Career Coaching, Job Search, Networking

New Year, New Career

woman in the middle of times square nyc
By Laura Quaglio (Photo by Courtney Cook)

The anticipation of a happier new year has been heightened by the pandemic—as has the need to stay competitive in the workplace. According to Forbes, the layoffs that began in 2020 are far from over, and McKinsey & Company predicts it may take five years or more to see a rebound in certain sectors such as arts, entertainment, food services, and travel. This means that the job market will be more competitive than ever, so you’ll need to be more competitive, too.

“Whether you’re looking to retain your current position, make a vertical move, switch career paths, or enter the job market as a recent graduate, it’s important to put job-related resolutions at the top of your to-do list,” says Colin von Liebtag, assistant director of Rutgers Alumni Career Services. “The problem is that many people don’t even know where to begin. That’s why our office was created: to help scarlet graduates every step of the way.”

Here, von Liebtag shares the five most important resolutions you can make this year—and how Rutgers Alumni Career Services can help you keep them.

Set SMART goals.

At some point in your studies at Rutgers, you probably learned about SMART goals. These are goals that are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Bound. Creating goals (or resolutions) using this formula can help you break bigger tasks into smaller, more achievable ones, which is more likely to lead to success. SMART goals can prevent procrastination because you’ll know what you need to do next, and they can offset frustration because you’ll see actual progress, day by day and week by week.

There’s a quick Q&A at the end of this article to help you get started, or you can print out this SMART Goals Worksheet, if you’re already well-versed in the approach. For a deeper dive, von Liebtag recommends this 12-minute read on

Refresh your resume.

Celebrate your victories! The first weeks of the new year are a great time to reflect on your accomplishments from the past year and what you want to achieve in the new one. The next step? Make sure your resume and LinkedIn profile reflect who you are and what you want to be. That begins with building a personal brand image and scrubbing your social media sites of content that could hurt your job search, then polishing up your finished product with Grammarly Premium, which is free to all Rutgers alumni.

Also take a few minutes to peruse the resumes and profiles of your peers (or those who are in the job you’d like to hold next). This is a great way to identify any gaps in skills, knowledge, or experience that you’ll want to flesh out in the new year

Expand your skillset.

Coursera, LinkedIn Learning, EdX, Udacity…the list of online learning platforms is growing. Check for certificate or licensing opportunities in your industry, especially if they provide the opportunity to do project-based learning and develop tangible skill sets that will help you advance. This is important to stay current and relevant and to future-proof your career as much as possible. It also helps to make you more recession resistant, which is important if you are at risk of layoff or looking to make a smooth transition to a new employer.

Also remember that Rutgers offers more than 5,000 continuing education programs every year. Online certificate program, including Mini-MBAs™ are available from more than 40 departments, and alumni over age 50 have special access to programs from the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at Rutgers University (OLLI-RU). As for those project-based opportunities: Rutgers Student-Alumni Career Connect is posting an ever-increasing number of them.

Expand your network.

Dedicate some time each week to maintaining your professional relationships and/or finding new ones. Connect with old and new acquaintances. Establish and maintain relationships with people in your industry (or prospective industry) so they are there when you need to really activate them in the job search. And don’t limit yourself to people who were in your graduating class: You’ll find fellow alumni of all ages networking on Rutgers’ Student-Alumni Career Connect website. Today, for the first time in history, there are five generations in the workforce. Learn what they are and how to relate to them in this webinar from the Rutgers Business School: Communicating with Every Generation. While you’re at it, adapt those intergenerational talking point to engage at a deeper level with family members, young and old.

Regain, then maintain, work-life balance.

As stressful as 2020 was, it helped us realize the importance of living a holistically healthy, balanced life. Devoting time and energy to mental, physical, and emotional well-being is paramount to overall health and happiness, as well as to work productivity and success.

A good place to start? Spend a lunch break with emotional intelligence coach Kelly Mannel (RC’83), who recorded the webinar Emotional Resilience and Self-Compassion just for Rutgers alumni. (As a bonus, cultivating a healthier emotional state can boost immunity!)

If you’re also struggling with financial fallout or mental health issues related to long-term unemployment, the New Start Career Network can help you address these challenges and re-enter the job market. Remember that “Scarlet Forever” means you’ll always have access to the resources and support of the Rutgers University Alumni Association and Rutgers Career Exploration and Success.

It’s OK if your schedule doesn’t include equal parts work, play, and rest, adds von Liebtag, who has found that his own work-life balance shifts from day to day.

“Seek quality experiences that will recharge you, even if quantity is lacking at times,” he advises. “Stay dedicated to balance. It is possible in this promising and hopeful new year.”