5 Professional Goals to Help Boost Your Career This Year

Career Advice
African American Woman Sitting at Computer
African American Woman Sitting at Computer
minute read

These 5 steps are designed to help you craft an intentional approach to building your career and moving closer to your goals professionally.

With a new year in full swing, now is a perfect time to think through your professional goals for this year and beyond. It’s often said that a failure to plan is a plan to fail — but you can avoid that trap by being intentional about where you’d like to see your career take you. And you can do that by boosting your success in the role you have right now, at the company you’re a part of, as well as future roles and places you’d like to be.

1.   Clarify your why.

It’s easy to think of work as simply something you have to do to support yourself. After all, there are bills to pay and we need an income. But your career fills so much of your day that it’s worth thinking about how you use that time. In fact, it’s estimated we will spend around 90,000 hours at work over our lifetime — a total of just over 13 years! Imagine how powerful it is to spend that time in ways that feel meaningful to you.

To craft meaning for your career with intentionality, consider how your work life fits into your overall life goals, and ask yourself some questions:

  • What is it that drives you in life? How would you define your purpose, your why?
  • What is most important to you in your life right now (home life, raising a family, exploring the world, getting a degree, etc.)?
  • How does your current role fit with what matters most to you right now?
  • Does your current role match with your value system?
  • What do you want to do more of at work? What do you want to do less of?
  • In what ways can you take on new responsibilities that align more closely with your personal goals?

Once you’ve arrived at some answers, you can look for ways to branch out in your current position or look for a new position that frees you to pursue your why.

2.   Craft your personal brand.

There’s a reason the phrase “personal brand” crops up all over the place (including here and now!). In today’s interconnected, online 24/7 world, we all are creating a personal brand for ourselves, a way that the world sees us. So, why not lean into this reality? Be intentional and creative about it to help you get where you want to go in your professional life.

  • What do you do best?
  • What do your colleagues see you as excelling at?
  • What talents and skills do you want to be known for?
  • Are you connecting with people who can help you promote your best skills?
  • Have you updated your online profiles (LinkedIn, portfolio, social channels, etc.) to include your latest successes? To feature a fresh, professional photo of yourself?
  • Have you gathered statistics, facts, and social proof of your contributions on the job?

Doing these tasks will help you to showcase what makes you unique and effective at work, which is key to earning raises, promotions, and new positions.

3.   Constantly be learning.

One of the most important factors in leveling up your career is growing in your skill set. Of course, the need to grow and learn clashes with human nature, which encourages us to fall back on our areas of comfort. So, you’ll need to be proactive about gaining new skills to stay competitive in the professional world, but it’s well worth it.

  • What books on work life, leadership, etc., can you add to your reading list this year? (Remember, audio books count too!)
  • Is there a certification program related to your role that would be worth investing in?
  • Have you scanned free or low-cost learning sources (like Udemy, the local library, and Skillshare) for courses in areas you need to beef up?
  • Have you considered asking a more senior person at your workplace to mentor you in developing some skills they excel at?
  • Are you leveraging learning opportunities offered through your professional network?
  • Are there thought leaders in your chosen field that you can follow on social media and stay connected with?

Growing your skills and knowledge is especially vital if you want to boost your career in tech, or enter the tech field from a different industry. The good news is that there are tons of programs to help you learn tech skills these days, and tech companies need skilled workers not just in coding but in related areas including accounting, sales, and marketing.

4.   Take on a big project this year.

A powerful way to find greater satisfaction on the job and level up your professional development at the same time is to step up and participate in a big project. Often, your workplace will have ongoing projects that need volunteers, and that’s a great way to get involved, learn new things, and network. If there isn’t a big project (yet!), maybe there’s one you can kickstart.

  • Have you let your boss know you’re interested and available to help out on team projects?
  • What ways could you see your company benefitting from a new project or program that doesn’t yet exist?
  • Can you set up a time to pitch your project ideas to your boss?
  • Are there company-related volunteer programs where you could offer to take the lead (such as a blood drive, job fair, etc.)?
  • Is your company planning to roll out a new technology, training program, etc.? Can you offer to be one of the test subjects for it?
  • Is there a community-based volunteer network that you can connect your company with?

As you get creative with work-related projects, your colleagues will get a chance to see how you shine outside of your normally assigned role — which can pave the way for you to be offered new opportunities.

5.   Give back to someone else in their career journey.

Whether you’re early in your career or not, there are always ways that you can share your knowledge, expertise, encouragement and skills with others. Taking time to find ways to give back, mentor others, and be a great colleague for others is essential. Remember all the hours you’ll spend at work? Make them meaningful by building strong, positive relationships.

  • Is there a new colleague you could offer to show the ropes?
  • Are there opportunities for you to help onboard and train new employees?
  • Are there career mentoring programs available through your college, professional organizations, etc., that you could participate in?
  • Could you offer to set up informal lunch-and-learn sessions for your coworkers?
  • Would a few colleagues be interested in getting together for monthly brainstorming chats so you can all level up your careers together?
  • Can you ask coworkers or your boss for ways that you can help out more and make their jobs easier?
  • Are their affinity groups at your office that you can join or volunteer with?

Work connections can be incredibly rewarding when you build the relationships mindfully. And it’s especially important to look for creative ways to do so when working remotely, which is becoming ever more popular.

Summing it up

No matter what your current role is or where you’d like to be in five years, making shifts now to grow is invaluable for building the career path of your dreams. By being intentional and proactive, you’ll manage your professional life instead of letting it manage you. And you’ll open yourself up to worlds full of possibilities!