A Strategic Guide to Achieving Your Career Goals

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Reflecting on the past year is a big part of December and January. Self-reflection is important because it allows us to identify aspects of our lives that we enjoy or are good at, and aspects of our lives that need to be worked on.

Since the average American spends 71% of their year working, fine-tuning your professional goals is extremely important for a better year and a better future.

Below are 8 questions you should ask yourself to identify areas of improvement and strive for success.

***PRO TIP: Make sure your goals are SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Bound), so you can easily keep track of your progress and reassess your situation in a few months as things often change.***

1.  What were your best and worst work experiences this year?

Identify your favorite project or part of a project, as well as a project that went wrong or didn’t satisfy you. Make sure to reflect on your professional relationships as well: did you work particularly well with a team or have a hard time with a certain co-worker or manager?

Example I: I loved working on the app with X team but had a hard time working with Y team.

Example II: I preferred working with Java instead of Python.

***Goal: Work on 3 more Java projects this upcoming year.***

2. Are you fulfilled with your work?

Reflect on the work that you do, the team you are on, and the project you are working on. While work is just work, you shouldn’t be dreading it. If you are, identify what is the root cause of your discontentment.

Example: I enjoy my role, but my manager always asks us to work overtime and it is negatively affecting my relationships as I cannot help with housework and childcare.

***Goal: Get the same job at a different company by the end of April 2024.***

3. What were my strengths and weaknesses?

Delve into the positive and negative feedback you got and identify areas of improvement. Did you lack a technical skill or do you need to work on some soft skills (e.g. provide better feedback to peers)?

Example I: I do not remember the feedback I got.

***Goal: Keep better track of positive and negative feedback so you can answer this question easily in the future and use the information as leverage.***

Example II: I had a few Python mishaps over the last few months.

***Goal: Take a Python online certification class to review my knowledge and acquire more.***

4. Do you like the company you work for?

Assess your feelings towards your company, co-workers, and managers. Evaluate your work-life balance, compensation and benefit packages (vs the rest of the industry), and company values. If dissatisfied, consider looking for a new job.

5. Are there any skills you would like to develop or obtain?

Review your soft and technical skills. Identify the skills you would like to work on in the next several months and why.

Example I: I need to learn how to give better feedback to lower misunderstandings.

***Goal: Give better feedback.***

Example II: I would like to work on the LATAM projects, but my Spanish isn’t good enough.

***Goal: Reach the business proficiency level in Spanish by May (from High Intermediate).***

6. Does work impact your personal life negatively?

Analyze how work has impacted your personal life this past year. Examine factors contributing to interpersonal conflicts and stress such as very limited PTO and STO, toxic work environment, or poor time management (on your end or your manager’s end).

Example I: My relative’s health is declining but I couldn’t visit them this year. Traveling there takes time, so I would have to use all of my PTO days or take unpaid days which I cannot afford.

***Goal: Find a new job with better PTO offering by end of April.***

Example II: I had to work overtime several times because I miscalculated how long a part of the project would take.

***Goal: Get better at allocating time for project tasks.***

7. Did you not achieve some of your professional goals this past year?

Identify the goals you didn’t achieve and the reasons why you didn’t achieve them. If you still want to achieve them, create a plan to do so.

Example I: I worked on a Python Certification but didn’t have time to finish it by the end of the year.

***Goal: Finish the Python Certification by April.***

Example II: I didn’t get promoted because the managers want me to work on a few management skills (giving better explanations and feedback)

***Goal: Develop feedback skills.***

8. Do you want to grow in your current role?

Evaluate your desire to grow within your current role. Assess your readiness for additional responsibilities, and if needed, determine steps to acquire the necessary skills or experience. Investigate the promotion process at your company or open roles elsewhere.

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