We’re a month into the New Year and if you’re anything like myself, you’ve probably completely forgot about 90% of your resolutions. So this is the perfect time to check in one one major goal: advancing in your career. Whether you’re just starting the job search or looking to advance in your current organization, these tips can help you get organized and get focused on accomplishing your career goals this year.

Be true to yourself.

If you’re new to the job search, looking to advance in your company, or preparing for a major pivot in your career, you have to start with being honest with yourself. Are you really in the field that you want to be in? What excites and motivates you about the work you’re interested in doing? What are the skills you bring to the table, what do you have to offer, and what are the things you simply can’t compromise on? Evaluating what you bring to the job market and your true wants and desires often will help you make the tough decisions you’ll face throughout the year and help you to stay motivated for the long haul. Some great books to consider to help get your creative juices flowing when it comes to getting real with yourself and your career goals are What Color is Your Parachute (especially for new career seekers) and Strenghtsfinder 2.0.

Write them down and get specific.

Many times we live with goals in our head. By putting them down on paper get more specific as to what you actually want. Everyone wants their dream job, and a larger paycheck, but how much money do you exactly want to make by the end of this year? Calculate everything from living expenses, vacations or major celebrations, as well as your saving goals in order to figure out exactly how much you should ideally be earning.

With this information, you can look at people within the field that are already making this amount of money and see where they work and how much they work. This gives you a concrete idea of where you need to be and what quality of work you need to produce in order to make that amount of money. Since you wrote it down, you can always remember how you got to that specific number and goal, and you can make adjustments as necessary.

Turn your goals into actions.

Goals are nice. Actionable ones are the ones we actually achieve. For example: “Network more effectively” is a good goal. Here’s how to make it actionable: ‘I will attend 3 networking events and collect 5 business cards and create a meaningful relationship with at least one contact by the end of this month.’ Actionable goals ensure success since you are able to track and adjust them as necessary whereas blanket statements are things that you can procrastinate on and inevitably never accomplish.

Have a system for tracking, achieving and rewarding yourself for your goals.

Here’s a system I’ve created for tracking:

  1. Group all your individual goals into a major category like ‘Career.
  2. Envision and write down what this category in your life will look like when successfully attained by the end of the year.
  3. Work backwards to create milestones towards this vision and set a time for each milestone to be accomplished by.
  4. Divide the tasks towards that milestones into what can be done weekly.
  5. Carve time out daily to work on your weekly tasks towards each milestone.
  6. Daily look at what was done and what wasn’t, ensuring you stay mindful of your goals. Weekly, analyze what you accomplished, what went well and what didn’t, and plan next week’s tasks.
  7. When you reach minor and major milestones, reward yourself! For smaller tasks like a successful quarterly-review, reward yourself with lunch at your favorite business lunch restaurant or a successful interview with some quality work shoes. Aim to align your rewards with advancing you further towards your goals, as well, as opposed to simply attaching things you want at random to milestones to help you stay focused.

Work on your personal brand.

Your personal brand is more than just your Twitter account or your business cards. It’s how you show up everyday in life and how the people around you from the grocery store clerk to your boss perceive you. To asses your personal brand, think about things others have told you about yourself repeatedly. You can also ask a few friends or colleagues to describe you and how you act. If your goal is to be the CEO of a large, conservative arts organization and everyone describes you as a free-spirited rebel, it may be time for a rebrand. Major things to focus on are clothes and physical appearance, speech, presence (IRL and virtually), timeliness, and overall attitude.

Update, update, update.

The time to update your resume is not when your dream job is accepting applicants and is closing their announcement within the next 5 hours. Trust me, I’ve been there before and it is a vision of hell. The goal is to have two resumes: one for your dream job as you see it arise and one that is still perfect but that you can tweak (within 15 minutes) to be tailored to other positions as they arise. LinkedIn updates are just as important! Make sure the information up there is new and relevant to what you’re currently looking for. Two personal friends I know are currently working at their positions because the hiring managers connected with them based on their great LinkedIn presence. Just imagine – your dream job looking for you. Stranger things have happened.

Invest in yourself.

When you make an investment of time and money you have a vested interest in its success. Be sure to invest in your career goals by attending conferences like the Emerging Arts Leaders Symposium on March 6 (almost a month away), on well-tailored business clothes, networking lunches, or even a career coach. Identify the areas you want to focus on, and areas where you don’t have the time or knowledge to help yourself, and then put your money where your goals are.


While #TeamNoSleep or meme’s that encourage you to wake up at the crack of dawn because you’re not as rich as Bill Gates yet abound, it’s not actually true. Every great successful person has ways they take time to recharge daily. Try to find one activity out of the day that seeks to center and energize you whether it’s meditation, morning runs, or baths before bed. Then make sure you balance heavy work loads and periods with at least one getaway or even staycation to regroup and come back as strong as ever.

by Zenia Simpson