“I never really do this, but- I think I’m actually going to make a New Year’s resolution this year,” he paused. “I don’t really believe in resolutions, but I figure it’s worth a shot.”
My husband and I share a slightly different viewpoint when it comes to how we prefer to set our goals. While my office and desktop are plastered with To-Do lists, rough milestones, and projects that have yet to hatch, his approach is more simple – decide to do something, and try to make it happen.
But one thing I do agree with is that clinging to the novelty of a New Year’s resolution runs the risk of setting you up for failure, as we typically set an overly eager timeline for change, and then upon checking in our progress weeks later, we often find we’ve fallen behind due to busy schedules and new obligations. At worst, we give up, and at best, we feel more frustrated than when we began. Goals with potential for success are less about being attached to a certain event (say, New Year’s) and more about an engrained desire for real, sustainable change.
One of the top New Year’s resolutions is Career Change – whether that’s making a lateral move into a new direction, or an upward move within a similar industry. So many of us dive into January with good intentions, only to fall short in motivation, time, and effort before Q1 is even over.
Here’s the thing: the overarching goal of “change careers”, or “get a new job” is a very lofty goal, and not something we can typically chew up and swallow in one bite. As my uncle Rich told me over Christmas Eve dinner last week, “When you bite off more than you can chew, your only option is to chew faster, or spit some out.” So to ideally avoid either of those scenarios and set yourself up for success, it’s important to break your career goals down in smaller bites that are easier to handle:
1) Set a high level goal, and then create smaller, segmented steps to help you reach that.
Whether it’s on a monthly or weekly basis, or it’s defined by some other metric, starting smaller will not only make the process seem less overwhelming, but it will help you keep your motivation as you start to recognize the small, effortful successes that are leading you in the right direction closer to your goal.
2) Jump ahead and then work backwards.
If your goal is to attain a new job or make a career shift, decide on a reasonable, but aggressive timeline for doing so, so that you’re pushing yourself to make progress while still taking into account your current obligations. Set an exact date – such as June 1 – and then work backwards, breaking out what you need to be doing each week or month to bring that goal to fruition by that particular date.
3) Arm Yourself With the Best Tools for the Job.
Navigating a career change requires different strategies, language, marketing tactics, and approach than your typical job search. A strong resume is key, but your email communications and cover letter are also going to be more important than ever, as these are the platforms that will help you make the connection between your transferrable skills and how you plan to apply them successfully to a new role or field. Feeling confident that you have the best tools at your disposal will help you stay motivated throughout the process. Focus some serious effort on nailing these before you start sending out applications.
4) Practice Painting Yourself in a New Light.
Get used to talking about yourself in the context of the role or career which you’re going after – it will not only give you confidence, but it will also help other people remember what you’re looking for, and boost your chances of nabbing a potentially helpful referral. Don’t be afraid to talk openly, honestly, and frequently about what you’re targeting, versus just what your current title is. Try this:
Hey Jim, how’s the job search going?
Pretty good – I’m seeing some great opportunities out there for Digital Project Managers in the New York advertising scene – I’m really excited to get on board with it.
Good to see you again, Adam. What have you been up to since I ran into you last?
I’m making a bit of a career change, looking around at companies in the pharmaceutical space. Know anyone who needs an eager, young copywriter?
Chances are, you’ve tackled large projects or goals in the past, and there’s a valuable source of information in looking back at past successes to see what’s worked before. How each of us approaches goal setting can vary, so look at instances where you’ve set large or mid-sized goals in the past, and what steps you took to move yourself through the process and successfully generate results. Copy and apply that process, combined with some of the tips above, to your career goals for the New Year, and you’ll be well on your way to a truly excellent 2014.
Wishing you a safe and enjoyable New Year’s!