get this far, pat yourself on the back.

Brainstorm ways to fill this gap. You’ve determined what the gap is. Kudos! Now it’s time to brainstorm different ways to fill this gap. Perhaps you can complete an online certificate or course to acquire the additional knowledge you desire. Maybe you would benefit from a mentor willing to provide guidance and support. Or possibly, the next step in your professional journey is turning off email notifications on your phone.

Do some research! Once you have a preliminary list of strategies, dig into them. Is there a relevant course available online? Do you have a mentor in your current network, or do you need to make new connections? While this step is relatively straightforward, it is nonetheless a time consuming process. Set aside time to analyze your options.

Choose one strategy. You’ve made it to the fun part. You did your research and you have a solid list of strategies for achieving your new year’s resolution. Which strategy excites you most? Which one did you spend the most time researching? Which one do you want to start right now? I’d recommend going with that one. Your natural inclination will treat you well. It will provide the intrinsic motivation to propel you forward.

Make it a SMART goal. S.M.A.R.T., an acronym coined by George T. Doran, stands for: Specific, Measureable, Action-Oriented, Realistic, and Time-bound. While you may think having a single strategy is enough, making this strategy into a SMART goal is key to actually following through. Write these things down: a detailed description of your strategy, how you plan to measure your progress, your action items, how your goal is realistic (yet, challenging), and a timeline with an end date no later than Sunday, December 31, 2017.

You have one month until your colleagues, friends, and employees at your local grocery store start asking, “What’s your new year’s resolution?” Get a head start on developing a creative resolution to move you forward. 2017 is your year to advance as a professional. You got this.


Laura Riley is a higher education professional and freelance writer who specializes in job search and career advice. She believes a job should make you happy and is dedicated to helping people achieve that reality. She loves to inspire professional development through writing and conversation.

She graduated from Miami University with a master’s degree in student affairs in higher education after obtaining a business degree from St. Norbert College. She is a Wisconsin native and a lover of the Midwest. She enjoys rearranging furniture, people-watching at airports, and football Sundays.

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