You, Inc.: Setting goals throughout your career is the key to job success

dreamboat.jpgEven for those who stoically resist resolutions, January is by nature a time to reflect on the past year and dream a few dreams for the new one; a January marking a fresh new decade is even more compelling.

So don’t resist the urge to assess and reassess. As one of our friends frequently says, “If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will take you there.” Whether you are at mid-career or near retirement, the key to success is as simple as knowing where you WANT to go; the great by-product of assessment and goal-setting is that it is also the source of happiness – in life, not just your work life.

There is no doubt that 2009 was a challenging year for many. The good news is that many economic indicators are showing that recovery is underway. Whether you are seeking to take advantage of this recovery in order to progress within your current place of employment, embrace a new opportunity, start your own business or achieve more work/life balance you will need to ask yourself some key questions in order to develop an appropriate plan to achieve your goals.

Before you can look forward to 2010, it is valuable to reflect on the year that has passed.

1. What are you grateful for?

2. What have you achieved?

3. What did you hope to achieve and didn’t quite get?

4. What obstacles stood in your way?

5. What did you learn from this?

These questions can apply to your career, your family, your health, practically any area of your life. The more time you spend candidly pondering these questions and their answers the more successful you will be at creating a plan to move forward.

Once you feel comfortable that you have explored the past year, imagine your life one year out. What do you want to say about your life in 2010? What would make you proud or excited? Then, take some time to visualize what a successful year will look like. The more specific and clear the picture, the easier it will be to achieve these goals.

Clearly defined goals help you to:

o Stay focused

o Remember your values and priorities

o Stay motivated in the face of discouraging setbacks

o Be in control of your own destiny

o Acknowledge your accomplishments and redirect when you get off-track

Now that’s great, but what if your goal seems totally unachievable? Start by thinking of goals as a multi step process rather than as a far off distant finish line. The finish line is the long term goal. You set “mini milestones” or short-term goals. Take losing weight, for example. Someone with over 50 pounds to lose will probably get very discouraged in the early months and weeks when the big 50 pound goal still seems so far away. Instead, he or she can break up that goal into readily achievable mini milestones — the first 5 pounds, the first inch off the waist, etc. By setting up these mini-goals along the way, you know that you are on the right course, and you build momentum by getting to “taste success” along the way.

The same applies to your career goals. What if your long term goal is to manage your department or achieve a six-figure salary? Your short-term goal to achieve this might include returning to school to earn a degree or relevant certification, finding a professional mentor or joining a networking group. You can even break your job search into mini-goals: Identify ten companies you are interested in working for, send out fifteen resumes, make five networking calls, go on three interviews within a defined period of time, and so on. Remember to include timeframes so that you are accountable.

The final step toward successfully achieving career and life goals in general is to document them. Keep a journal, write down what you visualize, write down specific goals or create a pictorial board of your vision, anything that is comfortable for you as long as you take the time to record it. You should also revisit your documented goals consistently throughout the year. These goals aren’t static. Life gets messy and priorities change! Having clearly documented goals will allow you to get back on track more quickly.

So, now, after the holiday season is the best time for a call to action and to ask yourself, what will I accomplish in 2010?

– by Meryl Rosenthal and Georgina Mellas, Hirepower

Hirepower is a Human Resources consulting organization. Through our partnership with Workopolis, we offer job seekers and employee’s career advice including resume refinement, cover letters, and career coaching services. Please feel free to visit or email us at [email protected] to learn more about how we can help.