The start of a new year brings with it the sense of new beginnings, becoming a popular time for many to reflect on what changes they want to make both personally and professionally and the goals they wish to set themselves for the year ahead.
For many, 2020 became a graveyard for well-intentioned plans due to the pandemic; holidays were cancelled, career transitions were put on hold and sudden changes forced many to re-prioritise their goals. While we aren’t out of the woods yet, Australia and New Zealand’s job market is bouncing back and skills are in demand, which makes the beginning of 2021 a great opportunity to revisit some of your previous career goals put on hold or set yourself some new ones.
The risk with setting new year’s resolutions however, is setting resolutions that strike the balance between being challenging while still achievable; if a goal isn’t challenging enough, it won’t push you or accelerate your learning and skill set while if a goal is too challenging you run the risk of loosing motivation and giving up, which can instill a sense of failure.
According to career and professional development consultant Dr Wendy Broad, the key in setting resolutions that you’ll stick to and further you career development, lies in the planning. We list some steps to help plan out your career resolutions for 2021 below:
1. Assessing where you are and where you want to go
Before you can start setting goals or resolutions for the new year, it’s important to take stock of where you are currently; what do you like about your current situation and is there anything you wish to change? Take some time to consider whether your current work life matches your aspirations, needs and lifestyle. For example, asking yourself questions like, would you prefer to work part-time to focus on family commitments or other extracurricular projects? Are you passionate about the work you perform in your current job? Are there any skills you want to learn or develop further?
If you’ve established that there are some things you’d like to change or improve on, the next step becomes identifying what final result you’d like to achieve or point you’d like to reach; gaining a promotion or a higher qualification, being able to lead a project team of 12 etc. If you’re having trouble envisioning your end-goal, Dr Wendy Broad recommends filling out a career focus guide or questionnaire to help decide what is important to you and ensure you’ve considered all potential possibilities. These types of questionnaires will ask things like, what would you do if you couldn’t fail? What energises you? Do you use your strengths and talents at work or does your life have a sense of purpose? These questions will help you to shape your thoughts and ideas and identify your priorities, things like stability, professional development or a positive work culture.
Furthermore, research has shown that the more emotionally invested or passionate a person is about a goal or reaching a particular milestone, the greater their commitment will be in achieving it. Which is why taking the time to evaluate what’s important to you and what you value in your career is beneficial. It’s also important to remember that everyone’s values are different and can change over time. For example, working for an international company which requires consistent travel might have been important to you when you were younger, but is no longer a priority now you have a young family, or even an achievable requirement in the current environment. So -revisiting these questions regularly, particularly if you’re feeling a little lost or aimless in your current job- is a great way to refocus on your professional aspirations.
2. Plan how to get there
Once you’ve identified your career goals, you need to determine firstly, if you can achieve them and then the strategy you’ll take to achieve them.
According to Bill Barnett the lead in Strategy Practice at global consulting firm McKinsey & Company, when developing your career plan it’s important to do your research, particularly if your plan involves trying to break into a new industry, changing jobs or even starting a new business. There is no point in getting excited about a new resolution and committing to it, before realising it won’t be feasible. For example, if you’ve identified you’ve always had a passion for cooking and want to transition into the food industry but have no current work experience in this area, getting a job in a restaurant or food company might not be easy to achieve right off the bat. However, after doing some initial research, you might discover that by first completing some training courses you become more employable. Consequently, setting a resolution to enroll in and complete some culinary training courses might be a more effective first step.
Researching into things like current market trends, workloads, job criteria and requirements can become a very effective tool in achieving your overall resolutions.
A second factor in developing your resolution strategy is breaking a key resolution or goal up into smaller, practical tasks. These steps should follow the SMART criteria; steps which are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-Based. SMART criteria is important in goal-setting as it highlights exactly what you will do, and specifies a clear, tangible outcome within a set time frame. Each task needs to be something that you are willing and able to do, as well as being relevant to your overall resolutions or goals.
To help ensure your steps are SMART, you can ask yourself the following questions:
S: have you identified a clear outcome that you want to achieve?
M: how will you know when you’ve achieved your task? What will this look like?
A: will the outcome be feasible to achieve within your time-frame? Are you motivated to achieve it?
R: how relevant are these steps to achieving your over-arching goal or resolution?
T: when will you complete this task by?
An example of this could be as follows:
Overall resolution: be promoted from a junior project manager role to a senior project manager role within the next two years.
SMART steps/goals: To firstly discuss your overall career goal with your manager by June 30 to establish the feasibility of your goal and then secondly to identify and agree on a set of personal and professional development targets by August 31 to enable your career progression.
To learn more about the importance of incorporating SMART criteria into your goal-setting, you can read Design & Build’s blog on SMART goals here.
3. Take action
Once you’ve ensured that your resolutions have SMART criteria attached, you can then launch your strategy into action. Dr Wendy Broad suggests the following tips, to help you stay on track as you work towards resolutions throughout the year:
Make lists or use reminders- making to-do lists can be a useful tool in progressing through the stages of your set goals, as they enable you to have a real sense of progress each time you tick off an item. Alternatively, you can also try sending yourself a reminder in the form of a text message to kick-start your momentum.
Build a support network- involving others in action planning can increase the chances of successful completion. Identify friends, family, or a mentor who can support you and help you to stay focused.
Brainstorming is your friend- procrastination can get the better of us all, so if this applies to you, try brainstorming what to do next. Just write down anything and everything that comes to mind in relation to your goal, without being judgemental. Then order the relevant items according to what is important. This can break any writers block and get you started, even if things change later on.
Celebrate the small wins- Being able to regularly celebrate and reward yourself when you make progress or achieve a key milestone can help motivate you as these small wins will provide a sense of accomplishment and confidence.
Resolutions can be hard to keep. Especially as the year goes on, our workloads intensify and our free time diminishes. However, by taking the time to carefully consider the things you want to achieve for the year and mapping out a clear strategy on the steps you’ll need to take to reach these goals, you can be that much more effective in achieving them.