Forget Resolutions – Set Goals Instead

23rd January 2017

Posted In: The Topic | WMB Careers

With the knowledge that 80% of New Year’s Resolutions fail within the first three months, it’s safe to assume that many people reading this are already struggling with their own resolutions. If you are, don’t worry, it’s not your fault; the mistake was in making a resolution at all. You should have set a goal instead.

Words: Sharon Gaffney, HR Recruitment Team, CPL Resources plc.

It might sound like semantics but there is a clear difference between goals and resolutions. When you make a resolution all you’re saying is: ‘I will get a new job’ and start from there. Effective goal setting means methodically working through each aspect of your goal to make sure you achieve the desired result. It starts by making sure you’re setting the right goal in the first place.

Goals need to be SMART

In the example following, we look at career goal setting where the most important requirement is that you set SMART goals:

‘I want a new job’ is too vague, goals like ‘I want to get a new job that offers more job satisfaction’ or ‘…a shorter commute’, or ‘…greater responsibility’ are much more realistic to achieve because they offer a guide on what to do next.

If you can’t measure your goal, how will you ever know if you’ve achieved it? Make sure you have a metric for success, whether that’s a salary level you want to reach, or an amount of time to knock off your commute. This will give you context on what you need in order to have ‘achieved’ your goal.

Make sure the goal is something you can actually achieve. Don’t say you’re going to double your salary this year as you are likely to end up being disappointed.

Keep it realistic and relevant – There is little point in setting a goal to ‘get a job with a shorter commute’ if you already live two minutes from work. The goal should be realistic and relevant to your needs.

Goals should always be limited by time. Any goal can be achieved eventually, it won’t be a challenge unless you set a timeframe.

Bringing all of that together means your original resolution to ‘find a new job’ becomes ‘I will find a new job in HR, that is at least one level above my current title, and will help me to further develop my career, by the end of June.’

A Goal is never just one goal

Setting a SMART goal doesn’t just give you a clear picture of the goal, it also helps you identify and set a series of effective additional goals. Just like resolutions, single goals can be too big to achieve so are often allowed to slide. To achieve big goals you need to break them down into smaller, more achievable goals or tasks.

If your goal is to find a new job; you need to research the roles you want to apply for, talk to industry contacts, review your CV, research potential employers, practice interview technique etc. Each of these is a goal in itself. Start with your overall SMART goal and ask ‘what do I need to do to get there?’ With each step, turn it into another SMART goal – ‘I want to spend an hour every day practicing interview technique’ or ‘I want to send five applications a week’.

Write down each of the required steps and then map what you want to achieve in the next week, the next month and the next three months. As you work through your list, ticking off tasks and smaller goals will create both a sense of achievement to keep you engaged with the process and also ensure you progress steadily towards your goal.

Setting career goals

Of course, you don’t need to be looking for a new job to set career-related goals. In fact you will make yourself much more desirable as a candidates if you are constantly working towards clear career goals and working to develop your skills. Before you set any short term career goals, you should take a step back and look at where you want to go in your career. Once you have that in mind, ask, ‘where do I need to be in five years to get there?’, ‘where do I need to be next year to get there?’ and so on.

As long as you keep your goals SMART and break them down as far as possible, achieving them is just a matter of doing the small, achievable, goals now – the rest will take care of itself. If you can do that, you’ll never need to set a New Year’s Resolution again.

Sharon Gaffney is a Manager at Cpl Resources plc and leads the HR recruitment division. With over 20 years of recruitment experience, Cpl HR are dedicated to sourcing top talent across the entire HR job family. Cpl is Ireland’s largest recruitment agency, and a global provider of recruitment, staffing and outsourcing services, with 38 offices worldwide.