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2016: A new year, new opportunities

Chief Master Sgt. Donn Taylor, now 111th Mission Support Group superintendent, joins the MSG in conjunction with his promotion to chief master sergeant, Nov. 7, 2015 at the Horsham Air Guard Station in Horsham, Pennsylvania. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Christopher Botzum)

Chief Master Sgt. Donn Taylor, now 111th Mission Support Group superintendent, joins the MSG in conjunction with his promotion to chief master sergeant, Nov. 7, 2015 at the Horsham Air Guard Station in Horsham, Pennsylvania. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Christopher Botzum)

HORSHAM AIR GUARD STATION, Pa. -- It's a New Year and time for a couple of resolutions.

Seek out education and career opportunities

If you haven't or aren't already, start earning your degree. At a minimum, complete your Community College of the Air Force Associates degree. In fact, you might be half-way there already and not even know it!  Many credits you have already earned may count towards a bachelor's degree as well.

If your goal is to achieve senior or chief master sergeant, due to the new "Stratification" policy, you are now required to have a CCAF degree. If you feel there's a lack of promotion opportunities in your current career field, consider cross-training or getting a commission. With the new remotely-piloted aircraft and cyber operations missions here, there's going to be many opportunities. 

Put yourself in the best possible position before you consider or apply for a new job. Complete your AFSC (Air Force Specialty Code) upgrade training; get your NCO or Senior NCO academies completed; make yourself the best possible candidate to the selecting official. Start building and solidifying your reputation as a "go-to" Airman.

Discover or be a mentor

Find an outstanding example to follow. Having a mentor was the best thing that ever happened to me in the Air National Guard; find someone who's willing to share their time and wisdom with you. It will make you better at your job and enhance your own personal mentorship skills.

My mentor pointed out what I was doing right and wrong, he also identified areas where I needed to improve -- even if I didn't necessarily want to hear it. He also shared with me what sacrifices would be necessary for me to advance both professionally and personally.

If you're in a leadership, position don't just be the authority figure that only gets involved in promotions and disciplinary events -- be fully engaged. Many years ago during in an Airman leadership course, there was a quote that I've never forgotten, "status is assigned and respect is earned."

Get away from your desk and out of your chair

When someone walks in, especially if they're lower in rank than you, do you stay seated and talk to them with that physical barrier (your desk) between you? Stand up, shake their hand, look them in the eye and give them your undivided attention. If they feel intimated, or even worse, that you don't care, you may be missing an opportunity to fully interact with that person.

Practice MBWA, "Management by Walking Around." Get to know everybody with whom you work. Visit other sections and introduce yourself to your peers; build a network. The uniqueness of the Air National Guard is that we're family and we usually stick with a unit for a long time. You don't build a great reputation overnight, but you can lose it in a minute. Start gaining the trust and respect of others now.  Those relationships will pay dividends now and in the future.