How to Set (and Complete) Your Career Goals for 2021
Goal-setting is an important role in work life, no matter your career. Goals are what help you grow and are all about taking little steps to become the best version of yourself as a professional. You can’t expect to reach the top overnight; allow yourself the time and space to progress slowly, yet efficiently throughout the year.
So, you know that you want to set your career goals for the next year. The problem is, you don’t know where to start. What are career goals exactly? If this sounds familiar, we recommend starting with a few moments of reflection of what happened in 2020 and what goals you achieved during this time before planning your next ones. As you reflect, consider these steps when setting your 2021 goals.
Here’s how to set (and complete) your career goals in 2021.
#1 Reflect on 2020
Before you dive into 2021, let’s go back to what happened in 2020. You can’t move forward and hit a career goal without looking at what’s happened in your career so far. Did you set any goals this year? If you did, how many of them did you achieve? Did you work on career development and achieve a leadership role? Did you expand your job search and nail your interview at your dream job? Take the time to really go over the past year in terms of your career so you have a starting point of where to go in the future.
#2 Ask Yourself the Right Questions
The first step of any process always begins with brainstorming ideas and asking yourself a few questions. The best way to get the ball rolling on your career goals is to take pen to paper and write down your thoughts. Writing it down will help you identify which goals are the most important to you and help get your ideas together to help identify and select the career goals you want to complete this year.
Here’s a list of questions you can ask yourself to get the ball rolling.
- What do I value in my work?
- What do I want to accomplish in my career this year?
- Who can I network with to help me get there?
- Where do I want to work and why?
- What is my intent/overall goal?
- When do I want to accomplish it by?
Use these prompts to help you evaluate what you want to accomplish this year and start thinking about your top priorities when it comes to your career.
#3 Set Achievable Goals
Goal setting helps identify what you want to accomplish, but also helps determine the steps you need to take in order to be successful. When setting your goals, keep in mind the SMART goal format to lead you in the right direction to be clear on what you’re trying to accomplish, when and how.
What is a SMART goal? We’re glad you asked.
- Specific – When setting your career goals, you’ll want to be very specific with your word choice of what you’re setting out to do. Use action verbs to help you define your goals explicitly.
- Measurable – Provide a way to evaluate your goal with a metric that you’ll be able to objectively measure. Include precise amounts, dates, etc. in your career goals in order to measure your degree of success. Without a way to measure your goals, you won’t be able to celebrate your achievements when you do succeed.
- Achievable – Is this goal one that is within your scope? Is it reasonably possible for you to accomplish this year? There’s nothing wrong with dreaming big, but you want to make sure when setting goals that they are truly attainable, so you don’t set your expectations too high for something that is out of reach. Your goal should be realistic and achievable with factors under your control. Attainable goals create motivation, while unrealistic goals can be discouraging and ultimately a letdown.
- Relevant – Does your goal make sense within your job function? Make sure you’re setting goals that are relevant and improve your career in some way.
- Timely – The best goals are ones with a specific timeline to keep you on track for completing them. Set a deadline or time frame for yourself that states when you want to accomplish these goals by. You’ll want to give yourself enough time to complete your goal, so along the way you can track how you’re doing.
Your goals should consider where you are now, where you want to be and what actions you need to take to get from Point A to Point B.
Below are a few examples of career goals you might be thinking of implementing in 2021.
- Build Effective Working Practices – Are you caught in a series of bad habits? 2021 is your year to take these out of the equation and instead, replace them by building effective work practices. Figure out which factors have been distracting you from being the best version of yourself at your job. This could mean getting up earlier to have more time in the mornings, taking little breaks throughout the day to increase efficiency or learning to stop eating lunch at your desk. A little change can go a long way when it comes to improving your work performance.
- Increase Professional Skills and Knowledge – Building your knowledge and skills can help you in your professional career, no matter if you are looking for a job or are already employed. Whether it’s getting a specific certification, attending a workshop or training program or taking a new college class, there are a variety of ways you can take your skills and knowledge to the next level. These certificates and programs can be very useful in showing off your capabilities and proving your knowledge of the industry. This goal will benefit you in gaining more skills to help build your resume and to continuously learn new skills to grow in your field.
- Strengthen Professional Relationships – A healthy work environment often correlates to a positive impact in your work performance. Try making the effort to grab coffee with coworkers you don’t know as well and focus on building relationships with people in your network. It’s important to remember that there will always be different personalities in the workplace. Even if you’re not fond of some of them, you need to learn to put personal differences aside and build your professional manner with other employees. Another way to work on strengthening professional relationships is through networking, which can be achieved through attending workshops or networking events. Don’t forget to follow up with your connections by sending a quick email or connecting on LinkedIn to further strengthen the relationship.
- Increase Your Earnings – You’ve been working hard this year and it’s about time you got a raise. Being underpaid can often undermine your motivation and work performance – making changes to earn more can help increase your enthusiasm for your job or motivate your job search. Need some tips on how to start the process? Check out these tips on how to ask for a raise.
- Attain a Leadership Role – Never settle! If you are interested in achieving a leadership role, this is the year to take steps to make it happen. This goal isn’t something that can be handed to you easily, and in most cases in order to reach a higher position you will need to start at the bottom and put in lots of hard work. Becoming a leader requires persistence, determination and commitment. Not only do you need the experience and skills, but you’ll need to have a good attitude and honorable values in order to successfully lead others in a professional setting. Do your research into what is needed in order to climb up the leadership ladder.
- Have New Experiences – Step out of your comfort zone in 2021. This could mean joining a professional association to network with more people in your field or volunteering in your community or through work. New experiences help you not only to continue personal growth but can also give you a new perspective and help fuel interest in your career.
#4 Track of Your Progress
Once you select your goals and clearly write them down, hold yourself responsible for each specific goal and keep track of your progress. This can be done through writing it down on pen and paper, various goal apps or recording your progress on Excel sheets. You can find tons of free goal-setting templates online.
#5 Keep a Positive Mindset
Positivity is key when it comes to achieving and completing your goals. Don’t let minor missteps or criticism get you down with your career growth. Don’t let your failures knock you off your career journey, but rather accept them and use them to inspire you to move forward with your career goal setting! Try your best to maintain a positive attitude and believe in yourself and your unique abilities.
#6 Reward Your Successes
Enjoy your hard work along the way! Use your tracking method to help you pinpoint your successes throughout the year and reward yourself as you get closer and closer to your ultimate career goal. Make sure to enjoy your free time – when you’re working extra hours, make sure to treat yourself to something you enjoy. Career growth takes time, don’t try to rush the process but instead enjoy the ride.
As we wrap up 2020, you should consider reviewing the year and taking the time to process what you want to see in your career future in 2021. Whether you have a specific career goal in mind or you’re working towards your dream job, setting achievable goals is key.Use the SMART goal method to help you create and select which career goals are going to work for you. Throughout the process, it’s important to track your process, stay positive and reward your successes.
So, what are you waiting for? It’s time to take on 2021!