(CareerBuilder.com) -- Nearly half of all Americans make New Year's resolutions each year, according to recent research.. And -- you guessed it -- more than half of those individuals forgo their resolutions within the first six months.
If you're looking to improve your career situation in 2010, making a resolution is critical. People who do so are 10 times more likely to attain their goals than people who don't, but the type of resolution you make and the way you go about achieving it are important factors in how successful you'll be this year.
Here are six suggestions to get you moving in the right direction.
The problem with most New Year's resolutions is that people make them on a whim and then, once the moment has passed, quickly lose their excitement and motivation.
Instead, consider your resolution carefully over a period of days and weeks and then write down the answers to these questions: What are you going to do, what steps will you take throughout the year, and how will accomplishing this resolution make your career better in 2010 than it was in 2009?
2. Set micro goals
There are lots of theories on how to set goals, but I advocate the SMART approach of identifying goals that are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound.
For instance, instead of setting an empty goal such as "change my career," which sounds lofty and overwhelming, how about devising something more concrete and manageable, such as "conduct 10 informational interviews in the marketing field by June."
Break large goals down into shorter-term micro goals so that you aren't taking on too much at once or spreading your attention too thin.
3. Create a to-do list
When we're busy and frazzled and it's all we can do to keep up with our daily work responsibilities, career development goals are the priorities we typically give up first. Ensure that you don't allow this to happen by creating a goal to-do list every week.
Even if a goal isn't achieved in its original time frame, keep putting its action items on your list until you complete them.
4. Reward yourself
At the moment that we achieve a micro goal or a major goal, the tendency is to already have our heads in the next big thing. Remember, however, that your career is a marathon, and in order to keep up momentum, you have to acknowledge and celebrate the little successes along the way.
Go out for drinks with friends or treat yourself to basketball tickets or a spa appointment. Build in these rewards to your to-do lists so that they serve to push you toward the finish line.
5. Enlist friends and family
Make certain that you broadcast your career resolution, and the goals associated with it, to the world. Tell your loved ones that you want them to remind you of how badly you want to achieve your resolution, and to speak up if they see you starting to slide.
Talk about your goals on your social media sites so that your virtual contacts can cheer you on, too. It helps your cause to know that a network of people is supporting you and expects you to follow through on your commitment.
6. Consider the consequences
When your motivation flags, look back and remember why you made the resolution in the first place. How will you feel if you reach December 2010 and you've made no more progress on your career aspirations? Will your life be negatively impacted?
Every time you're tempted to put off your goal for another month, think about all of the wonderful developments that are sure to result from your persistence.
Alexandra Levit is a columnist for the Wall Street Journal and the author of the new book "New Job, New You: A Guide to Reinventing Yourself in a Bright New Career."
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