The pandemic may have derailed some of your personal plans over the past two years, but it doesn’t have to set your career aspirations off course.
Many employers can’t find enough qualified candidates to fill their open positions. Employees are also leaving their jobs in record numbers as their priorities and needs have changed. This means now is a great time to prepare yourself to meet any new and exciting job opportunities you may encounter in the year ahead in the evolving labor market.
“You need to actively manage your career, and it’s really important to pause once or twice each year to evaluate your career progression against your career goals,” says Cathy Francois, UMGC’s Assistant Director of Career Programming. “Setting clear goals for yourself is an absolutely essential part of this process.”
Here are some tips on how to give your career goals a refresh so you’ve got a clear road map for success in 2022.
Take control of your career
If you haven’t revisited your career goals in a while, you’re not alone. Life has been universally hectic. Instead of letting the months and years continue to slip by unexamined, make the decision to take control of your career.
“Block off some time on your calendar to put some serious thought into where you are in your career and where you’d like to be in the short- and long-term,” advises Francois.
If you already have written career goals, examine them with an open mind, and ask yourself some tough questions. Have you met any of your goals? If you haven’t, why not? Have your priorities changed? Have your dreams evolved? Be honest with yourself as you figure out where you want to be.
If you’re creating career goals for yourself for the first time, it’s important to them down in writing. 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 advance at your company, capture what your next career move should be. If you’re seeking a promotion, what qualifications do you need to gain to get there?” says Francois. “If your current employer doesn’t have opportunities for you to advance, who does? And how are you going to break into that company?”
Goal setting is easy if you follow the tried-and-true method of setting goals that are SMART, or Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time bound.
Specific goals contain details about what exactly you want to accomplish. While “Expanding your customer base” is vague, “Converting 20 percent of your leads into opportunities” is an example of a specific goal. That’s because the goal explains what you’re actually going to do to get more customers. The second goals is also measurable, as it quantifies what you’re working to achieve.
You also want to make sure your goals are actually attainable.
“If your goal is simply to get a promotion, you might not be able to achieve that in just one step,” notes Francois.
You may need to set smaller goals that are relevant to your desired outcome. These will help prepare you to meet the larger goal. For example, you might need to earn a master’s degree or gain more management experience to qualify for the promotion you want.
“As yourself how you can break down your larger goals into baby steps,” adds Francois. “Then, when you revisit your goals throughout the year, you can easily determine if you’ve made the progress you want to make. If you’re not tracking to your plan, it’s perfectly fine to adjust your timeline. Your plans should be fluid.”
Whatever your goals are, they should also have a deadline.
Hold yourself accountable
Work and life are busy. If your goals are out of sight and out of mind, it’s easy to forget about them. There are some simple things you can do to ensure that doesn’t happen. First, find a conspicuous place to post your goals, whether it’s on a bulletin board in your office or on the screensaver on your computer. This way you’ll be reminded to stay on track every time you see them.
It’s also important to create a plan to support your progress. It can be as simple as a checklist of tasks and milestones jotted down in a journal or as elaborate as a more formal strategy document. As long as you document a blueprint for how to reach your goals, it doesn’t matter how you do it. Then, refer to it often.
“At the beginning of each year, schedule time with yourself once a quarter to review your goals,” says Francois. “When you know you’re going to have to answer to yourself, you’ll be more likely to stay focused.
Positive peer pressure can also help you stay on track. You can share your goals with an accountability team of friends, family members, colleagues and mentors and discuss your progress with them along the way. This kind of informal support can help you stay motivated over the long haul or when you encounter bumps in the road.
While the road to success may seem like a long and winding one, you’ll reap the benefits of setting goals and staying the course.
“Just like with any journey, you’re bound to encounter unexpected setbacks and delightful surprises,” says Francois. “It’s important to have goals, but it’s just as important to remain open to where the road takes you.”