How to Effectively Establish and Discuss Your Career Goals

How to Effectively Establish and Discuss Your Career Goals 

As the end of the year approaches, you may be thinking about your current career goals and setting new ones for the upcoming year. While establishing these goals is important to long-term career success, it is also a good idea to discuss these with your manager so that you can ensure that they understand your goals and, hopefully, help you work towards them in your current position. 

1. Set Your Goals  

Whether you already have goals identified, or are starting from scratch, you should set your goals by writing them down. A recent study conducted by the Dominican University of California found that people who write down their goals are 20 percent more successful in accomplishing them than those who did not. Make sure that wherever you write down your goals that they are accessible so that you can easily come back to them throughout the year.  

A good way to make sure that your goals are properly formatted for success, is to utilize the SMART goal method. SMART goals are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and timely. 

Specific: When setting your goals, you want to make sure that they are detailed and leave very little room for ambiguity. For example, if your goal is “I want to advance my network,” you should make it more specific to say, “I want to advance my network by joining two or more professional organizations before the next quarter.”  

Measurable: To make your goal measurable, you will want to set a realistic date for the goal to be achieved. In the example above, you could set the next quarter’s start date as the time to complete the goal.  

Attainable: When setting your career goals, you want to make sure they are realistic and achievable, while also being challenging enough to work towards. Consider the time frame and steps needed to reach the goal and assess whether it is realistic or needs to be adjusted.  

Relevant: When establishing goals, especially those related to your career, you want to make sure they are relevant. For example, gaining a certification in programming could advance your knowledge in that area and develop your technical skills, but if your ultimate goal is to move up into a career in Financial Management, gaining that certification may not be relevant.   

Timely: When you are setting goals, you will also want to consider when you will be able to start working toward the goal. What can you do to start working toward your goal right away?  

By utilizing the SMART method, you can create goals that are attainable, actionable and measurable and set yourself up for future success.   

2. Understand Your Current Position  

While creating goals, it is important to consider how your current position and company structure fit into these goals. Have you previously discussed a plan for advancement with your manager? Does your company encourage lateral moves within the organization? These may be important items to consider when creating goals and thinking about the actionable steps that you may need to take to reach those goals.  

Additionally, write down a minimum of two to three ways you can reach your identified goals. For example, if your goal is to move into a leadership position, you may write down a tactic such as, “Take on an ownership role of upcoming projects,” or something related. By understanding your role in the organization and considering the ways you can leverage your current position to reach your goals, you can have a productive conversation with your manager about how to attain those opportunities.  

3. Come Prepared and Ask Questions 

When you are ready to have a discussion with your manager, make sure that they are aware ahead of time that you plan on discussing your goals. Before the meeting, have your goals, tactics and questions identified. When considering questions to ask your manager, you’ll want to think about any areas of uncertainty and consider asking questions about how the organization can help you reach your goals. The goal is to have an open discussion with your manager about how you can reach your goals while also adding value to the organization. 

Furthermore, consider having discussions about your strengths and weaknesses and the ways they can help and hurt you when trying to reach your goals. Your manager is likely familiar with the things you do well and the areas you can improve on. Be open minded to developing your skills in areas for improvement. Think about these ahead of time with any questions you may have. By coming to the discussion prepared, the meeting should stay on track, and your manager will know that you put thought and consideration into this conversation.   

4. Follow Through and Follow-up 

After discussing goals with your manager, getting answers to your questions and establishing a plan for reaching your goals, it’s time to start working towards them. Hold yourself accountable by setting calendar reminders or signing up for classes or events in advance. Consider asking your manager to hold you accountable to your goals by checking in with you at various points throughout the year.  

It is also a good idea to track your progress on your goals over time. In one-on-one meetings with your manager, bring up your goals to discuss progress and any barriers. Ask if your manager has advice or opportunities to overcome the obstacles that stand in your way. As you complete goals, celebrate the wins, and set new ones. Even as you grow in your career, there will always be new opportunities to develop skills and advance your career in new and exciting ways.   


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