If your company does annual reviews, you’ve probably already set your goals for the coming year, or are just about to finalize them. But, while this process can help your career at your current employer, it’s not the end-all, be-all of goal-setting.
The median employee tenure hovers around four years, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That means that you have to think beyond your current job, in order to maximize your chances at professional success. Creating some goals for your own career growth will help you set yourself up for a better 2018.
1. Set Aside Dedicated Time
John Manning, president of MAP Consulting, suggests dedicating some time to reviewing your professional development plan. (Or creating one, if you’re starting from scratch: their site offers a free template to help you get started.)
“Identify when you’re going to do this, where you’ll be most productive, and what resources you’ll need to be successful,” he writes. “Then make sure to clear your calendar, eliminate the opportunity for distractions, and put the date and place in your books. Simply writing it down supports intention. Then you need to show up just like you would for any other meeting—be professional, prepared and ready to work.”
2. Review Your Accomplishments and Shortcomings
There’s no better time to engage in this process than right now, when your achievements (and failures) are still fresh in your mind from your performance review. Think about what you’ve accomplished this year, both in terms of your goals at work and your larger professional goals. Did you do everything you hoped to do this year? What were your biggest wins and losses? What would you do differently, if you had to do it all over again?
3. Think About What Motivates You
What inspires you to do your best work? Off the top of your head, you might say, “Money.” But while you might not be willing to work for free, research shows that meaningful work is driven more by intrinsic rather than extrinsic factors.
“Intrinsic motivation–or deep internal motivation–is much richer,” writes researcher Tom Rath in Are You Fully Charged? (excerpted at Fast Company). “For example, consider a teacher who is inspired by the growth of a student or a doctor who is driven by improving health. Intrinsic motivation stems from the meaningfulness of the work you do. You are driven by what you yearn to do even if there is no reward or compensation.”
Make a list of what motivates you to do your best work.
4. Set Some Goals
What do you hope to accomplish in the coming year – gain a promotion or a raise, learn specific skills, get experience working with a team or on a project? Write it all down. Don’t be afraid to think big — or small. Taking a weekend seminar in negotiation techniques might be more important for your career right now than embarking on a degree program. It all depends on where you are and what you want to achieve.
The acronym SMART can help you set clear, actionable goals:
- Time specific
“Professor [Robert] Rubin also notes that the definition of the SMART acronym may need updating to reflect the importance of efficacy and feedback,” writes the Mind Tools content team. “However, some authors have expanded it to include extra focus areas; SMARTER, for example, includes Evaluated and Reviewed.”
5. Look at What Stands in Your Way
What’s preventing you from achieving these goals right now? Again, your official review might be helpful. For example, your boss may have indicated that you need more experience or different skills in order to move up to the next level.
Or you might already know what’s standing in your way. If you’ve never negotiated salary — and our survey shows that 57 percent of people haven’t — your reluctance is the major obstacle. Seventy-five percent of respondents who asked for a raise received a pay increase. Learning some new negotiating skills could help.
75% of those who asked for a raise received a pay increase. Should you ask for more money this year?
6. Set Benchmarks
Remember that second letter in SMART: M is for “measurable.” If you can’t measure achievement, you won’t know if you’ve met your goals. What does success look like to you, for each of your goals? Be as specific as possible.
7. Find Support
As anyone who’s ever been on a diet can tell you, it’s easier to stay motivated when you have a team. Build your own personal board of directors to help you stay on track … and regroup when you lose your way.
Tell Us What You Think
What do you hope to accomplish in the coming year? We want to hear from you. Share your thoughts in the comments or join the conversation on Twitter.