In every industry and field, professionals go through the process of setting goals each year. It can be tedious and time consuming, but this exercise isn’t just busywork. It’s an important part of the process of linking what you do day-to-day to what your employer is trying to accomplish as an organization.
“Goal setting gives you a sense of purpose, direction and motivation to follow through with your daily tasks,” says Cathy Francois, assistant director of career programming for UMUC’s Career Services in the Office of Institutional Advancement. “They also help provide clear expectations between you and your manager and transparency to ensure you are the right track.”
With the new year ahead, now is a great time to set goals at work that will get you noticed by your boss and help you get ahead in your career.
Setting the stage
Before you dive in, it’s time to do a little research. Learn more about what your organization is trying to accomplish, and determine where you fit into this bigger picture.
“It’s important to know and understand the overarching goals and values for your organization and your team,” says Francois. “If your goals do not align with the mission of the organization—or if they undermine it—it might be time to reassess them.”
Also, sometime your compensation is linked to the goals you set, so make sure you have a clear understanding of your organization’s compensation structure. This will help ensure you set goals that will not only benefit your company but will benefit your bottom line, as well.
The DNA of a strong goal
Not all goals are created equal. Experts recommend setting goals that are SMART.
“SMART stands for specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound,” explains Francois.
Specific goals contain details about what exactly you want to accomplish. While “Improving my efficiency” is vague, “Establishing a process to collect and analyze data within three days” is an example of a specific goal. That’s because the goal contains an explanation of what it means to be efficient.
Likewise, “Completing more reports each week” is too ambiguous. To make this measurable, it’s important to quantify what you want to achieve. A better version of this goal would be “Completing 20 or more reports each week.”
It’s also important for goals to be achievable. You don’t want to position yourself for failure by setting impossible-to-attain targets for yourself. Strong goals should push you to learn, grow and challenge yourself, but they should be within reach.
In addition, your goals should be relevant to the direction of the organization and your department, and they should have an expiration date.
“Goals should be time bound and not open ended,” stresses Francois. “Give yourself a realistic amount of time to accomplish them, and spell this out when you write your goals. This will help you stay on track to succeed.”
Staying the course
Often—think New Year’s resolutions—enthusiasm for goals may fizzle out over time. To prevent this from happening, it’s important to collaborate with your manager, who can be a valuable partner in achieving your goals.
“Together, you can develop a plan of action to see it through,” advises Francois. “Break down your long-term goals into monthly and quarterly goals, and have regular check-ins with your boss to evaluate your progress.”
By checking your progress regularly, you can identify any obstacles early in the process. This give you time to adjust your approach, if necessary, to ensure you can successfully achieve your goals.
Taking the time and effort to set—and attain—strong goals benefits both your company and your career.
“Doing so provides you with a track record of success you can refer to when revising your resume or LinkedIn profile,” notes Francois. “It can also provide you with a reference point to make a strong case to negotiate for a raise or promotion.” And that makes the process all worth it.