6 Tips to Set Your Career Goals for 2021

by Katie Sawyer, · 5 minutes
HOME blog tips to set your career goals for 2021

According to a recent survey of more than 1,400 shift workers, 91% of shift workers think developing a career path is important.

If you’re one of them, or you manage one of them, listen up.

To take a step forward professionally or in business in the year to come, start setting your goals now so that you have something concrete to work towards in 2021. Read on for six helpful tips that can help you set the right career goals for 2021, so you can ensure that the next year is one of growth, productivity, and achievement.

Goal-setting tip #1: Create “SMART” goals

Make sure that the goals that you set for 2021 are SMART goals. SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-based. When you set SMART goals for yourself, you ensure you're setting realistic milestones you can achieve. Plus, this framework can help you break down that to-do list so it doesn’t feel so overwhelming.

  • Be specific about amounts and dates. Vague goals are hard to measure and their outcome is not particularly motivating. Set specific dates as deadlines or specific amounts as goalposts to reach. The more specific your goal is, the more likely you are to reach it.

  • Visualize where you want to end up. What’s your end game? Run payroll for your division? Transition from the front of house staff at your restaurant to a social media manager? Move up to lead receptionist? Make sure your goal is a step on the path to get there.

  • Give yourself an ultimate end-date. Create a concrete ending for when you must achieve your goal. Time-based goals provide you with a hard deadline and make sure you don't drag the work out too long or procrastinate.

Goal-setting tip #2: Ask to take on more responsibilities

Consider how much time and energy you have, then step up to the plate and volunteer to take on more work. Initiative is the first key to success — and it will force you to work on your time management skills.

  • Look around you. Gauge what needs more support at work, then volunteer to help in that area. Bonus points when you not only identify a gap, but you provide a solution about how you can make something more efficient.

  • Ask your boss. Chances are your boss is struggling to keep up with the workload. Ask your boss what responsibilities you can take on and how you can be most helpful. This is a great way to get recognized for your contributions.

  • Help struggling colleagues. If your team is struggling with their workload or experiencing burnout, step up to help them. Shouldering some of the work for coworkers can help ensure everyone is happier and more successful at work.

Goal-setting tip #3: Ask for feedback on a regular basis

It's hard to gauge your own performance. Ask managers and peers for feedback regularly, to ensure you're doing the best you can possibly do.

  • Calm your nerves. The first time you get feedback from a boss can be intimidating and it may be hard to focus or take in all the information you receive. However, by getting concrete feedback regularly, you can make the feedback process a regular part of your development.

  • Talk to your peers. Find trusted colleagues at work and ask how they view your performance or if there is anything you can do to contribute more. Your colleagues will appreciate the trust and your willingness to improve.

  • Rinse and repeat. Schedule regular feedback sessions, if possible. Working feedback into your routine ensures that it will happen regularly and that you continuously stay on top of your game at work.

Goal-setting tip #4: Read professional development books

Take some time outside of work to develop your skills. There are tons of professional development books that can make you a better employee. Check your local library for free books — and if audio is your thing, download audiobooks or podcasts.

  • Read industry-specific books. Find books that can help you in your specific job, in your specific field.

  • Read general leadership and productivity books. Find books on professional development in general, and read those to help you become an overall better professional in the workplace.

  • Ask your boss. Ask your higher-ups what books could help you with professional development. Take their recommendations and learn from those texts.

Goal-setting tip #5: Network

One way to take a step forward on your career path is networking. By networking, you can create important business partnerships, or you can cultivate relationships that end up being an opportunity to step forward in your career path. And while some in-person events have transitioned to virtual, that means you can network right from your own home.

  • Attend community and industry-specific networking events. Do some research online and attend events specifically aimed at your professional community.

  • Create business cards. Have some business cards printed and carry them with you. That way, when you meet a potential business connection, you can solidify the link with a card. If you’re meeting virtually, create an email signature so your new network will remember you.

  • Don't forget the internet. Social media platforms like LinkedIn are a good way to network and meet people who do similar things to you or what you want to do.

Goal-setting tip #6: Create a financial plan

An important part of your career is the money you bring in. Take a step forward in 2021 by making a financial plan — whether that's to create more savings, pay off debt, or invest.

  • Consider how much you need to work. Calculate how much you need to work to meet your financial goals. Don't forget to factor in things like overtime and bonuses, and consider that you may need to take time off for vacations, sick days, and more. If you want to make more money, make a plan with your boss to get you the raise you need.

  • Ask for a raise. Speaking of raises, have that conversation with your manager. If the budget is tight or you’re not quite ready for a raise, create a plan in writing so you know exactly what you need to do to get to the next level.

  • Have some fun. Along the road to financial success, make sure you pocket a little spending money for some fun. When you're working really hard, using some of your extra hard-earned cash to treat yourself can not only help you enjoy yourself, it can also help you refresh so you're ready and motivated to keep the hard work up all year long.

Growing careers in 2021

Whether you’re looking to be promoted to manager or just master a new latte art skill, career growth is an important part of the process.

Download The 2020/2021 State of Shift Work Report to learn a few more trends impacting the shift work industry — and start 2021 with the right insights for a year of personal and professional growth.

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