A friend told me about a discussion she overheard at the gym yesterday. Two ladies were talking about their overbooked Spin class and how they were vying to get a seat. At the end of the exchange one lady remarked to the other, “Just wait. This class will be empty again by mid-February.” Similarly, many people who are searching for a new job or career path often vow to begin their search anew come January.
While many people resolve to do better in the New Year, the truth is that sometimes those resolutions don’t stick. And sometimes new resolutions aren’t needed to find your next opportunity. The best career advice I can give you for 2011 is to follow the SMART methodology for setting your goals, commit to a plan, execute according to your timeline and reflect and refine at key milestones.
While this is hardly revolutionary, it is often overlooked as we are enchanted with the thought that the New Year has somehow transformed us.
Start SMART: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Timebound
Don’t be too broad in your goals. As yourself of each of your goals if it follows the SMART model.
– Is it specific? What is the objective you want to accomplish?
– Can it be measured? How will you know when you have achieved it?
– Is it attainable and plausible for you to achieve your goal?
– With the resources and abilities you have, is this goal realistic?
– What is your time limit? Be realistic and be sure to set milestones for your goal.
Also, you need to apply the SMART model to all of your goals as a whole once you have run each of them through the SMART test.
– Are all of them specific? Are they compatible and work together?
– What is the overarching measurement for all of these goals?
– Are they attainable and plausible together? Can you achieve all of these goals simultaneously?
– Do you have too many goals to achieve or are you at a realistic number?
– Did you map out your timeline for each of these goals? What are the major milestones to achievement?
Plan your work
After your goals are set and have passed the SMART test, it is important to come up with your project plan on how you are going accomplish your goals. Think of this as your blueprint that you will follow throughout the entire process. Do this for each goal separately, but be sure to incorporate onto one timeline on your primary calendar.
How do you start a project plan? There are numerous software and web tools to help with this endeavor, but you can keep it simple as well. For each goal, list the steps needed to achieve success. Ask a trusted colleague or mentor for input after your first draft. Write out each of the steps needed to get to your goal – and then schedule them on your calendar. Put in all of the major milestones and your deadline. For more in depth help, check this reference site housed on the Free Management Library which discusses basic project planning.
Work your plan
This is where the real work comes in – the execution stage. No, there isn’t a way around this step, but you can make it easier. Go back to basics and use your ABCs to help work your plan.
Accountability: In addition to your calendar, enlist the help of colleagues, family and friends to help keep you on track. If you have periodic check-ins, you are more likely to stick to your plan and keep working at each step.
Bend and be flexible: You will have things that do not go your way. Do not give up. The less rigid you are, the more likely you will continue on your way toward achievement.
Celebrate: Take time to celebrate the milestones, wins and even the learnings from setbacks with your accountability partners.
Reflect, reassess and recommit
Throughout the entire process, you must reflect, reassess and recommit regularly. For some goals, this may be daily – and for others, weekly. The key thing to remember is that your commitments must be revisited and sometimes revamped in order to ensure success.