You may have already seen some of the lists coming out right now from a variety of career experts, all offering advice about how to kick-start your career in the New Year. From college career counselors and internship specialists to corporate recruiters and private career practitioners, these lists offer specific actions you can take to get your career exploration and development moving forward. Whether you are currently studying as an online student, searching for a job as a recent graduate, working in your field professionally, or seeking a career change, you can identify a few items to begin working on immediately.
- Update your resume. The resume remains the standard instrument for communicating your qualifications, education, and experience to a potential employer. When is the last time you took a good look at your resume and brought it up-to-date? Your resume alone won't land you a job, but it can win the attention of recruiters and persuade them to invite you to interview. Writers of The Savvy Intern blog from YouTern.com present their top posts of the year, including "7 Words I Never Want to See on Your Resume" and "3 Mistakes You're Making on Your Resume and How to Correct them Now." Review your resume with these guidelines in mind.
- Be more active in your field. If you are interested in making more connections in your career field, gaining more respect from your peers, taking on more leadership roles, or engaging in more networking conversations, all of these activities are part of becoming active in your industry. Forbes features the act of giving back in its list of "Top 5 Career Investments for 2012." Seek out opportunities to serve on new levels, both within and outside of your current employment situation. Consider joining committees in your professional association, becoming an alumni mentor, and participating in activities with a local organization. These are just a few of the ways you can become more active, and expand your network and experience in the process.
- Take time to reflect. Taking the time to both focus on your goals and put your thoughts in writing is important to the career planning process. Block specific time on your calendar over the next couple of weeks to review your career goals and assess where you are and what you have accomplished so far. Career Development Consultant Edward Colozzi urges us to do this with values in mind as "the stepping stones for all our career-life journeys." Review his list of guiding questions to help focus your thoughts.
- Try something new. If you are currently in the midst of a job search or looking for new professional development opportunities, why not add a new strategy or technique to your plan? Monster.com's MonsterWorking blog recently posted "51 New Job-Search Tactics to Try." This list includes some activities you may already be involved in, such as volunteering and social networking, and others that are more "out of the box," such as asking and answering questions on Quora and creating your own interest group online. Select just one new strategy and add it to your schedule now.
- Follow your leaders. Who are the leaders in your field? Think about the executives, authors, researchers, mentors, and others that are currently influencing the work in your industry. WetFeet.com encourages us all to "friend a few people (online or in person)." As you continue to add to your professional and personal learning networks, identify the leaders and reach out. Follow them where they are active in social media and join ongoing conversations about your career field. Social networking sites make it more possible than ever for us to "get to know" those who are most influential to our work.
- Pay attention. The Chicago Tribune's "Careers Now" column starts its "Best Career Advice for 2012" list with this item. Developing thorough knowledge about your field and where it's headed is an ongoing effort. If you are not already following news and events related to your career, now is the time to identify the best sources and add them to your reading list. Being aware of the latest trends and forecasts will allow you to both plan ahead and react to changes. And may reveal opportunities you wouldn't have considered otherwise.
As you plan for and engage in your own career development throughout 2012, don't forget about the variety of resources available to you. Reach out to your school's alumni association, either as a student or graduate, to find out about networking programs and career information. Your college's career center, staffed with career advising professionals and hosting job search events, should be a first-stop for current students. Graduates may also be eligible for these services. The professional associations in your career field also offer opportunities, not only to network with peers, but also to develop relevant skills and stay current with the latest trends.
There's a lot of advice out there about how to choose, plan, manage, and advance your career. Find the sources that speak to you and address your needs, and make them part of your routine by adding them to your news feed online. Create your own list of action items for 2012 and take that first step.