It’s that time of year again when many of us start thinking about how the new year will be different, better, than the one we just finished. Ah, the dreaded New Year’s resolutions — complete with the requisite guilt we feel when we don’t keep them! But before you dismiss the process altogether, I encourage you to look at it in a new light.

While New Year’s resolutions typically involve personal objectives, this is also a good time for career reflection and goal-setting. Studies show that putting work goals in writing and sharing them with people around you increases your chances of achieving them. As an Executive Senior Partner, I’ve learned the value of setting targets in my professional life and I’ve benefited from sharing my goals with people I trust. A report from Dominican University finds that, “People who wrote down their goals, shared this information with a friend, and sent weekly updates to that friend were on average 33% more successful in accomplishing their stated goals.” Why not give it a try for 2014?

Setting specific career goals is a proactive way to:

Reflect on your skills. Where do I really excel and why? What efforts have I put into certain aspects of my job that have really paid off? This might be a “feel good,” but feeling good about what we’ve done matters.

Consider your interests. Yes, as important as it is to be good at your job, it’s also vital that you like your job. Even if you’re good at your job for the time being, if your interest is waning, chances are your productivity will soon follow.

Identify areas for growth. How can you do your job better? How can you grow in your industry? Are there seminars to attend, classes to take? Is there networking to do?

Point you in a direction. Wandering aimlessly down a career path and lucking into one opportunity after another might work for a rare few, but knowing where you want to be in five years, ten years, is worth spending time thinking about. Revisit this goal every year to make sure you’re on course or to decide if it’s time to change course.

Achieve success. By being specific about what you intend to accomplish, you establish accountability. Not only are you accountable to the people with whom you shared your goals, you’re accountable to yourself!

Once you’ve solidified your career goals, refer back to them regularly. I have my list of goals posted in a visible location above my desk. Having a physical list nearby serves as a daily reminder and helps keep me focused.

Bottom line – whether you call them resolutions or goals – this is a great time to think about your short-term and long-term career aspirations. Write them down and be intentional about working towards them. In the words of Napoleon Hill, “A goal is a dream with a deadline.” By developing a written list of goals, your career dreams will become career accomplishments.

What work goals have you set for 2014? What actions are you taking to meet them? I invite you to share your experiences.


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