2015It’s that time of year: soon, we’ll see a stream of articles related to New Year’s career resolutions – and I thought I might as well jump on the bandwagon with my own contribution.

However, I thought I’d take a slightly different perspective and look at ways of creating New Year’s career resolutions that we’ll actually stick to, because most of us fail miserably in this regard, according to research by the University of Scranton. The study found that although 45 percent of people make resolutions, just 8 percent of us are successful in achieving our resolutions. Twenty-five percent of New Year’s resolutions don’t last a week, and 36 percent of them are blown within one month.

Now, this doesn’t mean that we should abandon New Year’s resolutions: the study showed that people who explicitly make resolutions are 10 times more likely to reach their goals than those folks who don’t make resolutions. This means that, if done well, the New Year’s resolution process can be an effective motivational and personal/career development tool.

So, what can be done to help you set New Year’s career resolutions that you are actually going to keep? I’ve set out some tips below:

1. Set SMART Goals

The best way to set goals is by using the SMART method, which means making sure that your goals are: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Time-bounded. “Getting out of a dead-end job” is too vague a goal and can easily be brushed under the carpet. Instead, say something like “Be in a new, fulfilling, job/career within six months.” Research from Quirkology into New Year’s resolutions supports this approach, as it shows people (men in particular) were more likely to succeed in achieving their goals if they set SMART goals.

2. If Necessary, Break Your Resolution Down into Sub-Goals

Of course, a resolution like “getting out of a dead-end job” may require the achievement of several sub-goals , such as identifying suitable careers, identifying skill gaps, addressing skill gaps, and applying to new jobs. So, I’d recommend breaking down broader New Year’s resolutions into 2-4 easily memorized SMART goals to help give you momentum.

3. Tell Others about Your Resolution

The Quirkology study found that women in particular were more successful in achieving New Year’s resolutions when they told their friends and family and received ongoing encouragement. So, female job seekers especially might want to tell others about their New Year’s career resolutions to increase their chances of achieving them.

4. Reward Yourself for Achieving Goals

The Quirkology study also found that men in particular had more success in achieving goals when they focused on the potential rewards of reaching their goals. A carrot works better than a stick, and so I’d recommend that male job seekers in particular take time to identify the specific benefits that will come from achieving their resolutions — and any sub-goals, as mentioned in tip No. 2 — for motivational effect. I would go as far to add rewards for yourself to the plan, too, such as a big steak or a night out. Use whatever you consider a treat to incentivize you to hit those goals and sub-goals.

And finally, try not to make too many New Year’s resolutions, as you can become overwhelmed and lose focus and motivation, increasingly the likelihood of failing to meet your objective. Also, because a third of people break their resolutions in the first month, set an immovable goal in the first and second month of the year, such as signing up for a relevant training course, attending a specific career seminar, or applying for a job.

Anyway, I’d love to hear what tips and tools you use to help yourself set and achieve your New Year’s career resolutions!

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