Making New Year’s Career Resolutions You Can Keep

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New Year’s resolutions, a tradition that dates back to the time of the Babylonians, have developed a reputation for being empty promises we make to ourselves and break a few months if not weeks later. When it comes to our careers, we can’t afford to take such a lackadaisical approach to our goals. So here are some tips to make some New Year’s career resolutions that will stick.

1. First you need to sit down and think. What are your career goals? And these shouldn’t just be canned responses of goals you think you should have for yourself. Imagine yourself one year from now, and where you want to be in your career and why it’s important to you to be there.

2. Now write down a few specific goals. They can’t be things that are vague like: “I will make more money” or “I will love my job.” They need to be specific goals like: “I will increase my salary by x%” and “I will move into a manager level position.” Vague goals aren’t actionable. What does “I will love my job” mean?

3. Next map out what you need to do to reach these goals. If, for example, you want to move from a customer service to a marketing field, what steps do you need to take to do that? If you’re not sure, now’s a good time to find someone in that field and talk to them. Ask them what recruiters look for and what will make you stand out in a sea of applications. Or if you want to increase your salary in your current position, sit down and talk to your manager. Explain your goal and ask them what you would need to do to get there. Write these steps down and put deadlines around them.

4. Once you’ve figured out what it would take to reach that goal, reassess. Is the goal you set for yourself attainable within your timeframe? It’s good to push yourself, but it’s not good to set a goal that’s impossible to reach, because unattainable goals can be more demotivating than having no goals at all. You wouldn’t do this to an employee, so don’t do it to yourself.

5. If you’ve figured out a goal you feel really good about, write the steps you’ve determined you need to take to reach it on a calendar. You need to track yourself against your goal throughout the year. Are you moving toward that goal? Do deadlines need to be adjusted? Do steps need to be changed or added? Your journey toward your goal will evolve throughout the year, so keep moving toward it, and keep assessing the path and your progress.

6. Share your goals with people who are close to you. Sharing your goals is a powerful motivator. Your friends and family will encourage you, support you, and help keep you on task.

7. At the end of the deadline, assess where you are. This is why it’s so important for your goal to be specific. If your goal is something like: “I want to be happier in my job,” how do you assess that overall? What’s the measurement? We all have good days and bad days. But if you have a specific goal written down along with the deadline you’ve set for meeting that goal, you can say to yourself: “Okay, how did I do? Did I hit the goal? Am I close? And if I didn’t hit it, what are the next steps on the journey to get there?”