scorecardHow to set and achieve your career goals for the new year
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How to set and achieve your career goals for the new year

Sarah Jackson   

How to set and achieve your career goals for the new year
Careers3 min read
  • With 2023 just around the corner, many people will be setting goals for the new year.
  • But New Year's resolutions aren't just for personal goals. It's a great time to set professional goals for the year ahead.

A new year is upon us, which means it's officially goal-setting season.

Many employers have performance reviews around December or January, and the fresh slate of a new year prompts many people to set new goals anyway.

"It's important to set goals because if you don't, it's like trying to get somewhere without putting directions into a GPS," says career coach Chelsea Stokes.

As you consider your career goals for 2023, here are some expert tips to help you set and achieve them:

Take stock of where you are

Try to set personal and professional goals at the same time, as they often influence one another.

"Ask yourself, 'How is my career supporting my ideal life? What do I want my ideal life to look like?' Then reverse-engineer your career goals from that," Stokes said.

Some of the most common professional goals are getting promoted or landing a new job. If that's one of your goals, consider the skills you need to improve to achieve that.

"Some companies will have published competencies for various levels of seniority," says Kendall Berg of That Career Coach. "In the absence of published expectations, have a meeting with your boss where you discuss your desire to move to the next level and solicit feedback regarding any performance or competency gaps that they see between you and those operating at the next level. Ask for specific examples and use that feedback to set your goals for the following year."

Zero in

"A lot of people set goals because they think they should, or they're comparing themselves to somebody else, but they're not actually thinking about their intention behind those goals," Stokes said. "Thinking about why you want to set this goal, how will it change your life, how will it impact the people around you, what is the purpose behind it — this can not only help you set more specific goals for yourself, but it'll also help to keep you motivated throughout the year."

Your goals can feel nebulous without a roadmap to follow, so Stokes recommends breaking them down into tangible steps.

It's also important to be specific with what you want to achieve.

An example from Berg: "Rather than saying 'Revolutionize the operations process,' be specific: 'Revamp Operations Fulfillment Process to drive a 15% efficiency gain across the team and improve employee satisfaction 1 point.' The latter is clear, measurable, and possible to attain within a year."

Be realistic

Finding the sweet spot between being too safe and too ambitious can be tricky. Aim for goals that are "slightly uncomfortable, but something that your brain can still get on board with," Stokes said.

"A lot of people go from 0 to 100 and try to go overboard at the start of the year and then just get overwhelmed," Stokes said. "It's better to limit yourself to an amount of goals that feels manageable and sustainable and then go after those goals and if you reach them, you can set a new one."

Monitor your progress

Check in on your progress quarterly. Don't be afraid to adjust your goals or their timelines later as you better understand your priorities, or as your priorities shift, says Stokes.

Keeping a "kudos folder" where you log any praise, achievements, or small wins along the way can help you monitor your progress; Stokes also recommends using project management tools. You may also consider sharing your goals with a close friend who can help hold you to them.

"For each of your major goals, you should be tracking deliverables all year long that will impact your ideal outcome," Berg said. "I like to keep mine in an excel with a Category (which high-level goal it impacts), Task, Groups Collaborated With, Lead, Success (yes or no), and Impact. Then continue to measure the outcomes (money saved, number of projects, percent efficiency improved, etc.) so that you can clearly articulate the value of your time and efforts."