6 Steps for Setting Career Goals at the End of the Year

setting career goals at the end of the year

Before 2019 begins, you should take some time to set your career goals for the New Year. By setting career goals at the end of the year, you ensure that you begin 2019 with more success than years past.

Just don’t let your good intentions for 2019 get lost in the shuffle of everyday life. Research shows that roughly 80% of New Year’s goals fail by the middle of February. To ensure this isn’t you, come up with a set of quantifiable daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, and yearly goals that you’re determined to meet. Then, set up a strategy and plan for success.

Here are six steps for setting career goals at the end of the year.

Step 1: Stop and Reflect on 2018

The first step to setting career goals at the end of the year is to stop and reflect on 2018. You want to take an in-depth look at how the year has gone, what you’ve achieved over the last 12 months, and how everything was conducive to your career plan.

Sometimes, this reflection happens during your end-of-the-year performance review, but even then, you want to write down the results separately before setting your new goals. Some elements to consider during your reflection include:

  • Tangible objectives met
  • Training courses completed
  • Qualifications earned
  • Skills and/or knowledge learned
  • New responsibilities
  • Relationships developed (networking successes)
  • Negative and positive feedback received
  • Goal achieved

The more detailed you can be when documenting everything that happened in 2018, the better. This will help you determine what milestones come next and what’s realistic when it comes to setting career goals at the end of the year.

Also read: 4 Actions Successful People Take to Close out Q4

Step 2: Review Your Current Career Plan

Beyond looking at what happened, you also need to take a look at your wider career plan. Is it still the same in 2019 as it was in 2018? Do you have a new end objective that you’re striving toward? What was your end goal this time last year and is that still the direction you want to take?

Truthfully, a lot can change over the course of a year, and you want to make sure your passions and priorities are still the same. The end goal is to enjoy where you’re headed as well as the journey you’re taking to get there. So, make sure that your career plan is still set for where you ultimately want to end up. An Individual Development Plan (IDP) can be invaluable for this.

Step 3: Think S.M.A.R.T.

Once you know where you’ve been and where you want to go, it’s time to start thinking about how you can get there. The key is to be S.M.A.R.T. and mindful when setting career goals at the end of the year.

  • Specific: As you begin setting goals, be as specific as possible. Make sure every goal is simple, sensible, and significant. It should address an issue that is important to you and discuss what you want to accomplish, why it matters, who is involved, where it’s located, and which resources are required.
  • Measurable: Every goal should be quantifiable. A measurable goal means that you can track its progress to stay motivated. It should address key questions such as, “How much?”, “How many?”, and “How will I know when it’s accomplished?”.
  • Achievable: The reason why you did your reflection was to help you come up with realistic and attainable goals that are within your abilities to achieve. An achievable goal is something that you can easily figure out how to accomplish within your constraints.
  • Relevant: Not all goals are good goals. When setting career goals at the end of the year, you want to make sure they matter to you and align with where you want to be in the future. Ask yourself if the goal seems worthwhile, if it’s the right time, and if you’re the right person.
  • Time-Bound: Every goal needs a target deadline that you can work toward. You shouldn’t just arbitrarily say, “by the end of the year.” Instead, determine how long the goal will take you to accomplish and set a specific when for completing your task.

Step 4: Consider the Long-Term and Short-Term

While many of your goals should be accomplishable within 2019—short-term goals—those shouldn’t be the only goals you set. You should also think about your greater career aspirations and set long-term goals with time-bound objectives that you can accomplish in 2019 to put you one step closer to success. For example, if your long-term goal is to reach the C-suite, which will take three years—what objectives can you meet in 2019 to help you down that path?

Also read: Got Goals? Tap into the Power of Accountability

Step 5: Create a Strategy for Success

Once you have all your goals written down—which means you’ll be 42% more likely to achieve them—it’s time to write out your plan of attack. The idea is to answer the question, “What are the next steps I’ll need to accomplish my goals?”

If you’ve written S.M.A.R.T. goals, your strategy should be fairly straightforward, but it still needs to be planned out. Here are some ideas for getting started.

  1. Put all your goals on your calendar with deadlines for each objective along the way so they don’t get lost in day-to-day life.
  2. Reach out to your network, including your current manager and/or mentor, for advice on how you can reach each goal. They might be able to give you insight into courses you’ll need to take, certificate exams, projects, or training.
  3. Take ownership of your goals and keep them front and center, literally. Place your goals and strategy in a visible, central location where you have a daily reminder of what you want to accomplish.

Step 6: Find an Accountability Partner

Most of the time our career goals fail because we easily get distracted and forget what we were working toward. Then, when we start to fall behind in achieving our goals, we find a million excuses for why it happened. To fend this off, you need to have an accountability partner who can keep you focused and in check.

An accountability partner is a friend, mentor, or coach (find a mentor here) who can follow up with you on a monthly basis to see how your goals are coming along. They’ll work with you to monitor outcomes, ensure you meet deadlines, and help you come up with new plans of attack if things go wrong.

Setting career goals at the end of the year is a great way to ensure that 2019 is your best year yet. The key is to be intentioned with your goal setting and to have a well thought out strategy in place to ensure that you accomplish what you want.

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About the Author

Kelly Vo is a full-time freelance writer specializing in digital marketing, personal development, and content creation. A social media and brand development expert, you can find Kelly at where she helps businesses and executives develop their authentic voice.