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Eight Resolutions to Enhance Your Career

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By Jaclyne Badal

RISMEDIA, Dec. 28, 2007–(The Wall Street Journal Online)–Careers are easy to neglect. If the paychecks keep coming and the boss is tolerable, most people get into a routine and direct their attention elsewhere.

While that’s an adequate way to put bread on the table, it probably won’t win you any big raises or promotions.

So, whether you’re hoping to stay at your current employer or thinking you’ll move to another firm at some point, here are eight job resolutions to help you jumpstart your career in 2008.

Create a board of advisers: Find two or three people you admire, and take each one to lunch a few times this year, says Dale Winston, chief executive of recruiting firm Battalia Winston International. Look to your advisers for counsel, feedback on your career progress and introductions to new people or ideas.

The ideal board will include someone at work who understands your company better than you do, someone within your industry who has a broad sense of what’s happening in the field, and a third person who understands what you want from life.

Spread the word: Recruit missionaries to spread the gospel of your greatness. When you get a compliment, ask if the person would mind sharing it with your boss. “It’s very effective to have other people deliver the message that you’re of value, and you’re doing a good job,” says Austin, Texas, career coach and psychologist David Litton.

Self promotion is an important but much-loathed part of negotiating a raise or winning a new job. Asking for help can make it easier.

Try something new: Identify at least two skills you’d like to enhance or acquire for the year. One way to find areas that need improvement: go over your performance review. Ms. Winston, the recruiter, says it’s important to focus on your boss’s priorities.

Once you have a couple of goals in mind, ask your boss how you can go about making the changes. You may be able to volunteer for a project, for example, or take on a new responsibility. Just be sure you focus on the benefits to your boss and the company; it will show that you’re a team player and make him or her more receptive.

Take inventory: Review what you’ve done and learned over the last few years, and write down your skills and accomplishments. You can use the list to identify deficiencies or determine whether you’re qualified for new jobs.

Make sure your resumé clearly presents your talents, and not just the jobs you’ve held. “It’s far more interesting to look at capabilities than job descriptions,” says Doug Matthews, executive vice president of global operations at consultants Right Management.

Watch your company: Check your employer for signs of financial strain. Many economists are predicting a slowdown in growth and corporate profits in 2007. If your company is having trouble adjusting to the new pace, you want to know as early as possible.

Right Management’s Mr. Matthews suggests reading the company’s press releases to spot trends in growth or contraction. Media coverage and stock prices can also help you gauge a company’s health. For smaller firms, Mr. Matthews says, get feedback from people in the industry.

Also take the time to review potential employers. Don’t assume a company is growing — and therefore a good place to be — just because it has several tempting openings. The openings may exist because insiders were eager to jump ship.

Beware burnout: Job burnout can prompt people to make rash decisions, says Dr. Litton in Austin. Be thoughtful about your attitude toward work and start researching new opportunities if you are beginning to feel restless. Don’t wait until you’ve hit your breaking point.

Finding a job could be tougher in 2007, with more people looking. Unemployment is still a low 4.5%, but it’s starting to move up.

Get involved: Join a professional association or networking group. This will help you stay current on industry trends and allow you to assess your marketability. Compare your skills and experience to that of your peers. And join one of the group’s committees or run for office. Networking is easier if you’re involved.

Assert yourself: To be sure, many of these tasks can be challenging if you’re shy or unassertive. Feel free to improvise. You can read materials on a professional association’s Web site, for example, if you’re reluctant to go to meetings.

But you may also want to consider joining Toastmasters International or taking a communications course, such as the ones offered by Dale Carnegie Training. The programs are designed to build confidence and teach networking skills. Toastmasters costs $20 for materials and $27 every six months, while the Carnegie courses often run more than $1,000.

Email your comments to cjeditor@dowjones.com.

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