IMG_8159By Christine Brown-Quinn, The Female Capitalist®

The start of the new calendar year is also a perfect time to think about your career goals. Let’s face it – we are very good about planning when it comes to the actual job at hand or giving advice to others, but when it comes to our own personal career planning, it seems it always takes a back seat.

The thing about career planning is that first and foremost you have to be in the driving seat.  While others may be useful to consult and get feedback, you are the one who has to make it happen. This is especially true in today’s business environment where corporate jobs for life don’t exist and restructurings have now become commonplace rather than one-off events.   The fact is, you know you best, so you’re the one who’s got to do the heavy lifting.

And hard work alone is not going to lead to career success (sorry to disappoint!).  This can be a hard transition to make once we leave our formal schooling days as the rules in an academic environment are rather straightforward.  Once we start progressing in our careers, however, the path becomes murkier and the relationship between academic success and career success becomes fuzzier.

In business the ‘smartest’ people are not the ones who are most successful.  The ones who are most successful are the ones who take control of their destiny and build their own momentum. Your career is too important to leave it to fate or to the whim of others. The most effective strategy to pursuing professional growth is to approach your career as a  business, with you as its best-selling brand.

Now that you’re in the right frame of mind to take control of your career, what’s the secret to setting goals that not only make sense from a business perspective, but which will also stick. Here’s my simple 5-step Reach for the STARS formula to guide you through effective goal setting:

  • S- Be Strategic  –  think strategically about your goals. What are the challenges facing your department, your company, or even industry?  It’s essential that your own personal growth goals are aligned across all these levels as well.  By doing so, you are setting yourself up to be the solution to the problems facing the business.
  • T – Track  your successes & “failures”  – it’s important that you keep track of how things are going versus the plan and make adjustments along the way (don’t wait until January 2017 to make changes!).  Remember there is no such thing as “failure” if you’ve learned something from the experience. In fact super successful professionals often cite how failing at something then positioned them for success.
  • A – Hold yourself Accountable  – share your goals with a trusted friend and/or colleague. Research shows that the simple act of sharing and discussing your goals increases the likelihood that you’re going to take action and follow through.
  • R –  Make goals Rich  – by this I mean rich in meaning (to you!) and rich in terms of the level of excitement and enthusiasm that you feel about the goals. This is incredibly important as this is what will give you the energy and motivation to keep going, especially on those tough days.  If you understand why it’s important to you, you’ll be able to manage the challenges that lie ahead. You’ve got the bigger picture in mind.  And because the goal is exciting you, you’ll find the time and will have the energy to make it happen.
  • S – Make goals Specific  – the goals have to be specific enough for you to track, but not so specific that you go off track if you’ve got to make adjustments along the way.  The goals should be realistic, but at the same time stretch you a bit.

The best news of all is that looking into the future and doing new things, is a basic human need. Doing new things, means by definition that we’re taking risks.  Taking risks and personal growth go hand in hand.  Make 2016 the year of embracing uncertainty and creating new opportunities for personal and professional fulfillment.