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How to set goals to advance your career

How to set goals

Big career steps like going to college, landing your first job and moving into a new role with more responsibilities don’t just happen by themselves.

“Getting ahead … lies in the ability to set and meet goals,” says Kathryn Scahill, a National Certified Counselor and career coach with Phoenix Career Services™ at University of Phoenix. Here, Scahill explains how to set realistic goals to help propel your career forward:

Put yourself first.

Tune out what others are saying and doing, Scahill says, and focus on yourself. “Do a frank self-assessment of your values, interests and personality,” she stresses, “and then think about what kind of work might fit them.”

Don’t let yourself be paralyzed by other people’s accomplishments or pressured by relatives and friends into seeking something that doesn’t fit your talents. For example, your mother and sister might both be nurses, but that doesn’t mean you should be one, too. “If it isn’t something you want for yourself,” Scahill says, “you’ll lack the motivation to do it.”

Determine what’s important.

Brainstorm a broad list of potential careers, starting with your current job, Scahill suggests. “You might only enjoy 10 percent of your job,” she notes, “but that could be a way to discover a new career.” Ask yourself what’s most important to you, whether it’s earning a certain salary, getting promoted or going for a degree. Then, narrow long-term goals into achievable, near-term steps.

“Let’s say you’ve found a job posting you’d like to apply for,” she says. “What would you have to do to get that job? Are you already qualified, or would you have to go back to school? Do you have a resumé ready, or do you need help creating one?

“Make [goals] small but meaningful,” Scahill continues, such as getting your resumé polished, going to two business networking events per month or researching degree programs online.

Set deadlines.

If your long-term goal is to land a new job within six months, Scahill says, “you could give yourself one month to get a resumé ready, then the month after that to attend networking events, then two months for applications, then one more month for job interviews.

“Don’t set [deadlines] too far out,” she cautions, or you’ll probably get off track.

Follow through

Follow through.

It’s pointless to set a career goal if you don’t make the effort to achieve it, Scahill says, noting, “I once coached someone who wanted to earn $100,000 a year doing freelance work, but he turned down every freelance assignment that came his way.”

If you’re having trouble finding a job in your area, for instance, you could set a goal to relocate, and then research job markets in other areas to help you decide where, she advises.

The Phoenix Career Guidance System™ resource from Phoenix Career Services can help. Scahill also recommends getting a goal buddy to help you stay on track. “Find a friend that you can share goals with,” she says, “and motivate each other.”