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With the new year comes a chance to spend a little time thinking about you and what you want. What are your dreams and goals for this year? How else can you grow professionally?

A few ideas to push you ahead:

1. Give yourself an edge with certification. Administrative candidates with advanced skills are receiving higher starting salaries, a 3.2% increase on average nationally. Professional certifications, such as the Certified Administrative Professional (CAP), Certified Professional Secretary (CPS) and Microsoft Business Certification, are greatly valued by employers.

“Become certified. That is what I plan to do along with the other admins in my division,” says Angela R. Jones. Visit www.iaap-hq.org and click on “Professional Certification” for more information.

2. Enhance your daily role by cross-training. Could you train others for your job, and learn someone else’s job in exchange? Not only will you each learn new skills (and make yourselves even more valuable), you’ll have a built-in support system.

3. Tap into online learning to flex your mind. Want to spruce up your Excel skills or plan your retirement? Dozens of free webinars and training tools can provide a good mental stretch. A few examples:

• Microsoft Office offers a new how-to site called “Tips & Tricks” on Office Online with webcasts, quick reference guides and e-learning materials all linked (www.microsoft.com/office/greattips/default.mspx).

• Visit www.triadconsulting.com to pick up advanced MS skills, as presented by Triad Consulting at the two biggest admin pro conferences of the year, the IAAP and APC conferences.

• iVillage recently introduced iLearn (http://ilearn.ivillage.com), which offers courses on personal finance topics, such as “Building a Budget and Sticking to It.” Classes are available around the clock, so you can logon whenever you want or simply print out the entire course as a PDF.

4. Bring your office’s documentation up to date, such as job descriptions, evacuation procedures, equipment operation guides, desk handbook (for anyone filling in for you) and disaster recovery plan, suggests admin Karen Kosmoski. You should revisit and fine-tune these written documents regularly.

5. Make it your mission to improve just one process. Intensely focusing on one thing can bring about major, measurable results. For example, says admin Betty Brown, “How about taking over total responsibility for management meetings: setting the agenda, taking minutes, following up on action items, assigning a monthly moderator?”

Bottom line: Whatever you set as a professional goal, take a step back to examine it from a broader perspective and make sure it aligns with your boss’s goals.

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