When you envision where you’ll be in your career over the next five, ten or even twenty years, I’m guessing you see success and fulfillment in your future. That’s exactly what you should see, and it’s a beautiful thing. Maybe you’re passionate about one day starting your own company, joining the C-suite, or finding a job that will afford you the opportunity to travel the world. Or, maybe you’ve set your sights on the ultimate prize — FIRE. The point is that we all have career goals and milestones we want to hit.
But how do we get to those bigger life-changing work milestones that may seem oh-so far away right now? We need smaller, micro-goals that will help us pave the road toward our future (incredible!) careers. Micro-goals are smaller, more manageable and executable tasks that move you along the path to achieving your ultimate goals, explains Meredith Monday Schwartz, CEO of Here Comes The Guide. As she puts it, setting these smaller goals is the ultimate ‘secret sauce’ to getting where you want to go.
Here’s a look at some bite-sized — yet meaningful — mile markers that you can easily hit during the first six months of 2022.
First, commit to tracking your goals
Micro goals work best when they can be measured against a macro (larger, grander) goal. So, first, decide what your big goal will be for 2022. Then, break down small things you can do monthly to work your way there, and hold yourself accountable. Get a journal or set up a digital notepad to document your journey, and chart your progress, recommends Brantlee Underhill, the managing director in North America at the Project Management Institute. She says to think in terms of the specific behavior changes you want to achieve as you do this.
For example, you might have an idea that you’d like to listen to one financial management podcast per week, but that might not get you the behavior change you seek. (In other words, what is “listening” really getting you?) Why not add the goal: Implement one thing I learned and document that learning. Then, you’ll build up a set of trial experiences that can really help you on the path to your goals, she explains.
Try time-blocking once a week
The hard truth about moving up the corporate ladder or starting your own business is that as life gets busy, work gets busier. “What people don’t tell you as you grow in your career is that the more successful you become in a corporate environment, the less time you have to juggle things in life,” says career expert Olga Etkina. “It’s essential to find effective time management strategies early on because strongly formed habits become easier to execute the longer you do them.”
That’s why time blocking — setting aside specific blocks of time in which you’ve made a note to accomplish specific tasks — can be a super-helpful micro goal for the first half of the year. Start trying it once a week, then work your way up to three times a week, and so on, until you figure out your ideal rhythm. If you’re unsure where to start and exactly how to make sure you’re attacking the most necessary tasks, try incorporating color-coded calendar tabs or reminders, Etkina suggests. Whatever works for you. And if you’re kicking it old school with a physical planner, maybe it’s time to break out the markers.
Update your resume, references, and work portfolio
If switching careers is a macro goal for you in 2022, then you need to make sure that you have your ducks in a row to jump into the career search process and provide the best first impression to a potential employer, says Maya Hoolihan, founder and CEO of EWedded. You can tackle one piece of the ‘application pie’ each month until you feel ready to dive into the search process. Start with an eye-catching resume, then identify key people in your network who could help guide your way. After that, you can look to build a portfolio that showcases your career trajectory.
“If you’re in a career where you’ve created bodies of work, have received press or awards acknowledging your expertise and accomplishments, then you need to make sure you have a digital and physical professional portfolio ready to present to potential employers,” Hoolihan says.
Stuck? Consider a professional coach
Believe it or not, asking for help can be one of your most crucial micro goals since you’re acknowledging the shortcomings in your skillset. (Everyone has them! Acknowledging yours and getting help for it is actually a total power move.) So if you need help getting out of a rut or making a decision on how to move forward, hiring a professional can help you see through the clutter of distraction and the seas of opportunity to help you define exactly where you want to go, Underhill says. “A coach can help you hold yourself accountable and pursue your goals with intention.”
Take baby steps toward better work/life balance
Most of us crave a better, stronger work/life balance that leaves us feeling fulfilled in both our personal and professional lives. At this point, that’s something we all understand. However, to truly invest in this, it’s better to start small with baby steps, and be realistic about the demands at home and within the workplace, Hoolihan says.
“Instead of jumping headfirst into shortening your workday or vowing never to work weekends again, address more palatable changes like creating hard stops for answering your phone or emails,” she says. “Identify a few areas that are easy to change to improve the harmony in your life, and you’re well on your way to tackling big changes that will provide you all the balance you’re seeking.”
Learn one new skill
It’s one thing to say you’ll learn how to code an entire website over the next few months. It’s entirely another to say that you’re going to sign up for a web development class that meets once a week, and work your way to that goal over time. The point is not how quickly you can meet your goal — it’s the fact that you’re gaining the knowledge that will make you a more well-rounded professional and benefit your career.
“Continual education and upskilling are essential in tackling all the goals you set for yourself, large and small,” Underhill says. “Whether it’s related to your work or a passion point, learning new skills makes you a more marketable job candidate, both within and outside your organization, and can help lead you on the path to success as you move forward in your career.”
Organize your workspace
Want a micro goal you can do right now? (As in, today?) Start by tackling that desk of yours, Hoolihan says. “Clearing out, reworking, or redesigning your workspace is an easy action that will spark positivity for what the new year has in store,” she continues. In addition to decluttering, take a day to go through your finances and see where you stand. You can also reconsider switching your office furniture design to see out a window or have a different perspective. “The smallest change can make a big difference in how you approach your work in 2022,” she adds.
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