We’ve all been there: it’s the beginning of a new year, yet you’re still at the same job. You know, the one you don’t like? And the coffee in your mug isn’t getting any hotter…and your enthusiasm for your current career path isn’t getting any hotter, either.
If you’re not happy, you’re not alone. The start of a new year is the perfect time for reflection and doing a health check on your life’s happiness. However, while you may have ambitious dreams—worthy of pursuit—there needs to be a bridge to get you from here to there. To help you take control, we’ve put together our best advice for setting—and actually achieving—your career goals this year. So, grab a hot drink and your planner. Let’s do this.
Everyone—and we mean everyone—has to start their career somewhere, even if it seems like a ridiculously small place to start. Think about getting fit or running a marathon? You don’t do it in a week, right? But maybe on Week 1 you start with just getting out of the house for regular walks. Your career goals are no different.
Only 8% of you will keep your resolutions, but starting small can change that outcome. Take inspiration from Newton’s First Law of Motion, which says that once something gets going, it’s easier to stay there.
So, here’s what you do: start with a goal that you know you can achieve, such as becoming more efficient at work or redesigning your resume. Or, make one coffee networking meeting a month, or hell, just update your LinkedIn! Achieving these small wins can boost your confidence and help you realize what you can really do. Make a list of everything you want to accomplish this year, and then prioritize.
Know your worth
While it’s important to have an open mind for your career, you should also know your worth (and never doubt it). You are worth so much more than your LinkedIn profile can communicate. So why would you take a position, a job offer, or a back-breaking schedule if you know that you are capable of so much more?
If you’re feeling as though you could be working in a position that is more challenging, stimulating, or rewarding, make it a priority to change course. Know your worth, and set a goal to land a job in a field that not only excites you but also challenges you to reach your full potential. A large part of knowing your worth is confidence – even if you have to fake it ‘til you make it.
Leave your comfort zone behind
Getting bogged down by applying for the same position at dozens of different companies? Want to try something new but can’t bring yourself to quit your current job?
Success doesn’t come from continuing to live within the boundaries of your comfort zone. Don’t be afraid to do something scary, risky, or unordinary. If you want to work in a different industry, do whatever you can to make it happen. If you think you deserve a raise, show your manager how valuable you are as an employee. And if you want to quit your job, move across the country, and start your own company—well, the only thing holding you back is your own comfort zone.
Getting out of your comfort zone is also linked to starting small. Being comfortable is safe, it’s steady, it’s what’s expected. But there is something called “optimal anxiety”, a nice balance between comfort and discomfort. The idea is to think big—but start with baby steps.
Spend your free time doing the things you love
You may not have landed your dream job yet, but that doesn’t mean your days have to be monotonous and miserable. Take the time to do the things you love during your off hours. If you eventually want to work for a non-profit but you feel stuck at your corporate finance office, spend your weekends volunteering for a cause you’re passionate about. If you’re tired of your 9-to-5 and want a career in writing, spend your evenings researching freelance opportunities and creating a blog.
There’s a theme here: taking control of your life. You’re using your strengths and your passions and your time to invest in yourself and nudge your life forward.
Have a progress check every month
Setting big goals for the entire year can seem daunting, so one way to combat this is to break them up into monthly actions. At the beginning of each month, have a progress check for yourself: evaluate everything you did the previous month, what you can do differently in the upcoming month, and how you are going to keep moving forward.
Another way to progress check: share your goals with others. Stating your wants to outsiders (outside your own mind, that is) can increase your performance by an astounding 95%! It’s all about accountability.
Follow your passion—wherever it takes you
Whether you’re a thriving business owner or a hustling recent grad, your passion should be what drives your career. You’re never going to have the drive to achieve your goals if they aren’t what you truly want in life. Following your passions can be terrifying (especially if they seem completely different from what you are currently doing), but if you believe in your own abilities and do whatever you can to seize every moment, you may find yourself getting closer to the career you want every single day.