New Year's can be a problematic day in the United States, with the most stereotypical resolutions centered on appearance and weight. But there are lots of other ways to use the holiday, and one of them is to further your career. The work resolutions fit for all the grown-ass women out there may not be the ones you may read about in magazines, but they could really improve your life in ways that last beyond January — and even beyond 2017.
The most common attitude toward New Year's resolutions seems to be that you should resolve to stop doing something "bad," and then you should indulge in that thing until Jan. 1. But instead of shaming ourselves, how about we set out to do something good for ourselves or others, something we actually want to do, and then start it as soon as we can?
To make a work-related resolution as successful as possible, I'd recommend starting while it's still 2016 so the groundwork is already in place. The way one thing ends is generally how the next will begin, after all. Especially if your resolution requires other people's cooperation, they may not have time to help once the holidays hit. For example, last year, I made it my New Year's resolution to write about music more, and I decided to prepare in December by pitching editors like crazy. Come January, I already had a regular gig lined up, so all I had to do to fulfill my resolution was to show up for that job.
Here are some other work-related resolutions grown-ass women might want to consider.
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Seriously! The majority of Americans aren't using their vacation days, according to a U.S. Travel Association study, and that can hurt everything from our health to our relationships. If you feel guilty about taking time off, just tell yourself you have to because it's your New Year's resolution. Your work performance will probably improve when you clear your mind, and there are more important things in life than getting as much work done as possible anyway.
If you haven't gotten any pay increases in 2016, you're overdue for one. So consider coming up with a plan to highlight your accomplishments, demonstrate what a raise will allow you to contribute even more of, and find out if your employer can offer you anything extra. It doesn't even have to be financial: Maybe what you really want is more vacation time or the ability to work from home once a week. Whatever it is, they might say no, but as long as you're respectful, they can't hold it against you for asking. Part of the reason women make less than men is that they don't ask for as much to begin with — and it's high time that norm changed.
Sometimes, when everybody's wrapped up in their work, you have to go a little out of your way to befriend a coworker. But it can be worth the effort, since you'll then have that person to vent to when you're having a problem at work, help you with something you're struggling with, or just make your company happy hours more enjoyable. Obviously, you can't force a friendship, but resolving to sit with someone new at lunch, bring food into the office, talk to the person next to you when you arrive, or reach out to another freelancer for a company you work with can go a long way.
If you've been wanting to leave your job but are only halfheartedly applying for other ones, set a quota for yourself that forces you to get on that. Maybe you want to aim for a new job application every day, or maybe one a week is all you can handle. Whatever it is, it'll put you on the way toward improving your situation rather than just waiting for something to come along.
If you freelance or work more than one job, it's easy to end up working more hours than is healthy for less than you're worth. One way to prevent this situation is to figure out how you can drop, say, 20 percent of your work while still making, say, 90 percent of what you've been making. List each job you perform, how much time it takes, and what it pays, and see what you can cut out without much sacrifice to get more free time or more time to chase higher-paying work.
If you're not looking to drop any jobs, another way to free up time for yourself is to drop the tasks that aren't absolutely necessary. Maybe you've been answering emails that don't really require a response. Maybe you need to limit your Facebook time. Perhaps if you can cut down the time you spend getting ready in the morning, you'll get to the office with a head start. Then, you can spend the extra time you've freed up getting more crucial things done and reaching for bigger goals.
Rather than just repeating the same job every day, it's important to think about what you'd like that job to look like years down the line and how you'll get there. Whether that's a promotion or a switch to a new job role, it'll likely require some new skills. Figure out how you can pick those skills up in or outside the office. Perhaps being in charge of organizing your company's next conference trip will help you with your leadership skills, or learning Photoshop will give you the ability to design your next whitepaper instead of just writing it. Maybe your company can even help you with something like this by sponsoring an online course or connecting you with a mentor. Take responsibility for where you end up down the line instead of just hoping you'll get where you want to be.
You know that person you think would be awesome to work with but are convinced is just far too awesome to ever want to work with you? They might be thinking the same thing about you! If you feel a connection with someone, they might feel it too. So get coffee and figure out if there's a way you could work together, even if it's not totally clear at first what that is. Learning about each other will help you identify opportunities to collaborate as they come along.
You're much more than who you are from 9 to 5, and exploring your interests outside your day job could really help you express different parts of yourself. The other cool thing about a side hustle is that if it takes off, it could become your main hustle. So, consider working on that startup you and your friend have always wanted to create or getting back into painting or tutor underprivileged kids or whatever makes you happy after work. Then again, if you're barely staying above water with just one hustle, no need to push yourself.
In Lean In, Sheryl Sandberg compares the search for a mentor to the book Are You My Mother? A mentor-mentee relationship shouldn't feel that forced or obligatory, but it still can't hurt to talk to people you look up to and forge some kind of relationship. You can learn a lot about your potential career paths by speaking with people who have already gone down them, even if it doesn't evolve into a full-fledged mentor-mentee relationship.
We can all both use mentors and be mentors. So, to help others avoid that awkward "are you my mentor?" search, offer career advice or job help to someone junior to you at your company or someone interested in getting into your field. The mentor-mentee relationship doesn't even have to be unidirectional: Your mentee might know someone who can help you or have insight into how your field is changing. If you don't want to offer unsolicited help, consider posting your offer on Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn and seeing who takes you up on it.
If you want to give back this coming year while building your resume, one excellent way is to do some volunteer work for a non-profit. If you work in marketing, maybe there's an organization that needs help running its social media account. If you're a programmer, some charity could also probably use someone to design its website. If you're open to doing this but unsure where to look, you can list the causes you care about on your LinkedIn profile for organizations to find you.
When you've got more time-sensitive stuff to work on, things like your website, Twitter account, and LinkedIn profile can fall by the wayside. But these things can really make a huge difference toward finding good work and meeting inspirational people. Even just a quick update while you're re-watching A Christmas Story can go a long way.
A lot of us don't follow our to-do lists because there's nothing interesting on them. According to a Fast Company article by psychologist Art Markman, we'd be better off including long-term career goals, not just day-to-day tasks, in our to-do lists. You might even want to start off your year with one big-picture one. That way, you'll remember what all the smaller tasks are for.
We can get so caught up in always striving toward the next goal that we don't acknowledge the goals we've already reached. But reminding ourselves what work we've done and why it's important to us — and rewarding ourselves — can help provide the motivation to keep doing it. We can provide this same encouragement for our friends by texting each other our accomplishments and congratulations and going out to celebrate the big ones. Maybe you can even incorporate them into your New Year's toast.
Check out the "You IRL" stream in the Bustle App starting on January 1 for daily tips on how to have an empowering 2017.
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