4 Steps to Setting Career Goals

planning your career

4 Steps to Setting Career Goals

For many of us, the start of a new year also means new goals and resolutions.  Whether your goals are financial or personal, I’ll bet many of those goals rely, at least in part, on your career health.  To that end, here are 4 Steps to setting and achieving clear career goals for 2018.

  1. Choose a Goal

Choosing the right goal from the start is critical to your overall success.  In fact, most people who desert their resolutions early on, do so because they’ve failed to identify the right goal.  So, how do you choose the goal that’s right for you?

  1. Brain Dump – Make a list of every career goal floating around in your head. Every possibility should make the list.  It doesn’t matter if the goal is to make more friends at work, be more productive, or even find a new job all together.  Any and all variety of career goals should make the list.
  2. Prioritize – The next step is to look at your list and decide which of these options would make the biggest impact in your life this year. Ask yourself, “If I could only do one of these, which would it be?”.
  3. Apply Sequence – It’s time to look at the goal you’ve chosen and make sure it is in alignment with your overall career goals. Essentially, in order to hit this goal, would you need to veer from your career path, or does this goal help support your long term career plans.
  4. Make it Specific – A goal is not a goal unless is has a specific, measurable result and a deadline. For example, “being more social at work”, is an intention, not a goal.  To make this a goal you would need to say something along the lines of, “Attend six work related social events in 2018.”

     2. Plan

Big goals can seem daunting and complicated.  The devil’s in the details and the loftier the goal, the more details there seem to be.  It’s not uncommon for people to abandon a project or goal simply because they don’t see a clear path to completion.  Maybe they’ve got a general idea or know a few steps along the way, but they don’t have an exact map.  The thing is, you don’t necessarily need to know exactly how you are going to achieve a goal, you  just need to be willing to find out.

  1. Brain Dump – Make a list of every task you know of that will need to get done in order to accomplish your goal. The order and priority don’t matter here. If you use a digital organizer or productivity tool, it should really help to make this a painless process.

Prioritize – Now it’s time to select which of these tasks is the next step. If you have no idea what the next step is, then your next step should be to research the process.

    3. Act

Finding the motivation to follow through on your tasks gets much easier once you start to see results, however it can be difficult to do starting off. Celebrating even the small wins and inching forward will help you to gain momentum as you move closer to the finish line.

  1. Minimize – If you find yourself with a rather large or time consuming task and you just can’t seem to block out the time to get it done, try breaking down the task instead. For instance, if you have tasked yourself with researching a company you may like to work for, yet you can’t seem to set aside an afternoon to get it done, try breaking up the task into smaller actions.  Assign yourself the task of reviewing their website for 20 minutes.  Once completed, task yourself with reviewing their Facebook page.  Continue to do this piece by piece, and by the end of the week, you will have completed your research.

Accountability and Reward System – Always set a deadline to a task. If you don’t schedule yourself the time to work on a task, chances are it won’t get done.  You may also consider utilizing the power of positive reinforcement.  Set up a reward system for achieving milestones or a series of tasks. You don’t have to wait to reach the final goal to start celebrating wins.

4. Optimize

Another reason many people fail to reach their career goals, is they don’t have a plan in place for making adjustments along the way.  Regardless of how much research you put in, doing something for the first time never works out as you planned.  There are always curve balls thrown at you and if you can’t adjust, you’ll find your goals slowly slipping further and further away.

  1. Review – It’s always a good idea to review your goals and progress at least once a quarter. This will help ensure you are still on track to meet your goals.
  2. Analyze – As you review your progress, look to see why you may be falling behind or getting stuck. This is a good place to adjust your timeline or goal if need be, or decide a strategy is not effective.  In some cases, you may find that  your goal is no longer relevant.  If there is a significant change in your career or an unexpected opportunity, you will want to take some time to consider whether or not the goal you’ve identified is still the priority.
  3. Adjust – If you find your strategy is not as effective as you’d hoped, now is the time to switch gears and try a new approach. It’s a great time to entertain new ideas like getting help in the form of a class, mentor, coach, or even agency.  Think outside the box and draw up a new game plan.  This is also a good time to identify things that are working well for you and can be replicated for other goals you might have.

4 Steps to setting career goals is more critical than you may realize, and many people don’t take the time needed to plan long term and bounce from job to job. By having 4 steps to setting career goals you have a simple, yet important tool to help you succeed long term.

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