12/01/2011 12:03 pm ET | Updated Jan 31, 2012

Five Easy Things to Do for Your Career in December

Whether you're thinking of making a job change or re-entering the workforce in 2012 or whether you're planning on staying the course in your current gig, here are five good things to do for your career this month:

Ask yourself: Did my job build me up in 2011? In the best case, a job gives us more than money and a place to go during working hours. Did your job build your resume, your contacts and your mojo in 2011? If so, how so? Why not write about this a little, to see which ideas pop out? You may surprise yourself.

Write down three professional/personal goals for 2012 that your job can help you reach. One of them might be "learn how to use marketing surveys competently." If you can take one mini-step toward each 2012 goal this month (for instance, visiting two survey-tool websites to read what they say about using surveys in your marketing efforts) you'll feel as though you're on the map, goal-wise, even before 2012 begins.

December is great for networking, with all kinds of holiday things going on, but if you've let your network languish a bit as most of us have, refresh it over the next 90 days! Write down the names of six people you should really catch up with, and reach out to them to schedule one-on-ones in December or January.

Are you earning what you're worth on the market? Check, and to double-check.

The key question for working people in 2012 is not "Do you have a job?" or "What do you do?" but rather "What business pain do you solve?" If we don't know the answer to that question, we won't have any hope of figuring out how we add value to our employers' or clients' businesses. Here are a few examples:

"I run the HR function for smallish companies so they can snag and keep the best people around, maintain a fantastic culture where smart people want to be and win in the marketplace."

"I solve process-control and quality problems for manufacturers to let them launch products faster and save development time and cost."

"I build channel marketing programs to get our products out to massively bigger chunks of the market than direct sales can do alone."

"I run a medical practice and keep patient accounts, insurance billing, and patient care running smoothly so the docs can focus on medicine and patients get everything they need."

"I go after and close national account deals for a cloud computing vendor who is small but needs to compete with multinational competitors. I put the $5M-and-up account deals together."

"I run the front office for a busy insurance agent who can't afford to have any client issue or marketing drip or prospective-client contact fall through the cracks."

"I lead a second-shift team at Wendy's, where I'm the only management-type person in the restaurant or on call for 12 hours every night. I let the store manager sleep soundly at night and keep the second-shift team members feeling good and learning and flippin' burgers."

"I get small businesspeople up and running with social media, helping them grow their reach enormously and helping them hone their brand in the process."

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