Running on TreadmillYes, it’s January and all the gym membership, workout clothes, and diet fad advertisements are in full gear in order to capitalize on that age-old tradition of the New Year’s resolutions. But let’s be honest… the gym is hot and we all love pizza too much, so if you want to make a resolution that will stick, make one related to improving your career skills.

Listen to Feedback. What is that one thing that pops up on every yearly performance appraisal? Your inattention to detail? Your brusque approach to people when you have a deadline? Your lack of timely results? Consider any patterns and make a commitment to tackle one or two of the items this year. Don’t try to do everything; focus on those critical few which are likely to make the biggest positive impact on your career if you improve them.

Know Yourself First. It’s one thing to listen to the feedback of others, it’s another to get an in-depth profile and understanding of your motivations, values, enablers, and potential career derailers. This data is invaluable as you consider other jobs and/or fields of interest. With this scientifically developed profile, you will also learn what types of tasks come can be done with extra effort, and very importantly, what you negative, unhelpful stress reactions are and how to control them.

ChecklistTake Action. Now. Are you waiting for someone else to fix that for you? That apparently isn’t happening. So if your company isn’t pushing you toward amazing development experiences, seek them yourself. Sad to say, but here is one area where it’s kind of like working out. You can’t just imagine your career getting better and you getting the next fantastic job in your head. You actually have to take concrete steps toward change. The good news is these actions don’t make you hungry, sweaty, or cause injury. They involve finding a career coach and some development courses as a first step. Then, it’s about making the time to create new work behaviors and habits.

Quality and Experience Matter.  Just like with your calories, your coach or your development class needs to have substance that is efficiently adding value to you, not just the equivalent of empty calories. Here is where the phrase “caveat emptor” is important. A lot of people do a quick online certification (or don’t even) then create a website and cards that declare them a “life coach” or “career coach.” Don’t trust your career to that level of knowledge and experience. Look for a behavioral psychologist with business experience. Specifically, seek a coach or training and development expert from a field called industrial-organizational psychology. These professionals have Masters level or Ph.D. degrees in the study of leadership, work motivation, organizational behavior and more. Best of all, many I/O psychologists (although not all) actually work or have worked in large companies and have personal experience to add to their scholarly knowledge. That combination simply outmatches the “life coach” with a website.

First Steps Matter. Every current and former runner knows the age-old adage that no matter how you feel, you should put your shoes on and run the first mile. Putting the shoes on and getting out the door is the key and the first mile makes sure you do that. With development, it’s the same. Don’t just look up coaches or classes, take the step to sign up. Tell someone for accountability and then make that first appointment and show up.

Now, armed with a few tools, tackle the New Year to be the best version of yourself possible in the workplace. And, if you’re looking for a personal trainer who won’t make you sweat or ask for 10 more squats, we are the ones to call.