By Linda White
Special to the Toronto Sun
You've cleared space on your desk for your new calendar. As you stare at the pages not yet splattered with coffee or covered in doodles, you wonder if this is the year you'll quit smoking or lose weight.
But have you given any thought to setting some career goals?
For some, it could be finding a job they really love, landing a promotion or earning a raise. For others, it could be working fewer hours or simply doing less of what they don't like and more of what they do like.
Take stock of strengths
Taking stock of your strengths is a good starting point.
"There's tremendous career power in understanding what your best strengths are and accepting them," says Mary-Frances Fox, president of Work Creatively in Toronto. "Have a good handle on what you like to do and your favourite kinds of problems to solve."
Ask yourself the following questions: What's easy for me? What do I always focus on? What do I naturally gravitate towards? What's clear for me but more difficult for others to grasp?
Once you understand your strengths, consider how you can use them to set goals for the year ahead and be prepared to share them with your current supervisor or prospective employer.
"It's good to start revealing your strengths in a good and interesting way," Fox says. "If you keep it a secret and don't run it up the flagpole, chances are your employer's not thinking about what you like to do."
Your strengths can set you apart from others with similar experience or designations. "Companies don't hire just to fill a spot anywhere ... You need to draw employers a picture of why having you around is better than not filling a position," Fox says.
She points to the following as strengths an employer wants to hear about: the ability to save time, the ability to make and/or save money, the ability to nurture relationships with customers or as a member of a team, being efficient and being innovative.
"If you can show them how you can save time and money, then you're talking 'boss talk' rather than like an applicant," Fox says. "That makes you look more valuable, either in a company you're currently working for or in a new company."
Set goals that are specific, realistic and measurable, advises career coach Jeff Baldock of CareerSport Inc. in Toronto. "Goals are great to keep you on track because they give you feedback," he says.
Consider setting goals that allow you to help others. "What talents do you have that help others? The greater the desire to help others, the greater the motivation to achieve your goals," Baldock says. Volun-teering is an opportunity to develop skills you're lacking.
Put yourself in the driver's seat rather than being a passenger.
"Update your resume. Review your past accomplishments and how you made contributions. What did you learn? What strengths did you use to get results for others? Understand that and you can start to steer your career," Baldock says.
Consider your strengths and how they set you apart from others.
Review past accomplishments.
Set specific, realistic and measurable goals.
Maintain balance in your life.
Get the support you need to be successful.
Track your progress and reward your achievements.
Maintaining balance in your life can help you achieve your goals.
"Balancing our career goals with life goals allows us to nurture ourselves and look after those relationships we value," Baldock says.
Get the support you need to be successful, such as a career coach, career workshops or support group.
"Group support can be very powerful in breaking through the threshold of something we haven't done," Baldock says. "We're such creatures of habit that something new can be both exhilarating and stressful."
Finally, don't wait for this time next year to measure how successful you were in achieving your goals.
"Record, journal or log what you've accomplished," Baldock says. "That allows you to look at what you've done and can help in building your resume or in an interview. You can see the progress you've made, which is very reinforcing.
"Motivation comes through action, no matter how small," Baldock says.
"It will help you move forward, perhaps to setting more goals. Your sense of control increases. You feel you can take on something else."
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