When did you last set aside time to consider what you want out of your career? Last month? Last year? Never? With the new year approaching, now is the time to take stock of your career. If you’re lucky enough to have a boss who’s invested in your success, maybe she will raise this topic with you at a one-on-one or during your next performance review. But why wait? As the “owner” of your career, set aside some time to reflect and plan for what’s next.
Moving your career forward requires a combination of thought, analysis, and action. To own your career journey, consider taking the following steps:
1. Reflect on your professional life.
Be as introspective about your professional life as you are about your personal life. Make an honest appraisal of your successes, mistakes, and what you really want out of your career. After all, the first step to getting what we want is figuring out what that is.
If it’s hard to know where to start, ask and answer a few specific questions about your job satisfaction, professional skills, and passions:
Using the insight you gain from your reflections, you’ll gain a greater understanding of your potential and purpose. That might help you decide whether you want to update your personal brand, make an internal move, switch jobs, or even change industries.
2. Set SMART goals.
With increased clarity about who you are and what you want professionally, it’s time to think about where you want to go. Start mapping out some career goals using your answers to those reflection questions. If you feel stuck or just want some outside support, this could be a great opportunity to talk to your boss, a mentor, or another trusted professional who knows you well.
To set challenging yet achievable goals, use the S.M.A.R.T. framework. S.M.A.R.T goals help to ensure you stay focused as you work towards your goals because they are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound. For example, if your goal is to build your professional network, you might set a S.M.A.R.T. goal of connecting with three data analytics professionals on LinkedIn and scheduling informational interviews with each one in the next six weeks.
Once you set your S.M.A.R.T. goals, consider sharing them with an accountability buddy. This can be someone on your team, a friend, or mentor—anyone you trust and who is rooting for your success. Updating your accountability buddy on your progress regularly can help you maintain momentum. Plus, they can encourage you to keep going if you ever feel discouraged.
3. Align your intentions with your goals.
To increase the likelihood of achieving your goals, set intentions that align with them. While goals focus on the future, intentions focus on the present and how you want to feel or what you aspire to be in the current moment. Intentions support goals from the inside out and provide a deeper level of introspection to help you grow as a person along the way to achieving your goals.
Start the intention-setting process by thinking about your goal. Maybe you’re seeking better work-life balance by logging off for the night at 5:30 pm. Think about how you’ll feel after accomplishing that goal. More present? Relaxed? Energized? You can use those feelings to guide you and help you stay focused through challenging situations.
Pro Tip: Stay flexible and celebrate the small wins! If life happens and you get off track, don’t give up! Try not to be hard on yourself for circumstances out of your control: you can adapt and shift your target while still making progress. Also, take time to celebrate progress you make towards your goal, no matter how small. It’s a great way to keep your confidence high and stay motivated!
No one should care more about your career than you do. Spending time reflecting and setting intentions and goals will put you in the driver’s seat of your own career. If you want support managing your career, contact us to learn more about our Career Management in a Changing World session.