With the New Year comes a new opportunity to get ahead in your career. The tried-and-true way to do just that? Set goals.
“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 UMGC’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.”
If you’d like to advance in your career in 2020, there’s no better time than the present to set professional goals for yourself—along with a plan on how to achieve them. Here’s how to put the focus on what you’d like to accomplish so you set yourself up for a successful year.
Focus on: A solid foundation
It’s important to get the lay of the land before you get started. Take the time to research your organization’s objectives and how you can make meaningful contributions in the effort to reach them.
“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.”
If your compensation package is tied to your professional goals, it’s also critical to have a clear understanding of your organization’s compensation structure and what it will take to cash in on your success. This will help ensure you set goals that will not only benefit your company but will benefit your bank account, too.
Focus on: Developing SMART goals
In order for your 2020 goals to stand the test of time, they’ve got to be well thought out and constructed. One method Francois recommends is to set goals that are SMART.
“SMART stands for specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time bound,” explains Francois.
Specific goals contain details about what precisely you want to accomplish. While “Increasing sales” is vague, “Increasing net revenue by 10 percent year over year” is an example of a specific goal. That’s because the goal explains exactly which criteria the sales increase needs to meet. The second goals is also measurable, as it quantifies what you’re working to achieve.
Your goals should also be achievable. You don’t want to position yourself for failure by setting impossible-to-attain targets for yourself. Strong goals should motivate you to grow, develop and push yourself, but they should be within your reach.
When you set your goals, make sure they are aligned with the direction of your organization and department, and be sure to set a date by which they should be completed.
“Goals should be time bound and not open ended,” notes 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.”
Focus on: Staying motivated over the long haul
Over time, your initial enthusiasm for your goals may fade as work and life take over. Your day-to-day projects may sometimes trump your long-term goals, but it’s important not to lose sight of them. After all, you made them with success in mind.
To stay motivated as the months pass, consider collaborating with your manager or career mentor, both of whom can be valuable partners in helping you achieve your goals.
“Together, you can develop a plan of action to see it through,” suggests 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 challenges along the way and course correct, where needed. By being flexible and nimble during the process, you increase your chances of meeting—or exceeding—your goals.
When you put in the work and effort to set strong goals and the discipline to work toward them over the long haul, you can benefit 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,” says 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.