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New Year, New You

6 Tips on How to Get Ahead in Your Career

Better money, increased job satisfaction, and not dreading the day ahead can all be perks of landing your dream job. This advice can help you make it happen.

By Alexandra Kay
Woman in waiting-roomJim Franco

Talk to Someone Who’s Done It

New to the job market or looking to take a career turn? “Find someone in the occupation to speak with,” suggests Deb Keary, director of human resources at the Society for Human Resource Management (shrm.org). Pick his or her brain. Ask what the job entails, what skills are needed, what level of education you’ll need, what professional organization you should join—and even if you can shadow the person at work for a day. Then take steps to qualify yourself for the position, and make sure the person in charge of hiring—whether you’re applying for a new job or for a promotion—knows you’ve taken them.

Learn to Play the Game of Office Politics

“Whether you want to be or not, you’re in the game,” says career consultant Roberta Matuson, author of Suddenly in Charge: Managing Up, Managing Down, Succeeding All Around ($22, amazon.com). Make an effort to understand how work gets done in your organization. Build relationships with others by being a team player, being professional, and avoiding gossip and unprofessional outbursts.

Use Peer Pressure to Your Advantage

“Hang with the hard workers,” advises Joseph Grenny, coauthor of the New York Times best-seller Change Anything: The New Science of Personal Success ($18, amazon.com). “The career-limiting habits that keep you back are likely enabled, tolerated, or encouraged by others.” Use positive peer pressure by surrounding yourself with hardworking friends who share your career goals.

Take Advantage of Your Connections

Sometimes it is all about who you know. Think about the person who is hiring for your dream job. Do you know someone who is acquainted with him or her? Or someone who knows someone? Ask around: You want somebody to put in a good word for you. “It’s so much more valuable to do that than send out dozens of résumés that could get thrown into the reject piles,” says Rita Gunther McGrath, a professor at Columbia Business School in New York City and coauthor of Discovery Driven Growth: A Breakthrough Process to Reduce Risk and Seize Opportunity ($28, amazon.com). Sending résumés can still help you find work, but using your networks to put yourself forward and get your name out there may help you land your dream job much more quickly.

Dream Big, Act Small

“Dream big about your possibilities, but take small steps to meet your goals,” says Rachelle J. Canter, Ph.D., author of Make the Right Career Move: 28 Critical Insights and Strategies to Land Your Dream Job ($30, amazon.com). “By picking small steps, you won’t feel overburdened with the demands of your resolution.” Set aside, say, 15 minutes each week to help you work toward your goal—perhaps going online to research qualifications for the job you want or working your way through a book on your desired field.

Reframe Failure

“Social conditioning too often leads us to believe that if we fail we should go home, hide our dreams under the bed, and never let them out to see daylight again,” says career and success coach Margie Warrell, author of Find Your Courage: 12 Acts for Becoming Fearless at Work and in Life ($16, amazon.com). But “your failures will not define your success in the year ahead.” Don’t make a failure mean more than it does. “Reflect on the lesson the failure offers, making adjustments accordingly, then climb back on your horse!” advises Warrell.

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