Though the holidays are inevitably busy, this season is a great time to pause and reflect on all you’ve done in the past 12 months.
More importantly, it’s a chance to look forward to the next phase of your life and think about what you want to accomplish.
Most of us set personal New Years’ resolutions for ourselves, but it’s also important to set professional goals!
Here are five steps for setting professional goals for 2015.
1. Evaluate your current position
Ask yourself if you’re working where you want to be, in a company you want to be in, in a position you enjoy and value, for a wage that you believe is fair?
If yes, reflect on how you got there and what you need to continue to excel in your current position.
Are there opportunities for advancement you want to take advantage of? What can you do to make sure your job stays interesting, challenging and fulfilling?
If you’re not where you currently want to be, ask yourself what you are willing to change about your current circumstances.
Are there any parts of your professional life that you are happy with, that you don’t want to change?
Or are you ready for a significant change?
2. Envision your ideal future
If you could be doing anything, what would it be?
Once you’ve acknowledged what your dream job is (if you have more than one, that’s even better), start to think about the future realistically.
Consider what factors might prevent you from achieving your ultimate goal(s), how many of these factors you have control over and what you can do to overcome any obstacles in your path.
For example, if you aren’t currently working in a field you’re passionate about, look at what your options for making a change are. You may need to consider going back to school or look for ways to get experience outside of work to get your foot through the door into your preferred industry.
Maybe you don’t like the environment you work in, in which case you should think about whether or not there’s anything you can do to improve it or if you’re better off looking for a new position.
3. Make a plan
Sketch out your top two to four ideal career paths and what it will take to get you to the end of each one.
When listing out the steps you would need to follow, only include things that you can realistically accomplish and be sure to consider how long it will take to complete each one.
More often than not, setting a career plan like this will extend well beyond the next calendar year.
Though setting goals for 2015 is your focus here, you should always be looking at least two or three years into the future to make sure your plan has longevity and promise.
4. Put your plan into action
Pick out roughly three to six things from your ideal career paths that you want to work on over the next 12 months.
Maybe you’ll want to break your goals up into smaller, more manageable chunks that you can work towards on a weekly or monthly basis; each time you check something off your list you can feel yourself moving closer to your goal.
You can also set yearly goals for yourself and work to achieve them over the course of 2015.
If you want to advance to a new and more challenging position, in the first quarter of 2015 you could sign up for an online course that will teach you a new skill set. In the second quarter you can approach your boss about taking on more responsibility. In the third you can start to network with movers and shakers in your industry of interest, and finally begin looking for jobs in your chosen field in the fourth.
Every now and then it’s a good idea to check in with yourself.
Regardless of what point you’re at in your career plan or the calendar year, you may realize that your plan needs to change.
Stop every so often to ask yourself if your plan is still realistic, if it’s still likely to set you up for success, and if the end goal is still something you really want.
That way, you’ll constantly be motivated to work hard to achieve the resolutions you set for yourself and you’ll know that you’ve created a plan that’s giving you your best shot of getting there.