How to Set Career Goals for the New Year

How to Set Career Goals for the New Year

8 minute read

New Year’s resolutions. They’re easy to make and even easier to break. When January rolls around, anything seems possible. Especially after the year we've had in 2020. We promise ourselves that this year will be different—we’ll get around to those things we’re always putting off—but somehow, life always seems to get in the way of our best intentions. Luckily, if getting your college degree is one of your resolutions, StraighterLine can help!, especially during a pandemic! Here are some tips for making that January motivation to reach your academic and career goals last all year long.

Build Self-Awareness

So you want to get your college degree. That’s great! But why? Is it for a promotion? Career change? Just for yourself? Understanding why you’re pursuing something will help you build self-awareness. In turn, greater self-awareness can help you stay on the path to success. As important as it is to know why you’re pursuing something, it’s also important to consider what you’ll probably be good at on the way, and where you might need some help.

  • Think about goals you’ve reached in the past.
  • What made you successful?
  • Were there any key people supporting you?
  • Did you use a particular strategy to plan and organize your time?

Think about a time you failed, too.

  • What went wrong?
  • What did you learn from that situation?
  • How can you avoid, or at least lessen, some of the obstacles you encountered?

Gaining clarity about what motivates you and helps you succeed will help you build an effective plan for achieving your academic and career goals.

Find Examples of Career Goals

Career goals are very personal and individual to your unique situation. If you want to get a promotion at work, investigate the degrees people have in the role you hope to move into. Look both at the “next step up” in your path as well as the position you eventually want to be in 5-10 years from now. Your HR department can also be a great resource to help develop your path to promotion. For a career change - research individuals on LinkedIn and see what degrees brought them success. Informational interviews are a fantastic way to gain visibility into a new career or an industry you are not familiar with. Getting these insights will help you clearly define “what is a career goal” in this unknown field. Not only will you gain invaluable information, you also expand your network and may even get a job interview down the line.

Use Short Term Academic Goals As a Roadmap to your Career Goals

Getting your college degree is a huge undertaking, and it’s a long-term commitment. Long term goals are good—they help give our lives direction and purpose—but they can be difficult to remain committed to when you don’t see payoff quickly or frequently. That’s why setting short-term goals for yourself is key. Define an overarching goal, like getting your degree or changing your career path, and think about the smaller steps it’ll take to get there successfully. Once you’ve defined some of those smaller goals, try to break those down, too. For example, maybe a short-term academic goal for you is to finish a StraighterLine course in a month or two. First, you might want to use our pacing tool to help you set deadlines within that goal. Once you’ve done that, think about the steps it’ll take to help you make those deadlines. For instance, you may think you can crank out a paper in one night, but what about the reading or research you’ll need to do to get to the writing stage? It only takes a couple of hours to take a test, but how many will you need to spend digesting and reviewing the material? Even if you don’t seen an immediate payoff for something like reviewing your notes after a lesson presentation, recognize that those things are incrementally moving you towards your goals, small and large. In this case--as in many others--slow and steady really does win the race!

Start Strong

One of the quickest ways to drain your own motivation is by setting yourself up to fail, so set yourself up to succeed, instead! What were you good at in school? What hobbies do you have? In short, what do you enjoy? Start with a course that incorporates those things. Maybe you keep a journal or write short stories. Start with our English Composition courses and hone those writing skills. Did you enjoy following the election? Try out something like American Government. Fascinated by what makes people work? Give Introduction to Psychology a whirl. Have numbers always made sense to you? Sign up for College Algebra. Thinking about a career in the medical field? Maybe Medical Terminology is for you. Browse our whole catalog--We’ve got lots of choices to cater to any strength and interest!

Make the Tough Choices, and Learn to Say No

So you’ve chosen some courses, and you’re ready to start. Take a moment to recognize what might seem like an inconvenient truth: getting a college degree takes time and effort. You shouldn’t expect to get your degree without adjusting your family life, social life, or hobbies. Getting your degree is an exercise in delayed gratification, so it’s important to reward yourself in small ways while you’re on the path. Need to give up a weekend camping trip to get some work done? Spend a Saturday viewing a few lessons or completing an assignment, and when you’re done, make s’mores with the family in the fireplace (or even in the microwave!). Missing a friend’s birthday party to take an exam? Schedule coffee or a drink after you pass your test to catch up—you’ll get more time to talk, anyway. Can’t make it to your child’s soccer game? Ask another parent to take lots of pictures, and carve out quality family time later that evening or weekend. When you’re getting your degree, you may consciously need to make yourself a priority in ways you’ve never done before. To that end, it’s also important to learn to say no. Picking up an extra shift or two might make you some money in the short-term, but will it get in the way of your advancement to a higher position that requires a college degree? Maybe your child’s teacher has asked you to accompany the class on a field trip, but will you be showing your child what it means to commit to education by joining everyone at the zoo, or by getting your college diploma? As you work towards your degree, you will be pulled in different directions constantly—just keep in mind that an investment in yourself is an investment in everyone around you, too.

Enlist Support

That’s why it’s crucial to surround yourself with people who believe in you and what you’re doing. With any luck, your family understands how important it is to you, but if they don’t, are there co-workers or neighbors who might be willing to act as a sounding board or offer advice? Can you reach out to anyone on your social networks who has been through the process and can cheer you on? And don’t forget—the StraighterLine team is always here for you. If there’s anything we can help with, please give us a call. We believe in you, and we’re here to help. So, as 2021 begins, we raise our glasses to you. Cheers to being smart and successful in -- and getting through --2020! We wish you the best of luck on your academic and professional journey. Anissa Sorokin, Ph.D., is an Assistant Professor of English and Writing Program Administrator at Stevenson University near Baltimore, Maryland. Anissa’s interdisciplinary background and extensive experience teaching research, writing, and study skills help her demystify college expectations for students online and in her classroom. Looking for study tips to successfully take classes online? Check out this great article: Tips for Effective Online Learning

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