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Set smart goals at work to get on the path to success

Make a name (and a better salary) for yourself by racking up achievements. This is how to put your sights on key targets and hit the bull’s-eye every time.

Set smart goals at work to get on the path to success

Want to be known as a rising star at your new company and put the wheels in motion for a raise? Of course you do! The most effective way to do that is to be the kind of employee who sets smart goals and exceeds them. That way, you’ll not only earn a solid reputation, you’ll also have ample justification for requesting a boost in pay when it comes time for performance reviews.

Setting goals is scientifically proven to improve outcomes; in fact, employees who wrote down their goals “accomplished significantly more than those who had unwritten goals,” according to a study from Dominican University.

But how do you figure out where to focus your energy? Monster spoke with career experts about how to determine which goals to go after, how to best achieve those goals, and how to use your wins to advance your career. Time to get things done.

Set your sights

In the first days and weeks of your job, you might feel like you don’t exactly know what your goals are. After all, you’re the new kid. That’s totally fine. Your manager is there to help direct you and likely has a laundry list of what they’d like you to accomplish. However, you should do a little preparing so you can add your (valuable!) two cents to the conversation.

First, review your job description. Generally, your duties will be highlighted there in order of importance, and you’ll likely be evaluated on your performance in those key areas.

“By doing your homework on your new position,” says Brad Stultz, human resources coordinator at Totally Promotional, an online manufacturer in Coldwater, Ohio, “you’ll have a good understanding of what you are being asked to do, which allows you to construct feasible and attainable goals.”

For example, let’s say one of your responsibilities is to report the company’s website traffic on a monthly basis. You’ll want to work with your boss to come up with key performance indicators (KPIs) to measure the site’s (and your) performance. You would then suggest a goal (increase website traffic) and corresponding KPIs (increase organic traffic and social media shares by 10% month over month).

Once you propose goals and KPIs to your manager, ask questions to make sure you understand how best to accomplish them. These can include:

  • How do you advise I go about tackling this? Is there a process already in place, or am I to research and implement additional strategies?
  • Is one goal more important than another, or do they have equal value?
  • How often will we be checking in on my progress?

Last, make sure you set deadlines for your goals. This can definitely be something you ask your manager about, too. Settling deadlines will not only hold you accountable, but it will prove to your boss you’re serious about working hard and delivering results.

Create an action plan

In a professional world that’s dominated by meetings, you need to keep your goals front of mind all the time, otherwise you risk losing sight of them.

“Write [your goals] down on paper, and put it in a place where you see it regularly,” says Laine Schmidt, a professional development coach. You might need to set aside time each day that’s solely dedicated to completing tasks that will get you closer to achieving your goals. “Put reminders in your phone to alert you,” suggests Schmidt. At the end of the workday, assess your progress and plan for tomorrow.

“Fifteen minutes before you leave the office, set the next day’s tasks,” suggests Michael Provitera, president of Motivational Leadership Training, located in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. That way, you’re strategically setting yourself up for success.

Get a little help from your friends (and your manager)

Ultimately, you are responsible for accomplishing your goals, but that doesn’t mean you can’t call for reinforcements.

Being accountable to someone can help keep you on track. Ask co-workers if they wouldn’t mind emailing you a few times per month to check on your progress, and offer to do the same for them.

Need additional backup? “Ask a friend—someone outside of your workplace—to check in on you weekly,” advises Schmidt.

Another great way to help ensure you hit each mile marker is to hold yourself accountable to your manager. “I always recommend that every employee send their manager an email at the end of each week with what you accomplished that week, what you plan to do next week, and any issues or risks your manager should be aware of,” says Jennifer Braganza, a business coach at Exponential Success, a career-coaching firm based in Pineville, North Carolina. “Doing this creates accountability for you but also gives your manager visibility into what you’re doing.”

Use your successes to boost your standing

Track your progress, not only to keep yourself organized, but also to help build a case for a promotion or a raise—or at the very least, get the conversation started.

“Keep a notebook of the goals you have set and how you developed and followed a plan of action to accomplish them,” says Stultz. Gather any information that demonstrates the success of your achievements. “Share this information during your performance review. This shows initiative and a level of organization that most supervisors will appreciate.”

However, if your boss isn't quick to acknowledge all you've achieved, and says it'll be a while before a raise comes your way, it's time to look for a new job on Monster. There are plenty of employers who will recognize—and reward—your efforts.

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