5 Steps to Jumpstart Your Career in 2012

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5 Steps to Jumpstart Your Career in 2012

People love making New Year’s resolutions on January 1. They usually include: losing weight, eating better, exercising. All very, very important parts of leading a healthy and happier life. Interestingly, however, many of these same people who go into a new year invigorated with their new gym membership or running shoes also trudge to work the day after the holidays with dread.

After the initial euphoria of freedom from countless distant family members who have taken over the house for the last two weeks, many people dread heading back to the same ole commute to the same job they disliked in 2011. Well, I hate to break it to you, but a two-week break typically doesn’t change anything. What you disliked about your job December 23, 2011 is probably going to be what you dislike about it January 3, 2012.

But just as your diet is directly linked to your physical, mental, and emotional health, so is your work. With Americans logging in an average of 70+ hours a week, it shouldn’t be a surprise that time spent at work is also directly related to our physical, mental, and emotional health (I have friends in their mid-30s who have had chest tightness and pain due to work-related stress. I’m sure you have too. Not good.).

Whether you love the work, but hate the hours, or love the people, but hate the work, here are 5 steps to help you jumpstart your career (and your health) in 2012:

1. Prioritize your goals

Don’t just prioritize your task list. Step back for a minute (or two, or five), and re-evaluate what your 2012 goals are. Do not compartmentalize your goals. Your life goals include your work, family, health, etc., and are all interconnected. Is it to get that corner office? Learn a new technical skill? Spend more time with your kids? Run a triathlon?

All of these goals are directly related to your current modus operandi at work. If your goal is to lose 20 pounds, but you don’t change the way you work (i.e., sitting at the office for 100+ hours a week and eating fast food lunches), you likely won’t lose the weight in any healthy, sustainable way.

2. Update your resume

It doesn’t matter if you are not looking for a new job. It’s always a good idea to have an updated resume. Not only does it make you ready at all times to seize unexpected opportunities, but it also allows you to evaluate your current skill-set and achievements. Identifying strengths and weaknesses can help you to ask for that deserved raise or to identify the professional development needs you need to get you to wherever you want to be a year from now.

3. Get some exercise

Sounds silly, right? What does exercise have to do with jumpstarting a career? A lot. Studies have shown that physical exercise releases endorphins that make you happier. When you are happier, you feel more energized and optimistic. When you feel more energized and optimistic, you feel more empowered and “awake.” When you feel more empowered and awake, you are ready to achieve more.

Get it?

By awakening your body and de-toxing your mind, you will be more ready to deal with the issues that made you cringe in 2011 at work. If it’s a micro-managing boss or an overly-demanding client, your refreshed spirit can help you to handle and negotiate these relationships with greater aplomb and perspective. If it’s a horrific hours, your strengthened outlook can help you to manage the work-personal life balance better (after all, you are forcing yourself to take a hour for yourself).

4. Stop commiserating and gossiping

One of the most dangerous pastimes is commiserating with your colleagues or friends about your job. While some sharing/venting is necessary and great to unload , getting caught up in office politics and gossip often traps you in the same cycle of dysfunction that made you unhappy at work in the first place. By continuously complaining to colleagues, you get absorbed into a world where your perspective becomes skewed. There is a whole world outside the office waiting for you to explore and take advantage of. But you may miss opportunities if you remain myopically caught in the drama in front of you.

5. Take risks

This is the year to stop fearing success and to stop fearing failure. Both are necessary twins to moving forward – however, you define moving forward. But progress is necessary for growth, and fear often prevents us from doing so. Many of us get stuck, whether because of our golden handcuffs or our uncertainty, and as a result, we never try that thing we’ve always wanted to do.

I’m not suggesting that you walk into your boss’ office and triumphantly say you quit. But take small steps and try something new. Take your boss to lunch for a one-on-one. Volunteer to be a project lead. Learn how to swing dance. Risk-taking doesn’t require you to jump off a cliff (you could, though…), but requires you to take one step at a time towards your goals. Only then can you move forward, and only you can propel yourself forward.