If your New Year's resolutions include work promises and goals, you're not alone: According to LinkedIn Connection Director Nicole Williams, professional resolutions are on the rise.
"The new year always tends to come along with a sense of optimism, and it's one of the best times to invest time and energy into your profile because there are more employers hiring and headhunters looking for candidates," says Williams.
Here's a look at four ways you can improve your profile, rekindle relationships with your connections and keep your 2013 resolutions.
1. Start a LinkedIn Group
There are thousands of LinkedIn Groups to join—and you likely belong to a handful of them—but in 2013, Williams recommends trying something different by creating a group of your own dedicated to accomplishing professional goals.
"There's a certain accountability that goes along with the group mentality. Message your contacts and tell them you have a new career goal and you'd like them to join a group," she says. "Use the group to brainstorm ideas for success and discuss topics like what happens when you fail and how to stay on track. Your contacts will appreciate that you're taking the initiative."
Creating a LinkedIn Group is easy: Navigate to the Groups tab at the top and select "Create a Group." Fill out the following form, which asks you to upload a logo, decide on a group name, and then add summary, description and access permissions. Your group can be open to anyone or searchable only by those whom you invite.
2. Model Yourself After Someone You Admire
If you know where in your career you'd like to be this year—or in years to come—but aren't sure how to get there, Williams suggests you find someone on LinkedIn who you admire, look at his or her profile, and track their career trajectory.
"You don't want to reinvent the wheel when it comes to career trajectory, so identify three or four people who are steps ahead of you and reach out to them," she says. "Say you admire them and that they're doing something you want to do. The chances are someone will respond to you and be open to answering any questions you may have."
Once you're connected with this person, browse their updates to see what kinds of articles they're reading, where they went to school, who they're connected with and what groups they belong to, Williams recommends.
3. Update Your Profile
Take some time this month to review your profile, fill in any holes and update your information, Williams says. Two areas to focus on: your profile picture and your past work experience.
Profile picture: Your profile is seven times more likely to be viewed if you include a profile picture, Williams says, but it's more about reflecting a positive energy than "looking your prettiest," she says. "Make sure you're smiling and have life in your eyes; this isn't your classic passport picture."
Past work experience: If you include only your most-recent work experience in your LinkedIn profile, you're doing yourself a disservice, Williams says. Be sure to fill out our profile with all of your past experience and relevant skills.
"Your LinkedIn profile should be the opposite of your resume, which is where you typically only list your most recent work experience," Williams says. "Hiring managers will perform searches for people with 10 years of experience, but if your profile doesnt include information that far back, you could be missing out."
Even if you don't think a past experience is relevant to what you're doing today, include it anyway, she says. "You never know what about your past will be of interest to a recruiter. Put as much information out there to make sure you're identifiable and can be quickly found," Williams says.
4. Make New Connections
When it comes to how many LinkedIn connections you should have, the magic number is at least 50, Williams says. Reaching 50 helps you take better advantage of extended relationships, which are second- or third-degree connections.
"Building your connections is about meaningful connections," Williams says. "Five is too few, but 500 is too many."
Williams also recommends focusing on reconnecting with the connections you already have. "Rebuild a rapport by sending them an article you've read or a message to say Happy New Year," she says. "It's important to keep these connections lukewarm in the event you need them later in the year."
Kristin Burnham covers consumer technology, social networking, social business and enterprise collaboration for CIO.com. Follow Kristin on Twitter @kmburnham. Follow everything from CIO.com on Twitter @CIOonline and on Facebook. Email Kristin at firstname.lastname@example.org