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Navigating the New Year: The Power of Goal Setting for Career and Job Success

Catalina Rojas

January 10, 2024

As 2024 begins this is a great time to explore the importance and limitations of goal setting around social impact careers.

But let's remember, while goal setting can be amazing, it's not without its nuances.

The essence of goal setting, as Carol Dweck's works highlights, lies in fostering a growth mindset. It's about stretching our ambitions while staying agile and resilient (Dweck, 2006). For the impact-driven souls, this means exploring our personal and career aspirations for both the short-term and long-term.

Thinking about what type of skills to develop this year, how to network more for impact, potential jobs and roles one may want to apply for, how to generate and engage more on LinkedIn or relevant platforms, research or project ideas and more can be invaluable. At the same time it is critical to also realize there are some potential challenges around goal-setting, including the danger of overplanning and not executing (for example if a goal is to run a marathon this year, one cannot start with running 26.2 miles in a week, it requires training and prep), not adequately linking one's goals to the market of change (where the jobs, funding and trends are) and also being too focused and missing the serendipitous opportunities that may arise.

Whether you're contemplating a career change, aiming for a promotion, or embarking on a job search, setting clear goals can help provide an actionable map. When you wake up with a clear purpose in mind, you're more likely to take the necessary steps to achieve it. And research shows that often doing small tiny changes over time can be invaluable to trying to change one's skills or career overnight (see the work of BJ Fogg).

Effective Goal Setting Strategies 

Here are explore some practical strategies to set and achieve career and job-related goals in the upcoming year.

Identify Your Priorities: Begin by identifying your top priorities. What do you want to achieve in your career? Is it a promotion, a switch to a new field, or landing your dream job? Prioritizing your goals helps you focus your efforts.

Utilize the SMART framework to structure your goals. Specificity is key; clearly define what you want to achieve. For example, "I want to attain an impact leadership position in my current company within the next 18 months." Measurability is crucial; establish metrics to track your progress. How will you know when you've reached your goal? Metrics could include job applications submitted, interviews attended, or skills acquired (although we are not big fans of volume over quality).

Ensure your goals are realistic and attainable. Assess whether your skills, resources, and timeframe align with your objectives. Relevance is often overlooked; ensure that your goals align with your long-term career vision and also market dynamics of the larger changemaking field. The ability to adapt is vital in today's ever-changing job market. Your goals should be flexible enough to accommodate unforeseen challenges.

In the realm of social impact, accountability is of utmost importance. Share your goals openly with trusted allies, mentors, or fellow changemakers. Their support and accountability through regular progress check-ins can be essential in making change.

Moreover, staying connected with your peers is vital. Continually engage by reading relevant sites such as pcdn.global, LinkedIn, and Devex.com. These and other similar platforms are invaluable for gathering insights on whether your aspirations align with what fits your talents and the change needed in the world.

Start by assessing your skills, resources (including time, energy and money), and timeframe. Do they align with your objectives for positive change in terms of your career?

Set specific deadlines for achieving these goals. This creates a sense of urgency and commitment to your mission of social impact. And break down ideas into smaller actionable tiny changes.

For example, consider networking: Connect with influential figures and fellow changemakers in your field to amplify your impact might mean reaching out to 2 new people each week on LinkedIn, attending more events. etc.. You could also commit to creating a weekly video series on LinkedIn, addressing critical social issues and inspiring change.

Invest in your personal and professional development by expanding your skill set. Whether it's gaining expertise in AI for impact, mastering data analytics, or learning new languages, these skills can be powerful tools for driving social change.

You can do a tremendous amount of learning these days online via free and paid courses, platforms, leveraging AI for impact, and of course formal and informal educational opportunities. And of course don't forget about podcasts which are amazing way to gain insights from innovators from around globe.

Remember, even the most significant social change starts with actionable steps. Break down your goals into specific tasks. For instance, if your aim is to address a social issue using AI, start by researching the problem, connecting with experts, and acquiring the technical skills needed to make a significant impact.

Now, take a moment to reflect: "What are the most important career and job-related goals I want to set and achieve in the upcoming year?" Start planning away, but make it actionable and realistic.

Sources: • Dweck, C. S. (2006). Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. Random House. • Locke, E. A., & Latham, G. P. (2006). New Directions in Goal-Setting Theory. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 15(5), 265-268. • Tracy, B. (2017). Goals!: How to Get Everything You Want - Faster Than You Ever Thought Possible. Berrett-Koehler Publishers.

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