A new year is upon us, and with the turning of the calendar comes an annual reflection on where we came up short over the last twelve months, and how we might do better in the next. Personal change and self improvement are worthy endeavors, and a serious New Year’s Resolution might be the ticket to a happier you and a more successful career. Here are a few things you can do next year to make your job and life a little better, brighter, and more productive.


I’m a former smoker, so I get it: Those ten minutes of respite when work gets tough. The dream pairing of a cigarette and a cup of coffee. The sheer ritual of it, of unwrapping a pack, tearing away the foil, and drawing that first, perfect drag. Smoking is hard to quit. But here is what you will find on the other side: fewer sinus infections. The disappearance of that horrible and perpetual post nasal drip. Clearer, cleaner skin. Increased lung capacity and an attendant improvement in health that simply has to be experienced to be believed. (You don’t realize it now, but if you are a long-term smoker, you feel like garbage. Nonsmokers do not feel the way you do. Quit and it will be like recovering from a terrible illness you didn’t know you had.) You’ll get what amounts to a $2000-a-year raise just from the money saved, and probably an actual raise by being at your desk longer, and thus being more productive. If you smoke—and if you do nothing else this year—quit. Your life will improve in ways you never thought possible.


The workforce is competitive. It always has been, but with companies acquiring smaller competitors at higher rates than ever before, it’s not enough to be good at your job; you now have to be good on paper, too. A college degree might be the best way to make a strong resume bulletproof, and to protect you during downsizing. If you’re putting in 40-hour work weeks, though, it’s not easy to hop over to the local campus. But you have another option: online degree programs are flourishing at traditional universities, and in such serious fields as aerospace engineering, accounting, and construction management. (ClearanceJobs has a rundown of online degrees here.) There’s never been a better time to pursue that degree you’ve been putting off, or to make the move to your dream job. Having a degree has another major benefit: it also helps you…


If you want to be a manager, it helps a lot to have a degree and a mentor. A good mentor is more than a sounding board or order-giver; he or she is a personal leader who will inspire the sort of personal growth that can help you be leader as well. In an interview last year with ClearanceJobs, Lisa Quast, a certified career coach and author of Secrets of a Hiring Manager Turned Career Coach, explained that many companies have even formalized the mentoring process, so be sure to find out what your company has to offer. She also described what a winning mentor looks like.

“A good mentor can ask questions and listen and can give advice in way that is not telling, but helping a mentee explore a situation and talk about options and come up with best solution, and why—without giving them the answer. It can take a lot of patience,” she said. “A good mentor, for me, is someone who teaches how to fish versus simply giving them the fish.”


No matter how good you are at your job, and no matter how hard you work, one day you’re going to retire. Your career will be over and your company badge will no longer unlock the office door. Remember that when your job is gone, your family will still be there—so be good to them now. When you’re in your eighties, it’s not going to be your old boss or employees taking care of you. Finding a proper work-life balance is not only a serious investment in yourself and those you love, but it will also make you better at your job and more loyal to your employer. It will make you more productive and more engaged, which will actually help your career. Find balance and you will find success.


No matter where you fall on the debate, you cannot deny that our healthcare system is in a state of disrepair, and big changes are coming, for better or worse. There’s not much you can do to change national policy, but there are a few things you can do to help yourself, and perhaps prevent the sorts of ailments that come as we grow older. If you want to lose weight, the secret is to eat fewer calories than you burn. That’s it! Apps like MyFitnessPal help you easily track the food you eat, and several wearable devices can passively monitor the calories you burn. On the high end, there is the $329 Apple Watch. If that price is too steep, there is the $25 Mi Band 2. Both track your steps and calories burned.

Absent technology, there are some easy things you can do. Eat smaller portions. (You don’t have to finish your plate.) Substitute. (If you order the 40-calorie steamed vegetables as your side, you won’t miss the 400-calorie macaroni and cheese.) And skip the things you know are terrible for you. (You’d have to run a full marathon to burn off one Bloomin’ Onion. Isn’t it easier to just not eat it in the first place?) If you’re a couch potato, take walks after dinner. Walk the dog more often. If you already walk, alternate jogging and walking with each telephone pole. Do you jog? Try endurance running! Your lung capacity will expand as your waist contracts. Your heart will become more efficient and your waistband smaller. Next to smoking, this is the best thing you can do for yourself. As a bonus, losing weight is a good way to get a job in management (according to science).


Do you really love your job? If so, great! I love my job, too. If you think there might be something more out there, however, what are you waiting for? Do you really want to spend every day for the next 40 years doing something you hate? You’re already at ClearanceJobs. Click that little search bar at the top of this page and find something that’ll make you excited to get out of bed each morning. That alone could make next year the best one yet.

David Brown is a regular contributor to ClearanceJobs. His most recent book, THE MISSION (Custom House, 2021), is now available in bookstores everywhere in hardcover and paperback. He can be found online at https://www.dwb.io.