Set Your Post-Pandemic Career Goals for 2021

Goodbye, 2020! With the year of the pandemic coming to a close and a vaccine on the horizon, we’re looking toward 2021 with optimism. In order to take advantage of the career opportunities the new year may bring, it’s important to have a clear idea of what you’d like to accomplish.

“Just like you should do any year, set goals for yourself for 2021,” says Dr. Francine Blume, UMGC’s assistant vice president of Career Development in the Office of Institutional Advancement. “The pandemic may have changed your professional trajectory this year, and now is a great time to reflect on what happened and what you want to do differently moving forward.”

Here’s how to hit the reset button and set career-boosting goals for a successful 2021.

Get back on track

If you lost your footing in 2020, that’s OK.

“Many people found themselves unemployed or underemployed thanks to the pandemic,” explains Dr. Blume. “As you begin to set your goals, think about the lessons you learned in 2020 and how you can apply them to your future.”

Then, get busy. Ask yourself what you want to do. If you’re currently in a position you enjoy, research your organization’s objectives and how you can make meaningful contributions in the effort to reach them.

“If you want to move ahead at your company, make sure your goals align with the mission of the organization” says Dr. Blume. “If they don’t, you might consider looking for a job at another company that shares your values and vision.”

If you find yourself in a job just to make ends meet, take the time to think through where you’d really like to see yourself so you can make a plan to get there.

Trust the basics

While this year has been unlike any other, the basics of effective goal setting haven’t changed.

In order for your 2021 goals to stand the test of time, they’ve got to be well thought out and constructed. One tried-and-true framework is to set goals that are SMART, which stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time bound.

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.

“It’s also important to make sure your goals are achievable,” notes Dr. Blume. “Position yourself for success by setting attainable goals, which will motivate you to grow, develop and feel positive along the way.”

When you set your goals, make sure they are aligned with the direction of your organization, department or your career aspirations, and be sure to set a date by which they should be completed.

“Goals should have a deadline,” explains Dr. Blume. “This helps you evaluate your progress and stay on track to achieve what you want to get ahead in your career. If you don’t reach your goal on time, it’s OK to reassess the situation and set a new goal.”

Keep your eye on the prize

It can be easy to forget about long-term goals when you’re busy with day-to-day tasks or working remotely thanks to the pandemic, but don’t lose sight of them.

“I find that it’s helpful to post my goals in a place where I can see them regularly, whether I’m at home or in the office,” says Dr. Blume. “This helps me keep them at the forefront of my thoughts and maintain my enthusiasm.”

Dr. Blume also advises collaborating with colleagues, mentors or friends on your goals. Then, check in regularly with them to discuss how things are going. This will help you remain accountable to yourself for your progress over the long haul.

“Make sure to create an action plan for your goals, too,” suggests Dr. Blume. “Break them down into smaller goals with milestones to reach each month or quarter. This can help you tackle bigger goals without feeling overwhelmed.”

When you put in the work and effort to set solid goals and the discipline to work toward them over the long haul, you can benefit both your company and your career no matter what life throws your way.

“One important lesson from 2020 is to be flexible—in our lives and in our careers,” says Dr. Blume. “Set goals for yourself, but remain open to the detours that may reveal themselves. You never know where they may take you.”