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Inaugurate a New Career Plan With These 2013 Predictions

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With forecasts predicting a slow recovery in 2013 and economic growth at less than 3 percent, smart workers are resolving to take charge of their career planning in the New Year. Here are four ways you can compete in a volatile employment marketplace and be positioned to reap the benefits once the economy rebounds.

1. Develop an authentic personal brand that radiates integrity. Be mindful of how you present yourself on social media sites and other online communication channels. Off-hand remarks, political statements, or indiscriminate photos can be easily accessible to employers, and can damage your professional image in a nanosecond. If you are job-hunting, "cutting and pasting" your resume online is a simple task, but so is instant fact-checking. Making false or inflated claims about your employment credentials -- which some sources indicate appear on more than 40 percent of employment applications -- or taking credit for others' work, can hamper your job prospects. Your authenticity is essential to your personal brand, and it's worth protecting.

2. Embrace the unpredictable and serendipitous. Rather than a vertical ladder or linear path, many workers find their careers are a labyrinth of stops, starts and lateral moves. In fact, 58 percent of women describe their career path as "nonlinear," and nearly 90 percent of women executives and managers shift careers in midlife, according to Apollo Research Institute's forthcoming book, Women Lead. This "female" career model will likely become the norm for most 21st-century workers who are increasingly guided by personal values and nontraditional definitions of success. Uncertain times can present opportunities to be more flexible, break out of tired roles, and "make one's own luck." A positive attitude coupled with some thoughtful planning may be just the ticket for a more rewarding career direction.

3. Seek out opportunities in growth sectors. Six sectors are projected to offer the best job prospects in the coming year and beyond: healthcare, IT, business services, nonprofits, education and manufacturing. Healthcare is most robust of all, and is projected to grow by 29 percent and add 3.5 million jobs by 2020, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The sector is already producing one in five jobs as the economy recovers. Plagued with worker shortages, the healthcare sector is expected to need 711,000 new registered nurses and 100,000 doctors in the next decade, according to the Labor Department.

Rapid expansion in the nearly recession-proof IT sector shows no indication of diminishing in the year ahead, and 1.4 million more computing-related jobs are expected to open by 2018, according to the National Center for Women and Information Technology. In Women Lead, the Apollo Research Institute reports that growth in IT may be especially good for women, as the industry now expects its professionals to translate technical information by applying keen social and communication skills, an area in which many women excel.

Related to expansion in technology, business services continues to boom. This sector, which employs more than three-fourths of American workers and produces more than 78 percent of the country's GDP, will generate 18 million new jobs by 2020.

In the nonprofit sector -- which includes tax-exempt organizations such as hospitals, higher education institutions, museums, advocacy groups and religious, scientific and literary organizations -- many leadership opportunities are expected to emerge as Baby Boomers retire and organizations expand to meet growing needs. Experts foresee a 65% turnover in leadership at nonprofits in the next five years, which will require 80,000 senior managers a year to fill.

Education is also a growing industry affected by increased enrollments at all levels and the expanding number of teachers and administrators who are approaching retirement. The Bureau of Labor Statistics' Occupational Outlook predicts that education, training and library professions will add 1.4 million jobs by 2020.

And don't discount opportunities in the U.S. manufacturing sector, which is still the world's largest and equal to the eighth-largest global economy. Manufacturing is a hotbed for innovation, and conducts 70 percent of the country's industrial research and development.

4. Keep your skills -- especially high-tech ones -- up-to-date. Rapid change defines today's world of work, an environment similar to what the Army War College describes as "volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous" (VUCA). Successful organizations nimbly adapt to an ever-changing business environment, and they seek employees with vision who can identify trends and opportunities amid this complexity. Pursue certifications, degrees, technical training and leadership development that will keep your skills current and help you identify career opportunities. Look for internships, apprenticeships and job rotations to gain hands-on experience. And cultivate the most important future work skills -- such as new media literacy, virtual collaboration and cross-cultural competency -- that will be critical for workplace success in the next 10 years.

Above all, keep your technology skills sharp. No matter the industry, 70 percent of jobs will have a technological component by 2020. To stay employable in the future workplace, you can't afford to become obsolete.