Woman with Post-itsIt’s a new year, which for many of us means a fresh start with many aspects of our lives that we’d like to improve. Take advantage of the clean slate and give your career a boost in 2015. Here’s how.

Clean Up – and Update – Your Online Presence

It’s common knowledge that employers check out social media profiles before they make a hire. They can also use these platforms to check up on current employees. Keep your accounts clean and professional – this means no snapshots of your drunken exploits and no tweets about how much you hate your boss.

Of course it is possible to lock down your social media accounts by making everything private and weeding through your connections to keep weekend activities hidden from your company or potential employers. But be careful, as having no online presence is as harmful as having an overpowering one. Strike a balance: if you keep Facebook and Twitter accounts highly private or don’t have them at all, maintain a LinkedIn profile and keep it up to date. Consider buying your name as a domain and set up a simple site as your online portfolio (you can check out mine, KaliHawlk.com, as an example).

Keep Learning

One of the best ways to boost your career and make yourself more valuable as an employee is to continue learning new things. Educate yourself on the latest information and practices related to your work, or consider teaching yourself something new (like coding, SEO, or how to use a new online service that may be useful to your company). Always seeking a new challenge helps keep things fresh and interesting, and it’s really rewarding. It also makes you an indispensable member of your employer’s workforce.

Be a Volunteer

When it comes to new projects or tasks around the office, be one of the first to volunteer to take them on. Be eager and willing to accept new responsibilities at work, and don’t wait to be asked or told to get on an assignment. Your boss will appreciate your dedication and willingness to help and get stuff done.

Make New Connections

In a job market that is still pretty tough, it’s all about who you know. With more and more people with a wide variety of backgrounds and experiences competing for the same jobs, having an “in” with a company will give you a huge leg up on everyone else.

This year, make an effort to meet new people. Consider attending a conference, an event relative to your field, or simply reach out to people of interest via the Internet and email. If you’re not on LinkedIn, now’s the time to create a profile. If you already have one, make sure you’re maximizing what it’s worth (not sure how? Check our list of quick tips).

When building your network, it’s always helpful to be accessible to potential connections and willing to add value to their business or project. Be open to exchanging ideas, taking a few minutes to brainstorm with them, or volunteer to answer a few questions or suggest a solution to a particular problem.

Start Your Own Business

There’s never been a better time than now to start your own venture as a freelancer or business owner. If you’re tired of being an employee working for someone else, make 2015 the year you start working for yourself instead.

Don’t think becoming an entrepreneur requires a huge investment or startup cost. People like Chris Guillebeau, author of The $100 Startup, and Natalie Sisson, author of The Suitcase Entrepreneur show that all you really need is an idea you’re passionate about and that other people would love to get involved with.