How to Turn Career Goals Into Effective New Year’s Resolutions

Press Release from Idealist

Career Advice   How to Turn Career Goals Into Effective New Year’s Resolutions CAREER PLANNING

How to Turn Career Goals Into Effective New Year’s Resolutions

Idealist Guest Dec 27, 2023 10:00 AM

As an aspiring or experienced social-impact professional, you may be attracted to the idea of setting career goals that can help you reach higher and shine brighter in the coming year—so why not set a couple of New Year’s Resolutions?

Even if you scoff at the idea of creating resolutions, you can’t deny that putting down a clear idea of what you want to achieve in the coming year can help you focus your efforts. So, to the dedicated goal-setters and skeptics alike, we’re sharing three steps for how to tailor your career goals into New Year’s Resolutions you’ll actually stick with through 2024:

1. Define what you want to achieve

The first step to setting an effective New Year’s Resolution is getting really specific about what success looks like to you—vague resolutions tend to produce weak results.

Writing down, “I want to be a better leader” or “I plan to join an advisory board,” is not enough because these goals lack the details, motivation, and specific steps you’ll take to achieve them. To tailor your possibilities and produce a more thorough resolution, ask yourself these questions:

  • What do I want to be known for in the coming year?
  • Which skills do I already have? Which do I need to work on?
  • What opportunities are a good match for me?
  • What training do I need to enhance my leadership/problem solving/conflict resolution skills?
  • Which skills do I need to advance my career?

A great way to gain success in reaching a goal is to make sure it is SMART: specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-based. “I will find a leadership role at an organization in a month” is not specific and may not be achievable.

With the answers you collect from the above questions, you will be much better equipped to craft a SMART resolution that outlines what you’re working toward in a clear, precise manner.

2. Sketch out a path forward

Declaring what you want is just a starting point; your goal won’t come to fruition without a plan that  actually  gets implemented. To discern what actions you’ll need to take, ask yourself these questions:

  • How can I gain the skills I need to achieve my New Year’s Resolution?
  • What projects (at work or in a volunteer capacity) do I want to lead, and are there opportunities available for me to do so?
  • Which events can I go to in order to enhance my skills?
  • How (and when) will I talk to my boss to discuss my candidacy for a promotion?

Other questions may pop up that are more relevant to your specific career goals, and your responses will help clarify what you’ll need to do in the coming year. For more examples on how to sketch out a plan for your SMART career goals, check out these tips.

3. Brainstorm a few checkpoints

Now that you’ve defined your New Year’s Resolution (and sketched out a plan of how you’ll achieve it), use that information to determine what checkpoints will help you stay on course. These checkpoints should also be SMART and relate to your overarching career goal—here are some examples to use as models:

  • “I will approach three nonprofits about my interest in serving on their board this quarter.”
  • “I will create a portfolio and publish it online by March 1st. I will also add a new entry to it each month.”
  • “I will take a 10-week conflict resolution course in February and implement three new strategies when leading my staff in the first quarter.”

Altogether, your New Year’s Resolution may look like this: “In 2024, I’d like to be promoted to VP of Community Affairs. In order to reach this position, I need more skills in conflict resolution. After completing a 10-week conflict resolution course and implementing what I learn in leading my staff, I will set up a check-in with my boss to share how I’ve improved my candidacy for the VP of Community Affairs role.”

Taking this three-step approach, you’ll likely find that your New Year’s Resolutions don’t peter out in the first month of the year. It’s okay if you need to tweak your checkpoints as the year goes on, or define new career goals as you make progress. It shows that you’re working toward your resolution and will get to it that much faster!

And if you're a leader in the social-impact sector setting New Year's Resolutions for your team or organization, consider adding "inclusion" and "equity" to your goals so they become SMARTIE resolutions. This way, you can ensure your efforts are making an impact for  all  people at work.


by Victoria Crispo

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