Tips to Crush Your Career Goals
Whether focused on your personal or career goals, it’s clear that you’re thinking ahead to the new year. But some will say you can’t move forward successfully without first looking back and understanding where you are today. Goal-setting usually works best in tandem with self-assessment.
To help make this year the year you step up professionally and work toward a more productive, profitable, and fulfilled career, don’t start with resolutions; start with reflection:
1. Friend Your Past
What were your career goals last year? Whether you wrote them down or just thought about them, take inventory: What did you do well? What could you have done differently?
If you didn’t set any goals, try taking a look at the career skills you developed (hard and soft), the important connections you made, and the key relationships you enriched. Then, think of them practically; if you had to rewrite your resume tomorrow, what big changes would you make?
Above all else, it’s good to stay positive. This step is not about indulging your inner critic. The real question to ask as you look back over last year is not Did I?, but rather, How did I?
When doing this exercise, you may fall back on the action items you took to get things done, but you may also want to ask yourself, “How was I behaving so that I could accomplish those things?” For example, what was your commitment to learning new things, being vulnerable, or asking questions and for help when you didn’t know something? These ways of “being” could have gone a long way to helping you get to where you are today.
As you plan for the next year, dig deep into who you are, at and away from work, to help refine your short- and long-term career goals. You can use something like Talentoday’s assessment tool to help you learn more about your “work personality” and what motivates you, and then explore your values and priorities using Life Values’ Inventory program.
2. Imagine Quitting Your Job
Don’t officially give notice; just think about it as an exercise in starting over with a blank slate. Would it benefit you more to make a switch or to stay at your current position to expand your skills?
Is your current employer taking advantage—in good, strategic ways—of your talents? Is there room for the growth you need to get ahead? Can you be yourself at work? Once you’ve determined the answers, you can create a career vision statement that aligns both your personal and professional goals, focused on these three things:
A. What you’re good at (what you’ve mastered, for example)
B. What brings you the most fulfillment, as well as what challenges or motivates you
C. How and where you can develop the most authentic relationships
Build out your vision statement with action steps so you can visually track your growth. Don’t just want a big promotion by mid-year, plot out tactics to make it happen (e.g., take on new projects or manage up to help your boss look great) and take control of your career.
The idea is once you’re personally invested in a career move—whether considering a total or vertical shift—career success is much easier to envision.
3. Set Up Your War Room—With a View
It’s considered a good idea to stay on top of your action steps throughout the year. So calendar “appointments” with yourself for quarterly reassessments to ensure your personal happiness and career goals are still well aligned.
For example, did you spearhead a project management initiative or upgrade your LinkedIn profile to capture new clients as planned? If not, think about what stopped you and take steps to overcome those barriers.
4. Dig in to Professional Development
It’s easy to get lost in the day-to-day tasks of your job, but don’t let that prevent you from investing in yourself with an eye on the bigger picture.
Seek out what your company offers (lunch and learn sessions, training webinars, or networking happy hours), and research what’s available online in your field (add an advanced certification to your resume, for example).
5. Hit the Ground Running (but don’t go it alone)
You have a plan to meet your goals, and you’re tracking your progress, but don’t stop there. Relationships are essential elements of career development, so don’t just take advantage of employer-sponsored opportunities to brush shoulders with colleagues you respect; find an accountability partner outside of the office, too.
An ally—perhaps someone on a comparable career track—can help keep you focused and help you transform your on-paper plan into tangible results. Think of this partner as your personal career trainer and cheerleader (and vice versa, as you will be doing the same for your partner!). Schedule regular meet-ups and phone calls.
Career growth can be hard work, so sweeten the deal with some positive reinforcement along the way. Reward yourself with a new work outfit or an eBook on a topic of interest as you hit your goals.
Taking opportunities to celebrate your progress—even if it’s just visiting a new craft brewery or treating yourself to an extra-long hike after you score big on a project—can help ensure your goals become habits, your vision leads to action, and your year is on track to become a great one for your career.
Want to crush more career goals? SoFi members get access to exclusive complimentary career services. As a SoFi member, you can take advantage of a suite of free career advancement tools like a self-assessment, resume parsing technology, goal setting, and an interview prep app. You can even chat online or speak with a career coach.
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