January is the perfect time to think about what you want from your career in the coming year. Whether you want to start your career, find a new job, a change of direction or a promotion, setting some key career goals will help to keep you focused.

If you’re not sure how to go about it, here are our top tips on setting – and achieving – your career goals during the next 12 months:

Be SMART

Think about what you want from your career – what are your goals, are they realistic and when do you want to achieve them? Try using the SMART principle (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time bound). This will help to make your goals more clear, so you’ll know exactly what you’re working towards.

For instance, instead of setting yourself a goal to have a better-paid job at some point in the year, be specific about the role itself and the type of company you want to work for. It’s also important that your goal is one you can achieve and have the relevant experience or training for, and that you set a specific deadline to work towards. Your goals should also be relevant in terms of the direction you want your career to take, so try to be as consistent as possible.

There may well be stages you have to complete towards your goal, so set dates and times for each of those too. This will help you to measure how well you’re doing.

Meanwhile, if you’re setting yourself more than one goal, assign a priority to each and set realistic deadlines for them. Work towards your goals one at a time, tackling the highest priority goals first. This may help stop you feeling overwhelmed by the number of goals you’ve set.

Keep a record

Write down your goals, along with dates, times and other deadlines that will help mark your progress. Then remind yourself of those goals by reading your list regularly. Most importantly, make an action plan of what you need to do to move towards achieving your goals every day, week or month. And whenever you complete something on your plan that gets you closer to your goal, give yourself a reward to help boost your self-esteem.

Be reasonable

You may have decided that this is the year when you’ll find your dream job. But while it’s always good to aim high, try to keep your feet on the ground and set smaller, more manageable goals until your dream job is within easier reach. Instead, you could set yourself a target of applying for a certain number of jobs each month, or making one new contact a week who may be able to help you further your career.

Don’t give up

If you experience set-backs, don’t get disheartened. Keep going. Remember that working towards your goals is an ongoing process, and even if you miss your deadlines it doesn’t mean you should abandon your plans completely. Keep yourself on track by reviewing your goals regularly. And if things change, adapt your goals – and the steps you need to take to achieve them – accordingly.

Get outside help

If you’re finding it hard to stay motivated, ask a trusted friend or business colleague if they could help. Then set up a weekly or monthly catch-up where you can discuss your progress towards your goals. They may be able to offer a different perspective that could give you ideas you may not have come up with on your own, as well as help keep you on the right track.

CABA offers free career coaching to current and former ICAEW chartered accountants and their immediate family. Find out more about it by calling us +44 (0) 1788 556 366.

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