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Successful goal setting

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Anyone who moves through their life without a clear goal or plan can become frustrated when they find things are not going well for them. If there is something you really want to change, something you are burning to achieve, having a plan of action will make all the difference.

Planning your career sounds as if it should be easy but in truth finding the time to work out your goals - and more importantly the steps you need to accomplish them - is a luxury. However, everyone deserves a career that is both successful and fruitful and if you do not set yourself realistic goals you are unlikely to achieve this. The following information will help you get started on this or reaffirm the plans you have already put in place.

First, answer the questions in the box on the opposite page. These will show you where things are working and where you need more structure. Having answered the questions, if you can spot what is missing it will be easier to work out ways to fill the gaps. If the exercise draws your attention to any work/career needs you have, make sure you list them.

Setting your goals

Answering insightful questions is the first step towards change. The next is taking the time to write out your goals and setting up a plan to achieve them. Making resolutions is something people often do in January and is the closest some get to forming plans. You may already have a career plan, but if this concept is new, make a list of what you would like to do with your career in the next 12 months.

Achieving your goals

The next step is to make a commitment to yourself that you will see through the plans you make. Without commitment it is unlikely that any of your goals will materialise.

Most people realise that to get what they want - or change something they don’t want - they will need to take action. Whether it is a promotion, starting a course of study or reducing your hours, the thing all goals have in common is that the outcome is dependent on good preparation and planning. One of the stumbling blocks when making changes is not following through on your plans. To avoid this put a date against the items on your list. If it is a big item break it down into smaller achievable tasks. Review these regularly.

Short-term steps

Improvements to your career can be achieved without making dramatic changes. If you have spotted lots of gaps, rather than immediately looking for a new post, check out the learning opportunities within your existing environment. Tell the people around you what you want to learn, why this is important to you and ask for their help and ideas. If you are interested in managerial responsibilities ask if you can shadow your manager for a day or offer to chair the next staff meeting. If you don’t ask, no one will help you. Be bold.

Making time

Time management is also important. To make changes in your current post you will
need time. Are there any things you are doing you could delegate to others or reduce your commitment to - either at home or at work? The time you free up will be yours to use towards progressing your career.

Get support

Find a trusted friend or ask someone you respect to be your mentor. Tell them about your career goals and the pathway you have planned for achieving them. Other people can be very good at spotting gaps, asking the right questions and offering you ideas. A good mentor will feel privileged to be asked, so don’t feel shy about it.

Reassess your goals along the way

One caveat is that when you set a goal you do it with the best information you have on hand. Sometimes along the way new information or opportunities may present themselves and it would be a shame to be so set on a specific path that you let something better pass you by. So take time to review your plans and progress and check they still suit you.

Tips for success

Finally, to speed up the process it helps to start acting now, as if you were already on the
point of achieving your goal. Visualisation helps, so form a clear picture in your mind of yourself holding the post you desire. See and feel everything you will be doing and saying. This is a trick Olympic athletes use to help them win races. When you feel confident about this post and believe you will reach it, you will start to act differently. When you act differently, people respond differently and before you know it the change will materialise. Good luck!

Self-assessment: clarifying your career goals

1.How do you usually feel about the working shift ahead?
Tick the most appropriate box
 Excited  Fulfilled  Content  Nothing  Bored
 Apprehensive  Dread it

2. What percentage of your time at work do you feel fulfilled?
 0%  10%  20%  30%  40%  50%  60%  70%
 80%  90%  100%

3. List any aspects of a typical working day that you would like
to change.

4. What is the single most important thing missing in your work?

5. What are the things that you’d seek from a change
or promotion?

6. How much longer do you plan to stay in your current post?
 Less than 1 year?  More than 1 year?  I don’t know

7. What type of work do you want to be doing in two years’ time?

8. What is your long-term career plan?

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