January is a big month for setting both personal and career goals. Unfortunately, a lot of times these ambitions and resolutions don’t last. Nobody has ever set a goal with the intention of abandoning it half way through, yet so often that’s what happens. In this article we’re going to talk about a few different tricks to help you stick to your career goals over the next 12 months, so they don’t get left behind in the dust!
The benefit of being a job seeker is that you probably have a career goal in mind; you may be looking to change industries or move horizontally in a company, or maybe you want a promotion? While you may not know what steps to take to get you there, you have some idea of what it is you want to do.
For some people, it helps to start with your big-picture goal. If you are a planner, this method will work well for you. Picture the job you want to retire from and imagine how that looks. Don’t spend too much time worrying about if things will change for you in the future, just think about right now, where you’d like to be. Are you running your own business? C-Level Executive? Maybe you are a technical expert in your industry. It could be that your goal is to be in a comfortable position that allows you the flexibility to focus on other priorities in your life. Whatever that goal is, envision your future self in that role. It’s okay if it seems far away or overly ambitious, but don’t let that overwhelm you.
The big picture method allows you to set long, mid and short-term goals to help you achieve the ultimate goal. By working backward, you’ll be able to identify more tangible things that you can do to move towards that outcome. The long-term goals you set should look at what you need to accomplish in the next ten years to make progress towards the big goal. From there, you can set two-to-five mid-term goals and dive deeper to set up goals for the next six months to a year. Ask yourself what three to five things can you achieve in the next year to help you accomplish those mid-term goals.
Still deciding what you want to be?
If the thought of trying to picture yourself at the end of your career terrifies you, that’s fine. It’s not uncommon for people to change jobs, industries or career paths multiple times in their life. Instead, focus on the next two to five years of your career. Are you a recent graduate looking to break into a field? Maybe you just feel stuck where you’re at and want to move forward. Imagine what that looks like and set some mid-range goals around those ideas. Then build some more tangible shorter term goals to help you get there.
Your short-term career goals are where you want to focus most of your attention. These are the things you can accomplish this year to move your career forward. One way to help develop these goals is to use the SMART goal methodology. SMART goals are:
When your goals encompass these components, they become much more actionable. Phrasing your goals in this way gives you a solid plan on how to approach and move forward to accomplish them.
It’s important to think of your goals as living documents. It’s okay to be flexible and make updates to your goals as your priorities change. If you find that you want to change directions mid-way through, just revisit your goals to make adjustments or replace them with your new targets.
Write down career goals
It’s not enough to just come up with career goals at a major transition point in your life. After you’ve gone through all of the work of coming up with SMART goals, don’t hide them away in the corner of your mind or desk drawer. Just by writing the goals down, you’re more likely to achieve them. A psychology study by Dr. Gail Matthews out of the Dominican University of California found that students who wrote down their goals and provided weekly status to accountability buddies were much more likely to achieve them. While only 43% of students who simply wrote down their goals had either accomplished or were over half way to achieving them, 76% of the students providing the updates had either accomplished or had made significant progress towards completion.
About the author: Amie Thompson is the founder of Sound Interview Professionals. She started the company after receiving lots of requests for help with resumes, holding practice interview sessions and career coaching. Amie has more than 12 years of HR experience and has partnered with hiring managers from engineering to hospitality. To get in touch with Amie email firstname.lastname@example.org, follow her on Twitter @Soundinterview, or connect on LinkedIn. Also, be sure to check out Amie’s blog for tips on resumes, interviews, salary negotiations, legal updates and strategies for the workplace! Finally, click here for our most recent interview with her!