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7 ways to boost your career

The first week of January is a time of new beginnings -- and what better place to wipe the slate clean than at work? Listed below are seven practical ways to give your career -- and your personal self-confidence -- a healthy boost.

Be positive (and proactive)
A culture of negativity can become contagious, like a cold or virus. Instead of moaning about a bothersome problem at work, figure out how to solve it. You will be viewed as a positive contributor by management, and a breath of fresh air. Bonus points could be awarded if a solution benefits the organization rather than just yourself.

Do more than you are paid to do
Although you may feel overloaded at work, a willingness to get involved in more activities at work is a way to boost your visibility and demonstrate skills that get overlooked in your "day job." Every workplace has big projects that need to be tackled and committees that need to be chaired, but often few employees willing to take them on.

Expand your knowledge
Community organizations are places where people from all walks of life find common ground and expand their horizons. Most organizations offer valuable training. Think of it as free education. A new area of expertise makes you a more valuable and interesting employee -- and you never know whom you will meet or what opportunities might open up along the way.

Take a leadership class
If your workplace does not invest in professional development programs, you may search the Web for conferences, workshops and training events to attend on your own time. The anticipated return on your investment is an enhanced résumé, job performance and contacts. Professional development can get you noticed as a self-starter and team player.

Expand your circle
Each month dedicate yourself to doing ONE thing that will help you expand your professional "circle of friends." Even if you are thrilled with your job or company, get out there and make networking a priority. If you simply stay in your cubicle, not considering other options, it does not help you think about new possibilities.
You may attend a professional meeting of a group not in your field, but where a subject you care about will be discussed. Or devise a system of regularly following up with contacts you have already made. Invite one out for coffee or lunch. It'll do wonders for your professional self-confidence.

Manage priorities
Commit to creating and maintaining your work and life priorities. Having "guiding principles" helps reduce distractions that make your life a big checklist. It is important to make your gym workouts, your child’s basketball game, and dinner with the family just as sacred as your job responsibilities. If you adhere to your “guiding principles”, chances are you will stay at your job longer, be more productive, and create a more positive atmosphere in the workplace.

Boost your image
Take a good look in the mirror. It sounds harsh, but if you wish to be recognized as a professional, you must be honest about the image you project. You may want to clean your closet to find new ways of using what you already have. Old favorites often find new life when you mix up what's on your shelves or make a trip to the tailor for repairs and alterations.

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