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New Year, New Career: 6 Tips for Achieving Your Career Goals in 2021

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How to bridge the gap between where you are and where you’d like to go in your career.

January is a time of new beginnings. With the previous year in the rearview mirror, it’s the perfect opportunity to reflect, reset, and start thinking about your goals for the new year. According to Monster, it’s also when the majority of new jobs are posted, making it an ideal time to initiate a career change. By January, most companies have solidified their budgets and objectives for the coming year, giving team leaders a solid understanding of the types of roles they’ll want to fill. This puts you in the perfect position to start reimagining your career and unlock a new beginning that checks all the boxes, eliminates the Sunday scaries, and gets you excited to jump out of bed each morning.



Why Change Careers?


Changing careers can feel intimidating and a bit overwhelming. It’s a big step—one that requires thorough planning and a deep-rooted commitment towards making a change. But, the good news is, these feelings of uncertainty are normal! In fact, it would be abnormal to feel completely confident every step of the way. If you’re considering changing jobs, know that you won’t be on this journey alone. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, people born between the years 1957 and 1964 had an average of 12.3 jobs from age 18 to 52—and throughout the years, this number has only increased. LinkedIn data shows that job-hopping has nearly doubled over the past 20 years. But why? The average American spends 90,000 hours or one-third of their life working, meaning it’s pretty important to find a career that brings you happiness.


There are many different reasons for making a career jump, but here are a few:


  • – To pursue growth opportunities that aren’t available in their current career
  • – To feel more fulfilled and passionate about the work they’re doing 
  • – To increase their salary, benefits, and work-life balance
  • – And so much more

One major reason holding people back from taking that next step and pursuing the career of their dreams is that they’re lacking an actionable plan. A career change is within reach for anyone with the right direction, determination, and support. To get you moving on the right path towards a brighter, bolder future, we’re offering a series of tips on how to establish and accomplish your career goals.


1.Inventory Your Skills


Think through your previous positions, academic experiences, and hobbies to identify portions of your past roles that really spark your interest. Are there one or two things that stand out? Inventory the skills you were utilizing throughout those activities and separate them into hard and soft skills. Choose 3-5 skills from each category that you would like to utilize in your new career and map them to relevant career trajectories. 


For example, if you’re an analytical thinker and really enjoy solving puzzles in your free time, you may find yourself gravitating towards a role in cybersecurity, a field that allows you to problem-solve and defend against complex cyberattacks. Or you may have an affinity for writing and love to journal in your free time. In this case, a career in digital marketing or communications may be right for you. 


Identifying your strengths and seeking positions where you can leverage them is the first step towards setting and achieving your career goals.


2. Think Digital


According to the World Economic Forum, at least 133 million new roles will emerge globally as a result of the new division of labor between machines, humans, and algorithms. Meaning that the skillsets required in virtually every industry are changing, and new categories of jobs will continue to emerge, causing major disruptions to the labor market. This isn’t breaking news—the digital skills gap has been steadily widening over the years. But now more than ever, you should be thinking about your current skills and how they can translate into a digital career. Studies show that 82% of middle-skilled jobs now require digital skills. Not only are these types of roles in high-demand, but they also pay more than non-digital positions. When mapping your hard/soft skills to career trajectories, really take the time to consider all of your options and seek out opportunities that will stay in-demand as the market continues to shift and evolve.


3. Set SMART Goals, Then Write Them Down!


There’s somewhat of a science behind setting goals, yet we’re rarely taught how to properly do it. A recent study found that 3% of MBA graduates who had their goals written down ended up earning ten times as much as the other 97% combined in the ten years following their graduation. Why? Because they had clear, written goals and plans on how to accomplish them. A great way to ensure you’re developing achievable goals is to use the SMART Goal method. S-M-A-R-T is an acronym that stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Time-Based. Let’s start with an example of what NOT to do when setting goals. Someone who isn’t using SMART Goal methodology may jot down the following: 


“Get a new job at a nonprofit organization.”



This isn’t very specific, doesn’t get into how they’ll achieve it, and has no timeline to set a benchmark for success. Instead, they could try:


“Find a job with a walkable commute in the next 12 months that contributes to positive social change, uses my strengths in interpersonal communication, and offers the opportunity to continually learn from those with more experience in the nonprofit sector.” 



This is very specific, factors in their personal considerations like being able to walk to work, building relationships with those in the field, and focusing on continuous learning. It’s also time-based and sets clear expectations.


4. Understand Your Deal Breakers


In life, there’s always going to be some give and take, including in your career search. In order to pursue that shiny new career you’ve always dreamed of, you may have to make some sacrifices along the way, like attending class on the weekend instead of sleeping in or updating your resume instead of getting together with friends. It’s important to be realistic upfront and define your true deal breakers. This especially rings true when looking at how your career will affect the lifestyle you want to lead. For example, if you love traveling or are looking to start a family, but the career you’re considering likely won’t allow for it, are you truly going to feel fulfilled? Will the salary increase and passion for what you’re doing be enough?  


You know yourself best, so the key is to be realistic about the sacrifices you’re willing to make in order to stay on track. Having your dealbreakers lined up before you run into them will make for an easier journey. You’ll be much more prepared and ready to make the choices necessary to reach your goals.


5. Job Shadow for Experience


It’s been said that the best way to learn is by doing. So naturally, the best way to gain exposure to a field that you haven’t had experience in is to job shadow and spend some time observing a professional in their work environment. Even if it’s only for a few hours each week. This can provide clarity on if it’s the right position and help you to understand what it takes to build that type of career. An easy way to get started is to reach out to your existing contacts and see if they’re connected with someone in the industry. Another great way to find a connection in the industry is to hop on LinkedIn. 


Gabrielle Kamekona, Head of Career Coaching at HackerUSA recommends the following:


“If you’re someone who isn’t sure about the career path you’re exploring, find someone in the industry on LinkedIn and ask them, “Listen, I’m looking at pursuing this as a career and I’m not sure. I would love to get coffee with you or pick your brain for 15-20 minutes. We often forget that people love to be mentors and help the next generation in their field. So don’t be afraid to send out some of those messages. LinkedIn is a powerful resource and we often forget to use it.”


Here are some examples of questions you should ask during your conversation:


  • – Can you explain your career path to me? 
  • – Why did you choose to go into this field? 
  • – What kind of growth opportunities are available?
  • – What are the most important soft/hard skills for this role? 
  • – What are some common challenges you experience in this role? 
  • – What do you enjoy most about your job?

6. Go Back to School


Achieving your career goals may mean furthering your education. This can feel daunting amidst an already busy schedule, but choosing the right educational opportunity can make this process much easier. Whether that’s taking a short class online to upskill, heading to your local community college for training, or enrolling back in your alma mater, there are plenty of options to choose from.


Another great option to gain both theoretical and practical, hands-on knowledge is earning a certificate through a specialized bootcamp. This route is a great option if you’re looking to change careers or expand your existing knowledge. It’s also a great opportunity to get the experience you need to succeed in the workforce without the extensive time commitment of a multi-year program. Many bootcamps offer online learning, weekend/night classes and are taught by industry experts that are currently active in the field to ensure you’re learning the most up-to-date practices.


Some bootcamps even feature customized services like helping you polish your resume and LinkedIn profile, connecting you with hiring partners, and checking in with you if you miss class. This extra layer of support can really play a huge role in helping you to achieve your goals


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