Ask Our Boss: How Do You Set New Year Career Goals?
In our monthly column dedicated to helping you succeed faster, our publisher Alison Rice is answering your most pressing career questions. You know, the stuff you really want to ask your boss but can’t. Have a question? Ask it on Instagram or Facebook by tagging #AskOurBoss.
We exist to inform you, and help advance and empower your life. We know you’re ambitious and your bar is high. So is ours, and that’s why I’m jazzed to be answering a question about goal setting in my final column for the year. So jazzed, in fact, that I am writing this through the night on a long-haul flight. (Deeply uncool, or, leaning in from above, and therefore, leaning down? Hmm. No more red wine for me.) Regardless, let’s just commit to not leaving it a whole year next time—here’s why:
I’m a firm believer in being “always-on” with personal and professional development. Exhausting sometimes, rewarding always. The thing about setting goals in the New Year is they are hard to keep. We put so much pressure on ourselves come January 1st—surrender fewer times a week to Deliveroo for dinner, make it to hot yoga, start a side hustle, journal each night, meditate twice a day for 20 minutes, make our own Kombucha . . . OK I admit the last one was not me, but one of my friends has really stressed herself out trying to do this. Just buy it! So why put even more pressure on ourselves by setting these specific and often unrealistic career goals that will probably bring on performance anxiety or worse still, feeling like you’ve failed.
Instead, my advice is to tackle career goals more holistically. And that starts with getting to know yourself better. Find a comfortable and safe spot, maybe grab a glass of your favourite wine (a common theme for me, clearly), and give yourself a self-assessment using the five questions below.
By answering these questions and others like them, setting your 2018 career goals will happen quite naturally. This work is about personal development— identifying your strengths and the areas you naturally excel in, what you want to be known for (both who and what), where you could add more value to a business, and much more. It’s also the type of work that will flow into your personal life—again, holistic.
It’s a bit of a flip, I suppose, to more traditional career goal setting. The hard and fast bullet points that read like “get promoted”, “earn more money”, “win an award”, all sound great in theory, but trust me when I say you’re just ticking a box. True development happens over time and brings with it a more consistent, long-lasting feeling of satisfaction. No one makes it in a day because we are a sum of our experiences.
Do you respect the business you work for and believe in the mission?
If you do, then count yourself lucky and settle in. This doesn’t come along very often, so my advice is to move past the “grass is greener” mentality and get to work on developing a progression plan with your manager. Remember it is about the additional value you can bring to the business not just what the business can do for you.
If you don’t, then the questions below will really help uncover why. I can’t promise any of us will ever find our purpose in life—because I believe we have many and in different chapters—but we can all feel on purpose at work. That starts with joining (or starting!) an organisation that shares your values. Really important, especially for our generation.
What parts of your role do you love and excel at, and when do you procrastinate?
We all have parts of our jobs we don’t like or try to avoid. The important thing to identify is how important those tasks are as it relates to your role’s core responsibilities. If they’re all key line items of your job description, then you’re likely in the wrong role. But if it is just bits and pieces like administration or monthly reporting, then work out a system to get it done. No role is perfect or without elements that kind of, well, suck. Just get them done quickly and move on to the stuff that makes your heart beat a bit faster.
What attributes do you admire in your peers or your boss?
I love this one. Goals don’t have to be measured numerically. As a manager, I am always observing behaviour and character—how consistent people are with their tone, energy, mood and collaboration skills; if they seek to inspire and support vs. tear down, complain or get too deep in the weeds and forget why we’re here and what we’re trying to achieve. Great career goals should include what you want to be known for. What do you want people to say about you when you aren’t in the room? Character is everything.
Where do you feel like you let yourself down?
A tricky subject for anyone to tackle, but the only way to see where you can improve is to admit your weaknesses and attack them with purpose. Sometimes this can be habits you’ve formed or emotional tendencies, or, it could be as simple as mastering PowerPoint or Excel to better present your hard work. Whatever it is, set a goal to tackle a weakness.
If you were to stretch in your current role, what would that look like?
I am a big fan of the stretch concept—a great and challenging career goal for 2018. For high performers, how can you stretch beyond your job description and make a real impact? With this one, it’s important you’re nailing your key responsibilities before you start to stretch. The stretch concept is about identifying ways to build on your role by bringing forward new skills. The idea is to surprise and delight, not to do it to look for thanks, more money, or a new title right away. Prove yourself, be consistent, and the progression and financial reward will come.
Good luck and thank you for reading Ask Our Boss this year. Here's to an empowered and successful 2018.