It's almost a new year and that means it's time for some suggested resolutions for young women starting their careers or making their way up the ladder.
I don't believe in making 100 resolutions -- that's overwhelming and counter-productive. But a handful of goals are achievable, so here are five things you can do that will contribute to your personal and career growth in 2013:
1. Get outta town
I love road trips. If you haven't been on one in a while, it's time to put a trip on your calendar. Driving can help clear the cobwebs of your mind, and you can learn a lot about your fellow Americans while you're at it.
One of the things that helps when networking is to have the ability to talk about places you've been, where others also may have traveled or where they grew up. So, when you're at one of those awkward networking events, for example, if you meet someone from Utah, you could say, "I once drove through Zion Canyon in Utah. It's beautiful. What was it like to grow up there?"
People like to talk about their hometowns and their travels, and the more places you've been; the more likely you'll be able to make a connection that can bring new business leads or career opportunities.
If you're not sure where to go, take an informal survey from friends and co-workers to ask for the best recommendations.
I love to drive in the Black Hills of Wyoming and South Dakota with Mount Rushmore as the central stop. The Smoky Mountains of Tennessee are also something to see. How about the Blue Ridge Parkway in Virginia or North Carolina? Or a drive up the Maine Coast? If you're really ambitious and have some time, why not drive across the country on Highway 50?
This year, add a long weekend to your plans, or ditch the traditional beach vacation for a rental car, grab a friend or two, and hit the road.
2. Ask people for their book recommendations
One of the great joys in life is reading, yet it's the main thing people say they don't have time to do. There's a way to change that -- turn off your electronic devices a half-hour earlier than usual or ditch the music during your commute and listen to an audio book. You can also invest in some noise-canceling headphones to provide yourself some peace and quiet so you can read while on the bus or train.
I devour books, though I have a habit of sticking to my favorite genre (historical fiction). So this past year I branched out a bit and read some novels and biographies I wouldn't have chosen for myself. I asked a few friends about their favorite books and then I bought a few of those to try.
Some of them I really liked, though one was too violent for me and I had to set it aside after a restless sleep filled with nightmares about battles in northern Mexico in the 1800s (you know who you are).
The main benefit of this idea was to broaden my reading; however, it did something more. It gave me yet another way to start or join a conversation. For example, one evening I was describing a scene from a book I was reading and a person I'd not yet spoken to at the party said, "Wait a minute -- I read that!" And then we bonded over that for a while, and even shared a list of our favorite books.
It's easy to keep a list on your mobile device of books you hear and want to read at some point -- my list is getting really long!
3. Stop saying "like"
We all have verbal tics we use in everyday conversation, and that often bleeds into work. The most abused word is "like." Young women grow up saying it all the time, so much so that they don't even realize they're saying it. But their bosses and clients notice, and they don't, er, like it.
The good news is this habit can be broken. All it takes is a commitment to recognize that you say it a lot, and then to stop yourself and pause. In fact, if you take out the "likes" you don't need to fill that space with any other words.
If you have a good friend or co-worker, let them know that you're trying to break the habit -- and see if they'll help you by giving you "the look" or raising a finger when they hear you say it.
You'd be surprised how easy it is to let that verbal security blanket go, and it could do wonders for your career. Supervisors want to elevate people who can communicate well, especially if they expect the employee to interact with customers and clients.
Why not give them every reason to promote you?
4. Send two good news emails a week
Email has become a burden -- there's too much of it and takes too much time to manage. Checking for new mail used to be exciting, but now it's a drag. However, email is here to stay; in fact, most young people can't imagine how anyone ever did their jobs without it.
So how could you stand out in a crowded Inbox? Try sending two good news/nice emails a week, a "just because" note. These can be short messages that are just meant to bring a smile, and ones that don't require a response.
For example, what about complimenting someone on their presentation -- especially if you don't think anyone else did? You could say, "Hey, Jane, just wanted to let you know it was fun watching you hit those balls out of the park today. I admire how you anticipated every question and how your personality shone through."
Or, "This article reminded me of you -- I remember you said you grew up out West. It sure sounds like a wonderful place."
You won't believe how getting a message like that can make someone's day and how memorable they are. And don't send "just because" notes to the bosses -- send one to colleagues and friends you've not talked to in a while. It's a great way to keep up your contacts, and it just might be the most efficient, productive and rewarding thing you do this year.
5. Surprise someone with a hello
One of the best things to do in a day is to surprise someone by saying hello to them. Think of all the people you walk by in a day that are quietly going about their work and they are hardly ever recognized with a greeting.
I love to startle someone as I'm walking by with a "Good morning!" or a "Hi! How are you?" The smiles in return are worth the effort. It's one of the best ways to remember that we're only here for a short period of time, and walking with our eyes cast down means we're missing out on a lot of the good stuff life has to offer.
Once you start doing this, you'll see just how many people aren't shown a kind gesture while they're working. You can be a bright spot in someone's day just by recognizing them. It also gets you out of your rut and is the one investment that comes with guaranteed returns.
And there you have it. See... it's easy! Five resolutions for a great new year. Happy 2013!