It’s that time of year when many set career development goals to achieve over the course of a few months or a year or more. Following through with goals, however, can be challenging without a precise plan.
Goals help us to get on with personal and professional development. It’s especially important to set targets when you work in a fast-paced and constantly evolving industry. Many tech workers are so busy coping with high workloads that they neglect career development.
To set suitable professional goals, it’s important to know what you want in terms of a career. This differs from person to person. You need to spend some time on industry research and think about how you wish to align your aptitude and aspirations with market realities. Where do you want to be in a year’s time? What are your mid-term and ultimate targets?
There are both short-term and long-term goals. Short-term goals can take a few months or a year to achieve, and lead you to your final long-term goal. It’s important to align your goals with your interests and abilities.
Before you set goals, take stock of your professional situation and determine what new skills you want to develop and what you wish to enhance.
According to global staffing firm Randstad Sourceright, in-demand tech skills for 2022 include artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML), augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR), blockchain, cloud computing, cybersecurity, data science, internet of things (IoT), robotic process automation (RPA), and user interface (UI)/user experience (UX) design.
Identifying areas for improvement
To set the right goals and achieve them, you must first take an honest and objective look at your skillset, your current role, and your strengths and weaknesses. You also need a clear view of the big picture to get the right perspective on your career development plans.
For tech professionals, developing technical expertise alone is not enough. You need other skills to achieve success in the very competitive IT industry. Types of goals that you might want to set include for following:
Technical knowledge — This is mostly self-explanatory. Where is knowledge expanding in your field? Where do you need to catch up? Where can you get ahead of the curve?
Soft skills — Work on your communication skills. Recruiters also look for candidates that can demonstrate the ability to work in a team. Other soft skills include flexibility, leadership qualities, collaboration, listening, and receptiveness to constructive feedback.
Expanding your professional network — Get in touch with peers in your current specialty and business or the area or business you want to move to. This can really help if you’re wondering how to align your aptitude and aspirations with a rapidly changing industry and market realities.
Besides colleagues, ex-colleagues, and friends in the same industry, look for ideas and new connections on LinkedIn and Twitter. Identify and follow successful professionals in your specialization for advice and knowledge.
Make your goals realistic
One of the reasons why some fail to follow through with goals is that they don’t set realistic targets. Some career coaches advise clients to set SMART goals. SMART goals are:
Specific: Focus on specific goals, such as learning one or more programming languages, a methodology, or technology, rather than an abstract goal, such as getting a promotion.
Measurable: You need to have a roadmap, outline how you are going to proceed, set milestones, and keep track of your progress.
Attainable: Make sure you can achieve your goals within a realistic period of time, say a few months or a year.
Relevant: Your goals should be in alignment with industry requirements and long-term career objectives.
Time-based: Set deadlines for each goal.
Five tips for following through
1) Create a Roadmap — Write down your goals on paper. Visualizing your goals helps in organizing your efforts to achieve them. Map out the stages to get to your long- and short-term goals. Go into detail about how you’re going to proceed step by step toward each goal.
Breaking goals down into small manageable steps makes it easier to reach your goal because you can complete each set of actions in a relatively short span of time and then move on to the next (and so on). This is a more organized and efficient approach.
2) Hold Yourself Accountable — It’s important to fix accountability on yourself first and foremost. You are responsible for accomplishing your goals. This is where writing goals down and detailing action steps helps. Check in on your progress every week. In this way, you avoid neglecting the tasks you need to complete in order to meet your objectives, and manage to achieve goals within the time frames you’ve set.
3) Take Your Manager’s Help — Your manager is likely to know your strengths and weaknesses and can provide valuable guidance. Many professionals meet with managers every week or month to get feedback about their performance. Managers can help solve difficulties, and provide advice on how to proceed more efficiently. They can also help you develop your strong points and work on your weaknesses.
4) Try to Tackle One Goal at a Time — It can be counterproductive to try to achieve multiple goals simultaneously. If you handle one at a time, it’s easier to stay focused on the skills you need to develop to achieve that goal and succeed in bringing it to fruition. On the other hand, working toward different goals at the same time can be distracting and prevent you from meeting your targets on time.
5) Take Help from Others — Others could be your peers, colleagues, and professional coaches. Taking help from others doesn’t necessarily mean discussing your goals with everyone and keeping them posted on your progress. Hearing about others’ goals and what they’re learning can be inspiring as well as introduce you to new concepts.
Make it a point to regularly engage with others in your specialty and vertical either in person or online in order to know about developments in your field, get new ideas, and stay on track. Knowing that peers are working hard to learn new skills and enhance existing ones can help you stay motivated and achieve your goals on time.
You can also consult a career coach to guide you and hold you accountable and check on your progress. It’s also a good idea to discuss your goals with someone who wants you to succeed and can help you work toward your goals.
Be flexible as you go
It’s possible that you may set out to achieve something, and circumstances and career aspirations might change. In such a case, one needs to be flexible and be open to changing goals if required. After all, you would have developed some knowledge already in pursuit of your earlier goal, which wouldn’t go to waste. It might contribute toward your new goal or be applicable at some point in future.