3 New Year's Resolutions for Every Worker

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With a new year comes new opportunities. They can take the form of potential career moves, chances for self-improvement, or even the opportunity to change your outlook or attitude.

Even if you're not changing jobs or making any other big moves, it's a good idea to look at the new year as an opportunity to evaluate your professional life. Even if you're doing well, there's always room for improvement.

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That may not mean working harder or getting better results on the job. Instead, your New Year's work resolution could involve creating a better work-life balance while maintaining performance or making sure your contributions are properly recognized.

Three of our Motley Fool writers all have different takes on potential 2018 work resolutions. Following the ones that apply to you may put you on a path to a successful year.

Get better at saying no

Maurie Backman: We've all been in situations where we've been asked to take on more work than we feel we can handle. And while it's good to be ambitious and willing to help out, there comes a point where doing too much ends up hurting our careers instead of helping them. So for 2018, one resolution to think about is learning to stand up for yourself and turn down requests that are unreasonable or just infeasible.

Saying no at work isn't easy, but there's a smart way to do it. For one thing, rather than simply refuse a project or task, explain what taking it on will entail. You might, for example, prove to your manager that if you were to accept a new assignment, it would compromise your ability to meet an existing deadline. It also helps to offer alternate solutions -- for example, say that while you can't take on more work at present, you'd be happy to jump on a new project once your busy period comes to a close. Or offer to give up an existing task to free up time in your schedule and see if your manager bites.

It's natural to want to please and impress your coworkers, but saying yes all the time isn't the best way to do so. The more comfortable you get with saying no, the less frazzled you'll be.

Get yourself a raise

Tim Brugger: Getting recognized and properly compensated in 2018 really boils down to one simple thing: Ask. OK, maybe it isn't quite that easy. Before you sit down with your supervisor, there's some preparatory work to be done. Ask yourself why you deserve a raise, and then write down what comes to mind.

Here are some qualities you might highlight when negotiating a raise:

  • You've made the company $X in sales and/or saved the company $Y in costs. Figuring out specific numbers will help you make your case.
  • You're always willing to help a struggling co-worker.
  • You not only excel at your role, but go above and beyond.
  • You're active in company affairs both in and out of the workplace.
  • You're a positive influence on those around you.

Now take the initiative and ask your supervisor for a meeting. There are two ways to approach the discussion, so be open to both. One is to explain why you deserve a raise and then simply ask for it. Have a specific figure in mind so you can share it with your supervisor and demonstrate that you've given the discussion serious thought.

The second possibility, and a good fallback position, is to say "What do you need to see from me over the next [insert time frame (I always said 60 days)]?" Once the goals are determined, schedule a time for you and your supervisor to discuss your progress. Finally, keep a record of specific instances when you meet or exceed the objectives outlined in the first meeting to share at the next.

Sure, it takes some gumption to ask for a raise, but when you're prepared and professional about it, both you and your supervisor will be better for it. Bring on 2018!

Be open to new ideas

Daniel B. Kline: Much of the working world is going through a transformation. The types of jobs being created are changing, and the skills needed to succeed (and even to stay employed) are evolving.

Many people are resistant to change. Sometimes that's because they love their current job, and sometimes it's because they fear the unknown.

As 2018 approaches, it's important to embrace the future. Be flexible and don't dismiss new ideas just because they don't yet make sense to you. In fact, you should seek out new and unfamiliar opportunities.

True, not every idea is a good one. Back when I was in the newspaper world I watched the chain I worked for turn reporter and photographer into one job. That new idea came from a reasonable place -- reporters should be able to take a picture, and photographers should be able to write a basic story -- but it ignored that both positions require specific skills.

Still, from that bad, over-reaching idea came some good. Reporters were given photography lessons, and photographers learned the basics of reporting. That made everyone more versatile and meant that if only one person was on scene at a news event, readers would still get both words and pictures.

Be open to new ideas, because even bad ones may spark meaningful change. Even if it doesn't lead to a major career advancement, even simply trying something new can help you grow as a person and a professional -- and perhaps open doors you never even knew were there.

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