It’s a new year, and that means there’s no better time to take a fresh look at your career and where you want to take it in the coming twelve months. It’s easy to let the stress of the holidays and frantic pace of the holiday season overwhelm you and make you forget to think about this for several months. Maybe you aren’t in the habit of setting annual career goals at all. That is a colossal mistake! You’re missing out on an opportunity to assess your goals and get your life moving in the direction you want to go.
Reflect on the Past
It may seem a little counter-intuitive, but you can’t set goals for the future until you understand the past. You should take at least thirty minutes to sit and reflect on the things that happened in your career in 2011. It was a bumpy year for many, and you may have been taken down some unexpected paths. Did any of those new opportunities give you solid ideas about where you want to take your career? Have you gained any unique insight into a particular area of your job or field that will benefit you in the future? Most importantly, think about the things that you’re truly proud of accomplishing in the last year, and the areas where you believe you need improvement. These reflections will certainly be invaluable as you set your goals moving forward.
Take the Long View First
Maybe it’s been a while since you’ve thought about your long-term career goals. In the interim, some things may have changed. Make sure that you have a solid idea on where you’re heading before you commit to your career goals for 2012. After all, any goals for the coming year will have to reflect those long-term goals that you’re reaching for. With all the pressure on the job market, many people have changed careers or turned to new aspects of their field that they hadn’t considered before. If your long-term goals have changed recently, now is an excellent time to take stock of what you desire the future to look like for you. Making a physical list of your goals for five or ten years from now is always helpful.
Now, Focus on the Short Term
Setting your goals for the year will be so much easier now that you have completed your big picture view on where you stand and where you want to go. Take a look at the list you made of your long-term career goals. There are many steps between where your professional life is now and where you would like it to be, and you can start articulating those steps in your short-term goals. The important thing to remember about short-term goals is that they should be SMART: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound. A short-term goal must be built to get you moving; therefore, having a vague or immeasurable goal is no help at all.
With a little bit of focus, you can start 2012 off right by developing a plan that includes short term actions that match up with your long term career goals. Remember to integrate your personal and professional ambitions – does spending more time with your family conflict with your desire to impress your boss? Does going to the gym during lunch stop you from networking with co-workers? Professional goals need to be rationalized in harmony with your personal resolutions. If you can develop a holistic and practical set of goals and then stick to it, you will be many steps ahead of most – even if you feel like you’ve already fallen behind!