3 Step Guide for Setting Career Goals

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January is a popular time of year for resolutions. Perhaps you are reflecting on the mistakes you made last year, perhaps you’d like to put yourself on track for a promotion in 2013, perhaps you’d like to start a business from home and free yourself from the corporate slog.

Whatever your objective for the new year, it’s extremely important to develop a clear strategy for bringing that objective into realization – a tangible, step-by-step plan to take you from where you are to the place you want to be.

 STEP ONE: Set small goals you can check off a list.

Setting smaller goals not only helps you to refine your objectives and visualize your path to success but also gives you the added benefit of being able to pat yourself on the back at regular intervals, keeping you pumped and excited about future checkmarks.

For example, rather than giving yourself a loose guideline like, “Do more networking,” try something concrete such as, “Attend one networking event per month, make three cold calls every morning and connect with three new people on LinkedIn.”

Rather than “Beef up my social networks,” how about, “Develop one piece of compelling content per week or send a personal message/letter of introduction to the director of Company X before the month is out.”

 STEP TWO: Make yourself accountable.

Start by setting a timeframe. Without a deadline you open yourself to the option of procrastination.  Make it realistic but not overly ambitious: your personal life is important too.

Make your family and friends your personal cheerleading squad by discussing your activities or posting your checklist for all the world to see. We often hesitate to discuss our deepest aspirations with our loved ones since, by our own crazy logic, we may feel the disappointment will be amplified in case of failure. Put yourself out there.  It’ll be worth it to have the extra support.

Do you know someone who is working toward similar goals? Have a strategy session and put your money where your mouth is. Set up a penalty jar: Whoever misses a deadline puts $x in the jar and whoever beats a deadline or reaches a goal first gets to keep the pot.  Get creative.

STEP THREE: Review and revise your goal list.

Chris Guillebeau, author of The $100 Startup, recommends you go beyond the basic bucket list by keeping three lists: one-year goals, five-year goals, and long-term life goals.  Your one-year list can be revised once per year, accounting for any accomplishments or changes of direction. Once per year you might also revise your five-year and long-term lists, moving certain objectives to different lists as they become more achievable.

Certainly there are also those hard-to-put-on-a-checklist goals that are also important. How do you want to feel when you wake up in the morning? How would you like to produce work that is inspirational in some way or serves some sort of greater purpose? These are the types of goals that should be on your mind everyday. Make a list. Frame it. Put in on your desk or hang it on your fridge where you’ll see it every day.

Whatever your objective, only action will take you there. You can only climb a ladder one rung at a time. You can stand on the ground philosophizing all you like, the sky will not come to you. Grab a rung and start climbing.

About the Author: Amy Knapp is a career advisor at InsideTrak, where she writes about all things essential to creating more bliss in life and career.

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