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We’re still feeling the freshness of the new year and everyone is reorganizing and making plans as to what their steps and accomplishments will be. Professional development and growth is an ongoing process, and it’s certainly dynamic and diverse, greatly depending on where you are in your life and what you’re looking to achieve through your line of work. And since it’s the most perfect time of the year for setting eyes on new goals, some people may be considering a career shift, others are eager for a promotion, or are even looking forward to starting fresh in a new job; but none of this would be possible without a conscious decision to sit down and determine what your career and professional objectives are so you can make a plan and stick to it on your way to the job of your dreams. Whether you’re doing it for your personal benefit or as a job requirement, here’s a quick guide to get you started on setting your career goals in 2023.
1. Strike a balance between ‘flexible’ and ‘challenging’
First and foremost, when starting to set your goals for a thriving career, don’t go overboard with making them extremely challenging or difficult to the point that they become unrealistic. Author Arianna Huffington says “success is not a straight line, it’s much more of a dance and being open to possibilities,” so maintain a sense of flexibility and openness. At the same time, know that a truly beneficial goal is one that challenges you to achieve great things. New York Times bestselling author Mark Murphy also refers to these goals as HARD goals. The word is short for heartfelt, animated, required and difficult. By all means, make your goals tangible.
2. Do not underestimate the power of a SWOT analysis
Rasha Abul Nasr, certified facilitating career development instructor and founder of Pillars Consultancy for career advising, says that the moment you decide to move forward in your career, you must conduct a SWOT analysis, which she describes as an ‘eye opener’. The word is short for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. People often think that a SWOT analysis is just for companies not individuals, and that it has to be done on a corporate level, but Abul Nasr says that it is absolutely possible, and even necessary, that you conduct a transparent analysis for yourself if you want to set your career objectives. The most important part? Be completely honest about your weaknesses. Abul Nasr advises fresh grads to conduct a SWOT analysis every six months, while those who have been in the industry should conduct it every year. “It’s crucial for you to see where you’re standing before you decide to move forward,” she notes.
3. Learn about and use the Johari Window model
Abul Nasr explains that a similar tool to a SWOT analysis to give a person an honest reflection of who they are so they can set their objectives or work on their points of weakness is the ‘Johari Window’ tool. “This is a tool we use as career coaches, but one that individuals can also use on their own, with the help of a loved one or a close friend. It aims to show a person sides of themselves that they may not see as opposed to loved ones that they trust. It works as an eye opener for both parties,” adds Abul Nasr. The Johari Window model is based on two ideas: trust can be acquired by revealing information about you to others, and from learning about yourself from their feedback. Each person is represented by the Johari model through four quadrants or window panes. Each window pane signifies personal information, feelings, and motivation; and shows whether that information is known or unknown to oneself or others. Abul Nasr notes that this exercise does not act as an alternative to a SWOT analysis but rather complements it. “Eye openers generally take you through a process of self-understanding and self-improvement. The Johari window, if used correctly and with honesty, can be extremely helpful for a person looking to grow,” she adds.
4. Turn your weaknesses into opportunities
After you conduct a SWOT analysis or use the Johari Window, take your weaknesses and look into how you can turn them into opportunities. “I believe weaknesses are actually areas for improvement and can even be turned into strengths,” Abul Nasr says.
One way you can turn your weaknesses into strengths or opportunities is by treating them like a to-do list, according to Forbes. This could mean having a checklist of courses to be taken or material to be studied, or even the intentional stepping out of your comfort zone every now and then. Once you see your weaknesses in new light, new objectives will start forming before your eyes.
5. Consider the help of a career coach
“People who have a clear vision of where they’re headed or what exactly it is that they want to do in their careers often don’t need more than being honest with themselves and writing down what their next steps will be. But for those who have a hard time being transparent, or are simply just lost, which is often the case with people making a career shift, it can be very helpful to get the help of a certified career coach,” says Abul Nasr. A career coach can help you determine your internal and external weaknesses (internal being your weaknesses and external being the threats in your way), take you through the eye-opener process, and help you set concrete goals more easily.