Achieve Your Big Career Goals (and Other Professional Development Tips for 2020)

The New Year is a perfect time to make resolutions and set strong goals for 2020 –especially when it comes to your career. Whether it’s landing an executive position in a major company or starting your own small business, keeping your big professional goals on track throughout the year and beyond requires ongoing motivation, diligence, and effort. This year, how can you achieve your professional goals? Set yourself up for success with these ideas for building and tracking your new career goals.

Decide your big-picture goals.

How do you see your life changing in the next year? Think big and explore ideas for both your career and your personal life. It could be anything from moving to a new country, taking on a new project at work, or even saving up enough money to put a down payment on a house. No matter how wild your life goals are, the first step to bringing them to life is writing them down and prioritizing. What goals are attainable in the short term? Which will take a longer time to achieve? What can you do now to start working toward those goals?

Track the details.

Once you know where you want to go, break those big goals into smaller, more manageable chunks—especially when you’ve noted any large goals that could take longer than a year. Make a plan by writing out what you’ll need to do to get to where you want to be. Consider both your strengths and weaknesses to select tasks that will challenge you and allow you to grow. If you’re not sure the right steps to meet some of your goals, do some research! When your to-do list is done, estimate how long it’ll take each task and set yourself a deadline.

Continuously tracking progress is extremely motivating when it comes to keeping you focused and driven to meet your goals. Consider buying a planner, creating a bullet journal or using a helpful tool like a Kanban board or Trello to move tasks from “In Progress” to “Done.” Keep your tasks top-of-mind with visual cues like a sticky note with your daily goal near your computer or a reminder in your email calendar.

Be honest.

Setting yourself a lofty goal is great, but if you’re consistently underperforming or forgetting what you’re working toward, it may be time to scale back. Focus on goals that will challenge you but be realistic. Check in with yourself often to review your progress and understand where you may need an additional push. What outside factors are impacting your progress? What can you change or tweak in your workflow to be more successful? Whatever it is, it’s up to you to find the disconnect between you and your goals, readjust, and continue to work toward a solution.

Utilize your downtime.

Everyone has responsibilities that make free time difficult to find, but there’s good news: there’s almost always a little bit of time you can carve out for yourself, you just have to know where to look. Repurpose your commute by listening to an audiobook or podcast on the drive or ride in. Take your work breaks and read a few chapters of a book. Finish an online article or write a paragraph while standing in line to buy groceries. Call a mentor or networking friend while you’re on a walk or even cleaning. Every little bit counts to meet your goals, so make sure you’re taking advantage of your downtime where it counts!

Find the right resources for you.

Don’t forget the web is full of helpful tools, unique ideas, and great insights on how to continuously meet your goals. When you’re feeling stuck or unmotivated, try searching for new tools, apps, and articles directly related to the task you’re trying to accomplish or a behavior that you’re trying to change. Always late to work? Do some research on sleep schedules to find what works best for your lifestyle and set out your clothes or pack your lunch the night before. Interested in cutting down your phone time? Set up the App Limits function on your iPhone to remind you to turn off at a certain time in the evening. Looking to increase your focus at the office? Find out how to re-organize your day (and workspace) to minimize distractions. There are a ton of great and unique resources right at your fingertips, you just have to look for them!

Seek out new experiences.

Especially when it comes to meeting professional goals, learning is the key to development of any kind. On-the-job learning is even better! Consider where and how you can build your new skills in your current role or within your network. At your job, ask to shadow a manager (or someone with the job you want) for an afternoon or schedule a lunch meeting with a colleague from another department to pick their brain. Outside your work, offer to take on a project that will challenge you to think differently for a local organization or build a new skill by doing a little bit of free work for a knowledgeable friend in the industry. And don’t be afraid to share your professional goals with your boss and ask them for any insights! Not only can they help keep you accountable, but they could be a great resource to help you on your journey or connect you with people that can.

Network, network, network.

Networking is a great way to learn, expand your professional circle, and hear from people who are succeeding in areas that you’re dreaming of entering or expanding. Explore different types of networking groups in your area that are related to your specific career goals. While networking can be uncomfortable at first, start by challenging yourself to attend a new event every three months or make a connection with one new person each meetup. As you’re building your networking skills, you can even start by actively listening to those around you or taking advantage of your networking group’s free events, like speakers and seminars that could be valuable to you in your career journey. Building up your professional network can only bring new opportunities for you in the future!

Read here for more tips on navigating your professional development.