Career Management: Goals vs. Resolutions

If you’re hoping to make next year better (more successful) for your career than this year has been, I’d like to make one essential recommendation: Concentrate on goals–and plans to reach them–rather than New Year’s resolutions. You’ll almost certainly be more satisfied at the end of the year if you do that.

Why Not Make Career-Related New Year’s Resolutions?

2016 new year resolution on white paper with pencil and drawingWhat’s wrong with making New Year’s resolutions as part of your career management activity? Let’s begin by looking at a definition of such resolutions. According to Wikipedia, “A New Year’s resolution is a tradition, most common in the Western Hemisphere…, in which a person makes a promise to do an act of self-improvement or something slightly nice, such as opening doors for people beginning from New Year’s Day.”

This concept has at least a few problems with regard to your career success needs, including:

  • it has little to do with true career management, which requires a strong sense of purpose. New Year’s resolutions tend to resemble wishful thinking a lot more than purposeful planning.
  • If you don’t think through why you’re considering making a particular resolution, you might doom yourself to failure from the outset. For instance, you might “resolve” to obtain a college degree that others in your field have, just so you can feel as if you’re equal to them, without realizing that you have zero interest in the hard slog of pursuing a degree while you need to continue working full time to earn a living.
  • Requirements for a successful job search or for effective, ongoing career management don’t often match well with the impulse thinking that fuels many New Year’s resolutions–and often leads to their demise. Clear, well-grounded review of your career situation needs to precede the professional objectives you set in place.

Wikipedia quotes some statistics that indicate the weakness too often tied to making New Year’s resolutions:

“The most common reason for participants failing their New Years’ Resolutions was setting themselves unrealistic goals (35%), while 33% didn’t keep track of their progress and a further 23% forgot about it. About one in 10 respondents claimed they made too many resolutions.” It also quotes results of a 2007 study from the University of Bristol that indicated 88% of the 3,000 participants failed to keep the resolutions they set.

Career Goals Rather Than Resolutions

Goal for 2016 year on blackboard on red studio room backgroundOften, you make New Year’s resolutions but don’t write them down and don’t share them with anyone else who can help hold you accountable for sticking to the resolutions. That’s a sure recipe for failure. Furthermore, you might not have fully scoped-out what you need to make sure happens in order for you to actually turn a resolution into a reality.

A resolution without a plan equals the wishful thinking I mentioned earlier. On the other hand, a career goal with carefully considered action steps at least requires you to give serious thought to your intent and to what you need to do to achieve it.

You might be familiar with the SMART Goal concept (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-based), and that’s one approach you can take. However, other options undoubtedly exist, and you’re free to explore those options to find the approach that works for you. Just don’t let yourself get stuck on endless exploration of possible options.

As C.J. Hayden, author and business coach, is quoted as saying, “It doesn’t matter so much what you choose as that you choose.”

What you do in the coming year matters to your career success. Put some goal “muscle” into it, not just a here-and-gone-again New Year’s resolution.

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