Every Woman Should Set S-M-A-R-T Career Goals
Tons of women in India are frustrated with their jobs. Some are bored with the tasks they’re given; others feel unable to advance because of an inhibiting work environment. Though the challenges are many, often times the first step is just knowing what you want. Easier said than done, right? Here are a few steps to help you clarify your vision:
Step 1: Reflect on your experience
Certain women have a grand vision for where they want to go professionally, but many others struggle to develop such a master plan. Either way, don’t worry too much about the long-term future. You’re likely to change what you want as you continue to grow and get exposed to new people and ideas. Instead, think about your past year at work. Write down the top five things that you would like to stay the same about your career, the top 5 things you would like to improve, and the top five things you would like to completely change.
Herein lies the essence of your goals. Looking over these, you’ll probably notice a few trends about the major areas in which you’re seeking to grow. Select the three most important topics that you want to work in the coming year.
Ta Da! You’ve got some goals!
Step 2: Make your goals meaningful
Let’s imagine that one goal you wrote down was “improve communication at work.” Now you have to translate this into something you can stick to every day—in other words, make it a SMART goal.
[S]pecific: Your goals should be as specific, positive and action-oriented as possible. Who do you want to improve communication with? How? Do you want to send more emails, talk to more senior management, or just improve your ability to get your message across?
[M]easurable: Define the way you will measure your progress towards this specific goal. What milestones that you can set to ensure you’re on the right track to improving your communication? Decide, for instance, that you will talk to one person in senior management every week.
[A]ttainable: Make sure your goals are things that you can actually materialize. Think about whether you have the attitudes, skills and financial capacity to reach your goal. If your goal is to interact more often with senior managers, but they travel four days a week, then this isn’t an attainable goal.
[R]elevant: Goals should be instrumental to who you are as person. Do you actually want to run a multinational firm, be famous, and have three children? Don’t choose to improve your communication just because your boss tells you to – do it only if it’s what you really think is best.
[T]ime-bound: It’s important to ground your goals within a time-frame, giving them a target date of completion. Committing to a deadline will help you establish a sense of urgency. For example, you can commit to asking your boss for that raise you’ve always wanted by February.
Step 3: Create an action plan
Once you’ve made your three SMART goals, it’s time to create an action plan to achieve them. The easiest way to do this is to list down the actions that you will take each day, week and month to make progress towards your goal this year. For example, if your goal is to become an IT project manager in your company, you can make an immediate commitment to asking a senior manager on the IT team if you can volunteer to help out on an initiative where you will gain project management skills. Over the next week, you can pledge to talking to three people who are IT project managers and inquire about how they got into their roles. Over the next one month, you can sign up for an online project management course.
Write down your action plan everywhere you can. Set reminders for yourself to complete the actions you’ve committed to. Tell as many friends and family members about your goals and action plan as possible. Ask them to hold you accountable, and get feedback from them regularly. Schedule a regular time to analyze your progress and accomplishments with the people who are supporting you—at least once a month, but the more often, the better. Look at what has and hasn’t worked, and make adjustments along the way. Reward yourself when you achieve your targets, and hold off on those rewards when you don’t. These are the kind of reinforcements that help you stick to your goals when the going gets tough.
Lastly, take some time to review your goals every quarter. During the course of several months, you will likely learn new things about yourself and your profession, and may want to make adjustments to your goals. That’s totally ok, as long as you’re conscious that you’re doing this.
Make it happen—and tell us about it
So, what are your professional goals for the coming year? Share your goals in the comments below, and let us know if you’re having trouble figuring out an action plan. As a community, we will support each other to develop a reliable action plan, so that we can advance towards our goals together.