Over the last few years, we’ve sseen signs of economic improvement. With people feeling more secure about their finances, and companies ready to hire again, it’s no surprise that many thinking that now might be the time to find a new job — or at least work toward a promotion or raise.
As you consider your current situation, it’s a great time to think about what you can do in the coming year to make yourself more marketable. A raise or a promotion could help you improve your career prospects, and you might even be contemplating a job change. None of this will be possible unless you plan for the future.
Don’t wish and hope for a better work situation and higher pay. Here are 5 career goals to achieve this year to help you move ahead:
1. Create a Career Strategy
You won’t get anywhere if you don’t know where you are going. Determine a career strategy that works for you.
First, identify what you want to do, and where you want to be a few years down the road. Next, once you know where you’re headed, it’s time to acknowledge where you are right now. be honest about your situation. Realize that you might still have a long way to go, especially if your goals require a little extra work, or require you to learn a new skill.
Once you know where you want to go and once you establish where you are now, it’s time to determine the steps you need to take to reach your objective. List the items that need to be done (and hopefully the order they should be tackled) in order to reach success. You can use this as your career strategy to guide your next moves.
Start this year to implement your career strategy. It’s a great way to get beyond a dead end job, and take positive steps forward.
2. Build Your Network
More and more, who you know can really help your career. Whether it’s providing you with a solid recommendation, letting you know about an opening at a company you want to work at, or introducing you to someone influential in the field, your career network can be a great resource to you.
Use this new year to build your network, making contacts in your desired field, and at potential workplaces. Take a deep breath and get out there and meet people. I’m an introvert, but I still make it a point to network. You can build your network through in-person events and conferences, as well as virtually, using the Internet to make new connections. No matter how you do it, the important thing is to always look for ways to expand your sphere of influence.
3. Earn Certifications and Skills
What skills are essential in your line of work? What education do you need to move up to the next level? Assess your current skill level, and learn what is required to move ahead. Then, make a plan to achieve those skills, whether you need to take an extra class or two at night, or whether there is a special certification you need to obtain.
Some companies offer training programs for future managers. If you plan to move up the career ladder at your workplace, enroll in these programs. You might need a particular software certification in some jobs to get ahead. If that’s the case, find out if it’s possible to take a class. Taking a particular skills and knowledge test might qualify you for a raise. Find out about these programs and incentives, and then go for it — and don’t forget to find out if there are cost reimbursement programs offered by your workplace if you take the time to learn these skills.
4. Develop Your Soft Skills
In order to succeed these days, you also need solid soft skills. In a world that’s so connected, and where we are all personal brands, we often don’t think about our ability to interact with others orally and through writing. However, these skills can be very valuable. Soft skills like problem solving, creativity, and even a good attitude can help you in your career.
These soft skills translate well to a variety of roles and responsibilities. Whether you are switching careers completely, or just looking to move into a better position, anyone can value your ability to lead people and solve problems. Resolve to improve your career this year by developing your soft skills and boosting the way you communicate so that you are more valuable.
5. Consider Quitting
For some people, the best career goal is to…leave the career behind. While this isn’t something that works for everyone, many find that a conventional job is draining. I know that I struggled with a “traditional” 9-to-5 job. I flourish in situations where I can make more of my decisions, and where I’m not stuck at a desk all the time. You might also struggle with a traditional job.
If you have a great idea for a business, consider quitting your current career and striking out on your own. The Internet has invented hundreds of new opportunities. Start out with a side hustle, and build it up in your spare time. Your dreams of entrepreneurship are more likely to come true if you create a plan to get to that point. You don’t have to quit today; you can strategize so that you take it one step at a time.
Another option is to stick with a tradition job, but abandon your current career field and start fresh in a new area. If you are unhappy in your career, and progressing further in the same field fills you with dread rather than energizing you, consider quitting and taking your career in a whole new direction. You might find new passion and enjoyment for a traditional job when you have new challenges.
No matter what you decide to do with your work going forward, this is a good time to start figuring out how to get to the next level — whatever that looks like for you.