Go ahead and lose the 10 pounds you've been dying to take off. While you're at it, make good on that resolution to clean and organize the garage.
But don't let your pledges for the new year end there: If you feel as though you've hit a dead end in your job, now is the time to start looking for ways to revitalize your career and get a fresh start.
Standing pat and doing nothing to improve your skills, attitude and professional contacts can be dangerous. When the next downsizing comes, employees going nowhere in their organizations are the most likely to get pink slips. People who are "passively plateaued" in their jobs need a "kick in the pants," said Beverly Kaye, a Sherman Oaks-based consultant who advises companies on career development issues.
"Look in the mirror and ask yourself, 'Who would want to have me around? . . . When was the last time I was proactive?' "
Sandra Young, a partner in the Tustin-based career consulting firm Womens Focus/Career Focus, added: "People take their jobs for granted, and they forget they're an employee and that they are there to make money for the company. The best tip is to treat it like it's your first day on the job every day and remember what you're there for."
If your job itself is the problem, finding a new one might be the right tonic. With the national unemployment rate resting at the lowest level in 24 years--bolstering the employment market even in relatively sluggish Southern California--landing a new job is an easy feat for some workers.
Still, job hopping isn't the answer for many people, including those who don't want to move to another part of the country or who would like to stay put at a single employer to build up future pension benefits. Besides, if your job skills are getting stale, your attitude is nose-diving or your professional contacts are drying up, taking a new job is no guarantee of getting out of your old rut.
Here are some New Year's resolutions that career counselors offer for staying fresh on the job:
* Develop ties with people in other parts of your organization. Too many people get trapped in their jobs because they "lose the big picture," said Claudia Finkel, a career counselor and assistant executive director of Jewish Vocational Service in Los Angeles. "They get sheltered and immersed in their own work or department," she said.
Finkel advises volunteering for interdepartmental task forces, committees and special projects that provide opportunities to showcase your skills. "Power will go to people who are on projects," Kaye added.
In addition, you might want to look for more occasions to meet colleagues from other departments for, say, lunch to build closer relationships, make allies and expand your network of contacts. Also, consider consulting periodically with trusted friends and colleagues both for encouragement and advice on career matters.
* Look for new things to learn on the job. One of the best ways to stay excited about a job is to learn more about the technology used at your company or the way your organization or industry does business. Picking up new skills or knowledge by attending training programs at your company or elsewhere may open up paths for advancement.
* Embrace change. "Don't be a straggler," advises Kirk B. O'Hara, a career counselor and senior vice president with West Los Angeles-based outplacement firm Smyth, Fuchs & Co. "When top management launches new programs or policies, "the natural tendency is to resist and say, 'It doesn't make sense. I don't see why we have to do it that way.' " The result, though, may be career suicide. "Recognize that organizational change is the order of the day, and business as usual no longer works," O'Hara said.
* Negotiate your job responsibilities. Do you enjoy part of your job and hate the rest? Deliver a well-reasoned proposal to your boss that would expand the part of the job that you like while also helping your company. "A lot of people go in and complain to their bosses about what is wrong, but they don't give them any options," Young said. "Instead of complaining, go in with some solutions."
* Figure out what you most want from your career. Is making more money your chief goal, do you want a more flexible work schedule or are you motivated mainly by the social impact of your work? Once you've determined your priorities, it's a lot easier to decide how to go after them.
And if the size of your paycheck is the main reason you feel frustrated in your job, don't be afraid to ask for more, especially if you can provide concrete evidence of your value to your employer. Your bargaining position is particularly good when you receive a competing job offer or a promotion. Over much of the past decade, many workers were too worried about layoffs to push for raises; now that it's a seller's market for talented workers, career counselors say it's high time to speak up again.
Times staff writer Stuart Silverstein can be reached by telephone at (213) 237-7887 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org