'Tis the Season for Career Resolutions: What Not to Do in the New Year

A new year always starts with the best of intentions. The opportunity to wipe the slate clean and get a “do over” of sorts has a way of motivating us to get back in touch with our better selves. The only problem with resolutions — whether in our personal or professional lives — is that they’re often too general or too numerous to address effectively.

Maybe it would be easier to acknowledge what we shouldn’t do? Consider these widely applicable resolutions of “what not to do” when it comes to your financial career in 2014:

Don’t criticize without offering alternatives. We’re probably all guilty of this: A colleague or direct report — or even your boss — suggests a new way to tackle a difficult work problem. You hate the idea. Before you start pointing out why the suggestion won’t work, bite your tongue. If you’re asked for immediate feedback before you have time to mull other possibilities, be tactful in your criticism. It’s OK to say that you foresee some problems, but vow to give the matter further thought. Follow up with an alternative suggestion or a way to improve upon the one that’s already been offered.

Don’t stir the gossip pot. Sure, this can be hard to do, but time and energy is better spent worrying about your own tasks, challenges and deadlines. This doesn’t mean you have to put your hands over your ears when office talk comes up, especially outside the confines of the office. After all, everyone has a legitimate interest in certain matters, such as whether the firm is going to land that desirable new client or who’s going to fill a vacant management position, but don’t instigate or participate in unnecessary or mean-spirited office gossip.

Don’t ignore networking opportunities. In some ways, networking today is easier than ever. No longer do you have to actively attend an event to grow your professional circle (though it’s still a good idea). Networking today can be as low key as updating your LinkedIn profile, congratulating a colleague on a promotion or industry honor, or conversing with someone in your company who you don’t know well. Look for opportunities to seamlessly incorporate more networking into your day-to-day work life. And remember to avoid the cardinal sin of networking: Don’t do it only when you have to, such as when you suddenly find yourself in need of a new job.

Don’t downplay your boss’ priorities. This may seem like a no brainer, but it’s worth being reminded of. Sometimes professionals — often unintentionally — find themselves pushing aside their supervisor’s priorities or superimposing their own. But think about it: If you can keep your boss happy, your work is largely done. Just resolve not to be like one problem worker who kept disregarding his manager’s priorities — so much so that the manager was forced to give a more blunt directive, “If your boss thinks it’s important, it’s important!”

These are just a few career killers worth avoiding in the new year. As you look forward to 2014 and an opportunity to refocus on moving your career in the desired direction, consider your own resolutions for what not to do when it comes to your work life.

What resolutions for 2014 have you set for you and your team?