8 Tips for Setting Career Goals for the New Year

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The New Year is always a time of new beginnings, a time for a change, and a time to set goals. So naturally, it's when many people start thinking about looking for a new job or initiating a career change. In fact, January is the busiest job searching month of the year, according to job site Monster, as well as when the most new jobs are posted.

For those who are contemplating a job or career change, the arrival of the New Year presents the perfect opportunity to reflect on your past experience and to think about which direction you might want to take in the future. Even better, employers are hiring, and job opportunities are plentiful.

If you've been thinking about switching up your career, the start of the year is among the best times to do it.

Why Change Jobs or Careers? 

If you've been considering changing jobs, you should know that you aren't alone. 

People born between the years 1957 and 1964 had an average of 12.3 jobs from age 18 to 52, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. And those numbers might be even higher for generations after baby boomers.

Data from LinkedIn, for instance, shows that job hopping among recent college graduates nearly doubled over the past 20 years.

There are many practical reasons you might feel the need to stay in an unfulfilling job, but one key reason is the lack of a clear plan for an alternative career.

Clarifying your career objectives, and thinking about what career path you would like to be on, can provide the impetus and momentum for you to make the change to a more rewarding career.

Think of the New Year as a time to make a fresh start, and then take advantage of that energy. Here are some activities to help you to establish new career goals.

8 Tips for Setting Career Goals for the New Year

1. Reflect on Your Year. Take some time to consider your career in the year that just ended. If you dislike your job, try to figure out why. Is it due to the work itself, or something about the workplace, such as a poor relationship with your manager, lack of growth opportunity for you, or a poor organizational structure?

If you like what you do, and it's outside factors that you find limiting, it might make sense to make your goal to find a new position. The same holds true if you feel positive about your field, but are ready for more significant responsibilities. 

Spend some time assessing what you like and dislike about your current situation. This is also an excellent time to reflect on where you see yourself in several years, from a career standpoint. 

2. Inventory Your Skills. Review your work, volunteer, extracurricular, and academic history to identify activities or elements of your past roles that you found energizing or enjoyable. What did you like the best? Inventory the skills which you have enjoyed using. Here's a list of required skills for many different types of jobs. Develop a preferred skills list of six to nine skills or activities that you would like to utilize in a new career. 

3. Engage in Career Research. The more you learn, the easier it will be to make decisions and set goals for yourself. Start to read about careers of interest by browsing websites or publications at your local bookstore or library. Identify two new careers to research each week, and keep a diary of your interest in each. Measure the careers against your preferred skills list. For those fields with a genuine appeal, compile a list of questions to research so that you can fully appraise the suitability of that career for you. 

If your goal is a new job in the upcoming year, research companies in your industry, and spend some time doing research on salaries as well. 

4. Check Out What Your Friends Do. Activate your curiosity about the work lives of friends and people in your social network. Think about the roles of colleagues, suppliers, or clients that might be a good fit for you, and interview them about the nature of their work. Share your skills list with them, and ask for help brainstorming career options that might be worth considering within their sector. Ask your contacts for introductions to people they know who are in fields that interest you, and inquire about the possibility of meeting for an informational interview.

5. Set Up a Job Shadow (or Two). Set up some job shadowing opportunities with contacts in fields of interest during your vacation time to gain more concrete exposure to the field. It will give you real-life exposure to what the occupation is really like.

6. Volunteer to Gain Experience. If possible, look for volunteer positions within your chosen field. For example, if you are considering geriatric social work, help out at a senior center. If you are in school, unemployed, or working at home, consider a part-time internship in your target field. Besides helping others, you'll get some relevant experience to add to your resume. You might even be able to turn your volunteer position into a job.

7. Go (Back) to School. If attractive options require further education, take a class online to boost your career skills, consider earning a certificate in a career that interests you to boost your employability, review the offerings of local colleges, or consider taking a course at a local community college or adult education center to get a feel for your field of interest. Schedule meetings with faculty chairs from relevant departments to learn more about how the program might work for you. Completing a degree mid-career may seem daunting, but with the right support from family and friends, it can be feasible.

8. Contact Your College. If you need further help, contact your alma mater (or an area college career office) for a referral to a local career counselor.

New Year, New Career

For most people, career focus won't come as an epiphany from soul searching in isolation, but rather through active engagement with career resources and people in the work world. So why not start the New Year off with an active campaign to find some new career options?

Key Takeaways

THE NEW YEAR IS A TIME OF TRANSITION Take advantage by reflecting on where you are with your career and where you'd like to be. 

DO RESEARCH Not sure what you want to do? Reach out to friends, former colleagues, your alma mater, and other contacts, as well as exploring careers online. 

GAIN NEW SKILLS If you want to pivot to a new career, consider volunteering to gain additional experience, or taking classes to learn new skills. 

Article Sources

  1. Monster. "Are You Ready for Peak Hiring Season?," Accessed Nov. 27, 2019.

  2. Bureau of Labor Statistics. "Number of Jobs, Labor Market Experience, and Earnings Growth," Accessed Nov. 27, 2019.

  3. LinkedIn. "Will This Year’s College Grads Job-Hop More Than Previous Grads?," Accessed Nov. 27, 2019.