Setting Career Goals (When You Don’t Know Where to Start)

by | Jan 8, 2024 | career & business, corporate, solopreneur | 0 comments

Setting career goals in particular can be both intimidating and challenging. This time of year can bring about a heightened awareness of our careers and what it is we actually want to do. If you’re feeling that pull, take the opportunity to explore it and set the goals that can help you get there. If you need some guidance, here’s a few things you can do:

Take time to reflect

Looking back and acknowledging how far you’ve come before you look forward is so important for setting intentions or goals.You may have forgotten what you accomplished in the last year or disregarded celebrating your achievements. Now’s the time!

  • Celebrate last year’s work wins (if you’re not already documenting these, here’s your reasons to get started) and add your big achievements and skills gained to your resume and LinkedIn if you haven’t already. Also, here’s a work wins tracker if you need one!
  • Take note of the career highlights and lowlights over the past year. Think about what you’re most proud of and what challenges you experienced that you were able to learn from. Determine what it is you enjoyed doing and tasks that you’d prefer not to do – this can help you especially if you’re planning to look for a new job in 2024. Knowing what motivates you at work and what your non-negotiables are will keep you grounded as you begin the job search.
  • Review the goals you set last year and acknowledge where you met and exceeded and where you may have fallen short. Give yourself grace if you didn’t accomplish everything you had intended – life happens!

Choose what to focus on

After your reflection period, download L&I’s Career Development Plan, which is a document that helps you outline your career focuses over the next month, next quarter, or next year. It sometimes feels easier to just figure out your career as you go, especially when you’re caught up in your work’s day to day. But if you take the time to document your career vision, values, goals, and actions, it will hold you accountable and keep you motivated, helping to accelerate your professional growth. You can also review it with appropriate people as you see fit, such as your manager, a mentor, or a career coach. (If you’re interested in working with a coach, you can schedule a free call with me here.) If you’re unsure of what career goals you want to focus on this year, try these few things:

  • Once you know what you’ve liked/disliked in a job/company, ask yourself, “what would I do if I could do anything and nothing was holding me back?” Are you doing it at your company? If not, is there an opportunity to do it in your current role or a different one there? Or, is it time to shake things up and try something else?
  • Think about the people you admire and what they have accomplished. Draw inspiration from them and see if it’s anything you too would like to try this year.
  • Determine what skills you’d like to gain. What avenues can you take to acquire those?

Engage your network

Remember this: it’s not about what you know, it’s about who you know. I can speak from experience – every job I’ve landed in my career has been thanks to a connection of mine who opened a door for me. The vast majority of my clients last year also got job offers from utilizing a contact in their network. I’ve also received promotions due to peer feedback and co-workers going out of their way to sponsor me. If “networking” makes you cringe, read this. Make an effort to build relationships wherever you can because you truly never know when someone can lend a helping hand, provide a referral, or sponsor you to your next role.

  • Read about the 4 types of people to have in your career corner here and determine who can be in your career corner this year.
  • Each week or month, determine X amount of people you plan to reach out to and connect/reconnect with so you can continually build relationships. Take advantage of informational interviews when you can to learn more about others, their careers, and their best advice.
  • Spend 5 minutes a day genuinely engaging with people’s content or updates on LinkedIn. This will not only help you build relationships, but it will boost your visibility on the professional site.
  • Need some additional help to brainstorm people you know? Download L&I’s Networking Target List.

Cultivate a growth mindset

When you’re encountering challenges, it can be difficult to harness a ‘can do’ mindset, but it can make all the difference. Get comfortable with embracing hurdles, learning from criticism, and persisting when things feel impossible. You are adaptable and resilient and you can conquer any challenge you run up against – it just takes a growth mindset and yes, maybe some time.

  • Harness the power of “yet.” Sometimes, things take longer than we’d like and require more work than we’d like but that doesn’t mean it won’t happen.
  • View tough situations as learning opportunities. I truly believe that everything we go through can teach us something – look for the lesson.
  • Be patient. Sometimes the career goals we set take time and we have to play the long game.

Plan check-ins

Your Career Development Plan is not only a tool to document your career goals, but it can also be used for you to check-in periodically and assess your progress. I also recommend reviewing with your trusted person/people of choice and asking for additional support if needed. You can also download L&I’s Career Development Check-In which is great for 1:1 conversations with your manager.

Here’s to setting career goals – you got this!

Pink lipstick stain

Welcome to Lipstick & Ink®, your home for everything career and wellness inspired. I’m Kelly, a Chicago-based marketing tech professional, writer, career coach, speaker, and events host.

Whether we’re working together on your career aspirations, refreshing your professional documents, or keeping your mental health in check, I encourage you to own your power and make your mark – one lipstick stain at a time.

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