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How to set your professional goals for the year ahead

5 min
Posted: 15 September 2020
Topics: Blog

Your company is growing quickly – how do you set yourself up for professional success in this fast-paced, rapidly changing environment? When you’re part of a fast-growing business, you can get pulled in what feels like infinite directions all at once. This can make it especially difficult to take the time to recognise your own professional goals, as well as the opportunities you may have as a result of your company’s rapid growth. Here are four steps to help you clarify what you want, strategise, and advocate for your career goals.

  1. Create an “Eff Yeah” List

Nicole Antoinette, host of the Real Talk Radio podcast, suggests an “eff yeah” list to reflect on your greatest accomplishments the previous year. She describes it as, “That list of badass things you accomplished throughout the past 12 months – big and small – that makes you want to dance naked around the kitchen with pride”. To make your own list, take some time to reflect on what you are most proud of from 2018. When did you feel like your best self? Consider:

  • Moments when your strengths were allowed to shine
  • Professional accomplishments
  • Tricky situations you dealt with
  • Particularly meaningful feedback, compliments, or praise received
  • Boundaries you enforced

These don’t necessarily have to be moments that are meaningful to others or that would make it onto your CV. They’re the ones in which you were most fulfilled and in your element. That distinction is important. I often see clients stuck in what I call a “current of affirmation”. When we’re good at something, we may keep advancing in our career based more on what other people need from us, rather than what we find the most gratifying. In a rapidly growing company, perhaps you’re being asked to take on increased responsibilities or are in line to get a promotion. Being trusted to expand your role and finding success as you take more ownership can be affirming and encouraging, but it can lead you to pursue goals that are not your own. In this exercise, strive to separate yourself from the current of affirmation and focus on what’s been most fulfilling to you. With your “eff yeah” list in hand, it’s easier to identify and take action on more of those fulfilling opportunities moving forward. For me, creating this fun list is a great way to close out the year.

  1. Make goals that reflect what you actually want, notwhat you think youshould want.

After you’ve made your “eff yeah” list, see if any patterns arise. Perhaps the moments that you’ve most enjoyed centre on interacting with your colleagues. If your official (albeit rapidly changing) job description focuses on the management and analysis of travel data, you might feel as though you should focus your goals on the wonkier side of your skill set. That instinct makes sense – to focus on things that align with the role you’re currently playing – but try not to “should” yourself at this juncture. Here’s a personal example. In my “eff yeah” list a few years ago, I noticed that a lot of the moments I listed centred on public speaking. I started the following year with a handful of speaking engagements, but by June I’d changed my business model to include public speaking as a key source of revenue. Had I not started with my “eff yeah” list, I may have thought, “I should get more consulting clients”. In service of that, I could’ve ended up taking on projects that didn’t excite or inspire me. Instead, I used my “eff yeah” list to figure out the overlap among four things:

  • What people would pay me to do
  • How I wanted to spend my time
  • What I was good at
  • What I enjoyed most

Look at your “eff yeah” list and build goals focused on creating more opportunities that might prompt you to dance around the kitchen naked in 2019.

  1. Recognise the ways your goals can align with your company’s growth.

Your company’s fast-paced growth has the potential to offer tremendous professional opportunities for you. As the workload rapidly expands and changes, there will likely be more responsibilities that need to be met and more roles available. Coming back to our earlier example, just because you’ve been a trusted employee focused on data doesn’t mean you can’t become a trusted employee who’s more focused on people. Since your company is growing rapidly, there may be an even greater need for employees to travel extensively and for some to become road warriors. You could use this opportunity to advocate for a new role for yourself or a shift in responsibilities – to focus on road warrior satisfaction and employee engagement via your travel management programme. A key negotiation strategy is to frame a request so that it meets the needs of your counterpart. Consider how you can advocate for your 2019 goals in a way that works to the benefit of your company and its continued growth.

  1. Recalibrate

A client in a goal-setting group I hosted created her “eff yeah” list in January and decided that she wanted a new job. When we got together in March, she was on track, having networked and submitted applications like crazy. But when we got together again in June, she told the group, “I didn’t meet my goal, because I decided I didn’t want to any more”. Despite receiving a job offer that met many of the criteria she’d set in January, she now recognised there was a lot she liked about her current position and the flexibility it afforded her. She wasn’t so myopic that she achieved her goal at the expense of her long-term happiness. In a rapidly changing landscape, you may realise that there are other aspects of the work at your current company that you find fulfilling that weren’t on your “eff yeah” list. The purpose of this exercise – and professional goal setting in general – is to build a practice of reflecting about what is most meaningful to you and taking the time to pursue it. This time next year, I hope you’re reflecting on your goals, proud of what you accomplished in 2019. That may mean achieving what you’d expected to the letter or scrapping it completely to align with what you really want. I’d consider either a success. If your goals include fine-tuning travel in your business, watch our on demand webinar here.

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