New Year, New Job. But First You Need Clear Career Goals.

Mac Prichard - Mac's List, Prichard CommunicationsIf you’re embarking on the hunt for a new job in the new year, you need a plan so you can hit the ground running in 2019. When job seekers ask me what’s the one thing they can do to prepare for a new job search, I tell them not to do anything until they have a clear list of career goals. These career objectives bring focus and efficiency to your search by clarifying what you need to do to achieve what you want.

As the year comes to a close, take some time to reflect and hone in on your purpose. Here are a few strategies that will help define your career goals for 2019. With these targets in hand, you can find and land a new job in the new year that helps you reach and exceed your potential.

Map out your career goals.

There’s one creative exercise you can do in a few hours that will boost your creativity and leave you with dozens of new ideas. It’s called visual or mind mapping.

Start with an oversized drawing pad or giant sticky note board and different colored sharpies. Draw bubbles and lines and make connections to ideas. Feel free to let words flow without any guidelines or parameters. The idea is to get all those big ideas on paper! Write down any ambition, big or small, that you want to accomplish in your career.

When you’re done, look back at what you’ve created and where you see connections. In the end, you might have only a few actionable outcomes, but this can be a great way to spark your creativity and identify a clear path to your biggest career aspirations.

Reflect on past accomplishments.

What are you good at? It doesn’t have to be work-related. Look beyond your professional life to discover where you find fulfillment. Say you organized a meetup for local soccer enthusiasts and fifty people showed up. Or perhaps you felt invigorated when you finally mastered a complex piece of software. Look even further back: were some of your happiest times in high school spent with the debate team?

Experts say that the activities you excel at with relative ease are very good indications of where your greatest strengths and abilities lie. Excelling in a debate forum might have indicated your early love of public speaking and critical analysis, just as decoding software reveals you’re a problem solver at your core. Take note of these underlying themes to identify what career paths are worth pursuing.

Consult with friends, colleagues or a career coach.

We all need outside perspective to assist with feedback and provide us with new opportunities. Consider getting help from a career coach who will ask you questions and offer insight that you may never have considered. A coach can also provide a sounding board and reflect back what you might have a hard time seeing. Looking back over your entire career with an objective party can illuminate for you common “threads,” both positive and negative. They can help you decide what is valuable to continue pursuing and what you need to let go.

If a coach is not an option, contact trusted former colleagues and life-long friends and ask them where they have seen you the most energized and alive. Use these insights to help you discover what career goals align with these positive threads.

Push yourself to learn new skills.

Don’t get comfortable with what you know, and don’t limit your career objectives to what’s easy to achieve. Pushing yourself to grow and expand your horizons will keep you on the cutting edge of trends and advances in your industry. The good news is, there are numerous free or relatively inexpensive ways to do this; Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) is an online platform that offers myriad free classes modeled after courses from institutions such as Harvard and MIT.

Studies have shown that professionals are flocking to this flexible format that allows for self-paced learning and the ability to continue working full-time. Find a course that interests you—or perhaps more importantly, that intimidates you—and use it to build your competencies and establish new and better intentions. Check out community education options and local colleges.You can take courses for certifications that will sharpen your skills and look impressive on a resume and LinkedIn profile. These new skills can unlock new interests, and lead you to hone in on new career goals for your professional development.

Get inspiration from other professionals.

Professional organizations have experienced a resurgence in recent years as workers seek places to grow their networks in innovative and interpersonal ways.

Learning from your professional network is crucial to staying up-to-date with what’s happening in your industry and establishing important contacts that can lead to future opportunities, mentoring, and new career plans.

Identify what you care about most in your career.

Taking inventory of your life often reveals what is important to you. Decisions you have made can mirror back to you what you care about and what values or principles have driven you thus far. Now, decide what matters to you moving forward and write it down.

Do you value working at home with your family, having a great relationship with your coworkers or being able to bring your dog to the office? It can also be as simple as deciding to pursue a healthier work/life balance. Determining and prioritizing your values will help you make the right decisions for your future.

The Mac’s List team made a worksheet to help you focus in on your top career goals. The holiday break is a great time to dive in! Download the free worksheet: Finding Focus in Your Job Search.

Contributed by: Mac Prichard — Publisher, Mac’s List

Mac is the founder and publisher of Mac’s List, where he writes regularly about job hunting, leads classes on job search skills, and hosts the “Find Your Dream Job” podcast.