Most of us can’t resist the temptation to set goals with the start of each New Year. Typically, we want to exercise more, spend more time with family or friends, eliminate bad habits, get better organized, learn a new skill or do some other thing to improve our lives. For example, when did you decide you wanted to be a manager?
What is next for you:
• To move further up the chain?
• Qualify for that bonus?
• Improve your location’s performance relative to others in your region?
• Hit a specific metric your organization values?
• Or, just become better at what you do?
Fewer of us take the next step and actually determine exactly how to achieve what we want. If you’d like this year to be different than last, you need to do certain things to set yourself up for success.
Step 1: Determine your next step
Step 2: Plan a path to achieve your goal
Step 3: Identify possible obstacles and how to overcome them
Step 4: Talk your strategies and tactics over with an advocate
Step 5: Tell people what you are doing and what you’ve acheived
“People who get what they want tend to be the ones who make the effort to know what they want.” Oprah Winfery
If you haven’t defined your next step or goal, you won’t be able to achieve it. Once you’ve set your goal, you can congratulate yourself on getting a good start. Now decide how to get there – what things need to be implemented, reinforced or eliminated. Do you need to instill new habits or get rid of bad ones? In an article on “Moving Up the Ladder”, Dr. Randall S. Hansen identifies not planning your day as the top “Surefire Way Not to Get Promoted”. Even if promotion isn’t your immediate goal this year, planning your day is essential to working toward whatever goal you have set.
Part of your plan will most likely include identification of potential obstacles to your success. While you may not have the ability to remove all of the obstacles, accounting for them will help you to have strategies or tactics for working around them.
One way to create strategies and tactics is to discuss issues with your supervisor or a mentor and take advantage of their experience or perspective. If you don’t have a mentor, 2012 would be a good time to look for one. Mentors can be people within your organization or industry, but they shouldn’t be people with direct supervisory responsibility over you. Research shows that 80% of people who receive promotions have mentors.
Having a mentor can help you craft plans, strategies or tactics, but they can also serve another important purpose. They can help expand your professional network by introducing you to others.
Finally, if you want to be recognized in 2012 for your achievements, you may have to do a little self-promotion. Nobody likes the person who can’t stop talking about themselves, but you need to learn how to be sure your achievements and contributions are known to the folks who can influence your future. If your organization doesn’t highlight achievements via recognition events or newsletters, suggest that some kind of program be implemented. If you can’t get it done company-wide, start with your own department or unit and go from there.
My son is a high school junior and we have a shared goal of seeing him enter college in the fall of 2013. Although it may seem early to start the college search process, we are glad that his school starts now to help him identify a goal (what type of school he’d like to attend), put together a plan (what courses should he take, can he get a recommendation from his coach or employer, does he have submission deadlines on his calendar), figure out how to address any obstacles (will his SAT scores be a match for the schools he targets), discuss his plans with an experienced college counselor (to be sure he’s realistic and on the right track), and create an application/resume that reflects his accomplishments.
Strong performance at current responsibilities isn’t always enough to earn you the next prize, bonus or promotion. You may not want to relive your college application experience, but if you’d like to take the next step in your career, get started on your plan so you can be celebrating in 2013.
Nancy Lane, Director of Human Resources, Red Book Solutions