The secrets to achieving New Year goals for your career
Your top New Year’s resolutions can be realized by following this game plan throughout 2020.
Every January, millions of people pledge self-improvement, and besides the obvious goals like “get fit” and “stress less,” the top New Year’s resolutions are often career related. Whether you want to get ahead at your current job, find a company where your contributions matter, make more money, or try something completely new, there’s something about that blank calendar that motivates people to seek a fresh start.
Unfortunately, without a plan, many of your well-intentioned vows will fall by the wayside before Groundhog Day, and the cycle will repeat itself. “People’s career resolutions typically fail because change is difficult, and it’s always very easy to fall back into an easy routine of doing what you’re doing,” says Kane Carpenter, director of career services for Employment BOOST, part of JMJ Phillip Group.
So how can you make this the year that you finally follow through on your New Year goals? Try these strategies for turning over a new career leaf that lasts all year and beyond.
Step 1: Pick the right resolutions
Perhaps one reason why your resolutions haven’t panned out in the past is that they weren’t realistic or right for you. Or maybe they weren’t specific enough. “Earn more money” isn’t a great resolution because it’s generic, whereas “take on new projects and get promoted” gives you an actual goal to strive for.
To determine this year’s job resolutions, try doing a SWOT analysis, says Paul Harris, managing partner with Global Recruiters Network (GRN) Blackhawk, a network of professional recruiters.
SWOT (which stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats) is an analysis that’s typically done as part of business planning, but it can be equally useful for your own career planning, Harris explains. “Do a brainstorming session on each of the four topics,” he says. “Write them down, and then prioritize them. When you’re done, your plan is pretty much staring you in the face.”
Essentially, your New Year goals should revolve around maximizing your strengths, improving on weaknesses, making a move toward opportunities, and neutralizing threats. Think about things you can do to achieve those four goals, and those will help inform what your resolutions should be.
Step 2: Work with others to set actionable goals
Once you have a very clear understanding of your resolutions, step two is coming up with an actionable game plan to achieve them—and that may involve getting input from others. For each goal, ask yourself what will be required of you, as well as who in your network could help you.
“The more stakeholders you can involve in the process, the better,” says Carpenter. That means talking through your goals with your team, your boss, mentors, career coaches, and family members. They can help you to set weekly, monthly, quarterly, and annual career goals for yourself.
Step 3: Keep yourself accountable
Sharing your resolutions with a career coach, a work buddy, or a partner is a great start, but you also need to check in regularly beyond January if you’re to keep it going. Even just having a weekly cup of coffee of call with a friend or loved one can help encourage you to continue making positive moves, says Carpenter.
Harris takes this idea a step further by literally hanging his giant goals matrix up in his office as a visual motivator that he’ll see when he sits down to start each workday. Even more effective is the fact that everyone who goes into his office can see how far along he is in terms of accomplishing his goals. “So, I feel the pressure from myself, as well as all my peers and employees,” he says. “It works to keep me focused, and it measures my progress.”
Step 4: Anticipate challenges, and revisit and revise resolutions each quarter
Not all resolutions will be accomplished by the deadline you have in mind, or go according to plan. Things happen that are beyond your control, but how you respond will impact if your plans can get back on track, or if they are permanently derailed.
Success or failure of career resolutions depends on many things, “but the number one determinant is whether or not these goals are written and reviewed regularly,” says Harris. “If they are not, then life takes over and they just never happen.”
Carpenter recommends reviewing your resolutions every few months, and giving yourself permission to make adjustments when things do go off course. As long as you allow your resolutions to have some flexibility and recognize that they don’t have to be set in stone, you won’t feel like you blew it.
Step 5: Lean on your support system as needed
Surrounding yourself with like-minded individuals, or individuals who are in positions that you desire, is a great way to push yourself to achieve a career resolution, says Carpenter. One of the easiest ways to do that is by joining professional associations and networking groups to help you stay motivated and provide you with feedback. Even better, you’ll get to return the favor by cheering on your fellow professionals as they work toward their unique career advancement goals.
Make this one improvement right now
By putting a strong support system and processes in place to continually push you toward living your resolutions, you’ll have a real shot at success.
And while you’re thinking ahead, don’t forget to pencil in time to work on your own personal branding. The New Year is a great time to update your resume and online profiles to help support your other goals, says Carpenter. “An initial investment in your resume/career documents can reap a great return with a higher salary and enhanced career prospects,” he says.
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