New Year’s Resolutions for your Professional Life

   I’ve never really been one for New Year’s resolutions. I usually forget to make one, make one and then forget it, or make one and solve it in about a week. This year, I came up with the idea to read a biography on every president before the year is over. What’s today? January 11th? Yeah, I haven’t started yet…

If you’re still without a New Year’s resolution and are much more focused than I am on making my 2012 spectacular, here are a couple of ways you can improve your professional life before the world ends on Dec. 21!

1. Start early.

I have a bad habit of catching on late to things everyone is into. I’m like a backwards hipster. “Yeah, I just started listening to Dave Matthews Band.  You probably heard of them back in 2002. Anyway, they’re great. You really should listen to them. I mean, if you’re at their level, that is…” When it comes to applying for jobs, internships, grad schools, and fellowships, being a backwards hipster isn’t the best idea. Sometimes, you’ll miss deadlines for great opportunities that happened weeks ago.  Other times, the deadline will be right around the corner, and you’ll be scrambling to form a coherent personal statement or camp outside your professor’s office for a letter of recommendation. So don’t let that happen to you! If you’re looking for a summer internship, start looking right now. If you’re looking for a job, be aware of the hiring trends in the industry you’d like to work with.

2. Research.

I know.  You’re already not listening. But hear me out; researching is a lot more enjoyable when you’re studying something you’re interested in. It’s also incredibly helpful if you’re aware of any gaps in your knowledge of your field. If there was a class you really wanted to take but couldn’t fit into your schedule, email the professor and ask for the reading list. Maybe there is something not within your major that you think would help you understand your field better. For example, if you’re a theatre major, maybe you could learn about how to run a theatre better through studying business. Or if you’re a political science major, maybe studying psychology would help you understand how voters think. Whatever you’re studying, there are countless ways you can apply other fields to your own.

3. Keep in touch with past supervisors, teachers, and other mentors.

Remember that one boss you had when you were in high school who really liked you? Now is a great time to check in with them. Even if you don’t plan on working for that organization ever again, talking with your past mentors is a great way to get letters of recommendation, professional connections, and general career advice. (Also, it’s just a really nice thing to do!) On that note, it’s also important to get to know your professors, coaches, and other campus leaders. Not only will you be able to show them your work ethic and character more fully, but it’s great to connect with people who give up a lot of their time to support you. And you can learn a lot more from them, too!

4. Improve your skills.

Ask yourself this question: if you were hiring someone for your dream job, what would you want them to be really good at? If your dream job is in graphic design, there is probably a long list of programs and techniques you would want them to be really good at. If your dream job is to be on Jersey Shore, then well,  I’m sure you have a different set of qualifications… (I’m not judging. I’m just judging.) So if you’re aware of anything that might put you ahead of other people applying for the same position you are, make sure you focus on that. Brush up on statistics, methodology, or whatever else it might be. But do it sooner rather than later!

5. Practice. Practice. Practice.

If you struggle with interviewing, the Career Center offers many opportunities to practice and learn better techniques. If you’re not the best public speaker, record yourself giving a speech with a video camera from the library. If your resume is a complete mess, stop by drop-in hours and have one of our staff members look it over for you. Whatever it might be, make sure that you focus on improving that before you dive into a professional situation. No one wants to look like this:

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