Kick Start Your Career With These 5 New Year’s Resolutions

“Improve my career.”

It’s a popular New Year’s resolution.

But if you hope to make career advancement a priority in 2014, try to hone in on specific things you can do to better your standing in the workplace, earn a promotion or find a new job.

Let’s take a look five resolutions that will help you take your career to the next level.

Define Your Career Goals

Take a page from that common interview question: Where do you see yourself in five years?

By clearly defining your career goals, you can better determine what steps you need to take to achieve them.

Want to find a new job? Getting a degree or certificate can open the door for a more rewarding career.

The number of jobs that require a bachelor’s degree is expected to increase 16.5 percent by 2020, and the fastest-growing careers are those that require workers to have a master’s degree or other higher diploma, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Obtaining a degree will also set you up to earn more in the workplace (those with a professional degree top the list).

You should also develop a career road map:

  • know your strengths and interests;
  • explore your options for jobs or more education;
  • gain that knowledge and experience; and
  • put it all together to find a new job.

Grow Your Value

Once your plan is in place, it’s time for you to develop the skills and abilities that will make you more attractive to employers.

While getting a degree or certificate likely presents the clearest path to growing your value as an employee, you can also undertake volunteer work or an internship, start a blog, or find other professional-improvement opportunities to bolster your résumé.

Gaining new skills and experiences will give you a leg up on other job-seekers and show potential employers you’re serious about your career.

Market Yourself

You’ve mapped out your plan for success and strengthened your professional experience.

Now what?

It’s time to market yourself. Update your résumé and brush up on your cover letter skills. And don’t forget to send thank-you cards or notes—even if you didn’t land a particular job, that gesture could get you another interview down the road.

You should also build your online presence. Create an online portfolio, participate on job boards and make sure your LinkedIn profile is clean, accurate and up to date.

Don’t forget the value of face-to-face interaction either: attend industry events, join alumni groups, volunteer and ask for an informational interview at a company that interests you.

Expand Your Network

Now that the pieces are in place, it’s time for you to network.

Some aspects of networking are covered above, but remember the old saying: It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.

Work your connections on LinkedIn and use the features and tools available to cultivate your network. There are groups you can join that will not only expand your virtual circle but also keep you abreast of industry trends.

You should also engage in groups—in person or online—with people in your chosen field. These connections will help you stay on top of latest developments in your profession (or the one you want to go into) and give you an idea of what types of jobs are available.

Don’t be afraid to contact decision-makers at a company that looks promising; see what kinds of candidates they typically hire and find out what you can do to enhance your marketability as an employee.

And how about simply meeting people? Join a professional association. Volunteer. Check out networking events. Get involved in a community project.

Craft an ‘Elevator Pitch’

As you’re going about your networking, be sure to have an “elevator pitch” ready when you attend live functions.

These are short—20- to 30-second—speeches that encapsulate who you are, what you do and your value an employee. Avoid industry jargon and speak in plain language—with confidence.

Keep it fresh and modify your elevator pitch for your audience. Also remember to be able to answer any follow-up questions.

Make 2014 the year you make a major leap in your career.