By Eve Tahmincioglu
msnbc.com contributor
updated 12/30/2007 4:22:55 PM ET 2007-12-30T21:22:55

When you ring in the New Year tonight and decide in your excitement to make some resolutions there is one you shouldn’t include: Finding a new job.

I know, it’s one of your biggest goals, but resist adding it to a list of resolutions you’re probably never going to follow through on in 2008.

Only about 15 percent of such resolutions have long term success, says Stephen Kraus, author of “Psychological Foundations of Success: A Harvard-Trained Scientist Separates the Science of Success from Self-Help Snake Oil.”

“People don’t really come up with a plan for executing their New Years resolutions. They just think, ‘I’m going to make big changes this year,” he explains.

Right around this time of year, recruiters start to get lots of calls from disgruntled workers looking for something new.

Indeed, Jeff Wittenberg, a partner with recruiting firm Kaye/Bassman International Corp., sees a noticeable uptick in people calling him for help; and he finds the candidates he contacts are more receptive to his solicitations and return calls more often right after the New Year.

But often the employees aren’t clear on why they want to leave their existing jobs, and seem to be more reactionary. “Maybe they had a bad day, or didn’t get the raise they wanted,” he explains. “But they need to be more clear on why they want to make a job change. Is it just a BS motivation, reacting to a blip on a radar screen?”

Finding a new job or career takes lots of planning and shouldn’t be fueled by emotion.

“If you really want to take your career to the next level it has to be more than ‘I want 10 percent more money’ or ‘I hate my job,’” Kraus advises. “You have to figure out what really inspires you.”

And figure out your strengths. “There’s a lot of research out there that suggests very successful people really know their strengths and play to those,” he maintains.

He suggests checking out authentichappiness.org, which offers a free tool called “Test of Signature Strengths”.

Wittenberg, the recruiter, actually asks the individuals who contact him: “Why are you interested in making a change?”

“If you don’t clarify your motivation then you run the risk of leaving for another job that’s just like the job you left,” he adds. “You’re jumping out of the frying pan and into the fire.”

Finding a job you love is about “soul searching,” explains career expert Jennifer Remling.

Remling bases her advice on her own research. She is part of a project called “Carve Your Own Road” that has taken her around the country interviewing individuals who have chosen new career paths and succeeded.

The main point was to figure out how people attain their career goals, she says.

“If you don’t stop and take time to ask yourself why I’m unhappy — if it’s the actual job, the company, the day to day activities — then you end up in a viscous cycle … always moving from job to job searching for greener pastures but you just end up on different grass,” she says.

Robert Poels from Atlanta remembers making a few of his own New Years career resolutions that never went anywhere.

He was a consultant who traveling often but wanted to spend more time with his family and his 5-year-old daughter. “I tried to negotiate with my company to reduce the travel but it just didn’t work out,” he says.

He felt trapped an unable to figure out what his next step should be. So, last year he contacted Remling, who he knew through his wife, and she helped advise him on what his next step should be.

“She told me to visualize what I wanted to do in my career, not what was available out there, but what I wanted,” he explains. She provided a list of questions for Poels including everything from what kind of people do you want to work for to where do you want to live, and he set about answering them. For those questions, see the interactive to the right.

He narrowed down his requirements and decided he wanted to work in operations, in a call center or support center environment, interacting with customers and engineers. “I love crunching the data and putting reports together that managers can apply. So I was thinking about all the things I could do in a company and imagined my self in the environment,” he says.

“I recorded myself talking about what I wanted to do on my long drives to Florida for my consulting job,” he says. “And one day, I said, ‘let me see what’s out there.’”

He went to Monster.com and searched for analyst, database, and the computer language he liked using, and got one result. He applied for the job and two days later got an interview. In three weeks, he got the job and is now a business system analyst for Philips Medical.

The key is putting in the time to really understand what you want, Remling advises.

To that end, she offers individuals a four-point process to figuring that out:

  1. With pen and paper, or laptop, go to a quiet place where you won’t be disturbed. Picture yourself doing exactly what you would like to be doing in your next job or career. Go all the way to possibility: Don’t limit yourself. Begin writing out in detail the vision you want to create. Don't hold back — just let it flow and go as big as you can with it.
  2. Clarity is in the details. It’s not just the big idea that’s important, but what you do with your idea, how you pursue it, who you enlist for help, the way you execute, etc. Think about (and write out) all aspects of what you want to do. Think about the impact you want to have, the attributes of your ideal job and the people you want surrounding you. Think about your perfect office. Think about the income you want to create, your lifestyle and time for your family. Think about how it feels. Think about how your day will flow. It’s yours to create.
  3. Now, it’s time to organize. Read what you’ve written and summarize it into a single page in present tense as if you were realizing your vision right now. Why present tense? Because in order to understand and articulate your vision, you have to feel it. And, in order to feel it, you have to stop focusing on what you want (i.e. don’t have) and visualize yourself actually doing the things you’ve imagined.
  4. With a clear, articulate vision intact, it’s time to put it to work. Take a few minutes every morning to read your vision summary and — most importantly — feel it. You don’t have to spend a lot of time. Once you get the hang of it, a few minutes will get you in the right mindset. From there, create a to-do list of high value activities that get you closer to your vision. What small steps can you take today? Over time, your vision will probably change. Go with it. Let your passion and vision evolve.

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