Resolutions are typical in the New Year and young professionals will be clearly interested in setting career goals. Is there any framework or approach to consider in planning your professional path in a new year? Here are a few ideas for assessing your current position and defining a clear path to measurable success in the year 2018.
– By Emmanuel Tarfa
This article will not focus on the science of goal setting or analyze the statistics of how many newyear resolutions fail. We will, however, be concentrating on the practical ways for evaluating your capabilities and setting targets.
Evaluating Your Current Position
Firstly, in planning (preparing for the future), you have to define your overall objective – what do I want to achieve professionally in 2018?
After that definition of purpose, a Current State Assessment is usually the second step. This is the process of assessing the current capacity, ability, achievements and general status of such an entity – typically a business or an individual. The current state determines a starting position and is the yardstick for assessing progress or change. It also provides a component in the compass for defining the bearing of progress – where you aretoday versus where you seek to be in a defined period.
In the light of the proposed plan to use a practical approach, we will be recommending a popular analytical tool for assessing your current state – SWOT Analysis. SWOT is an acronym for Strength Weakness Opportunities and Threats. It is useful in revealing if you have the capacity to achieve your goals and reveals in some cases why you failed to achieve previously set goals. This exercise will help you critically determine what it will take to succeed. For instance, there is no need to set ambitious career goals if there are clear weaknesses in your capability to achieve them in the near term.
So here is a hypothetical approach to conducting a SWOT analysis for yourself, though not exhaustive.
- Above average skill sets in highly sought-after areas such as writing, selling etc.
- Possesses relevant and highly sought-after certifications and competencies to back capability claims etc.
- Procrastinates work and never meets deadlines.
- Not very good with some other required skill sets etc. – [could be the reverse of the above scenario].
- Works for a big organization and earns an above-average salary or just has access to funding to pursue plans.
- Is well-traveled and exposed etc.
- Current organization has few options for professional growth and progression.
- Earns too little to pursue desired capacity building initiatives.
In conducting a SWOT analysis, you need to know that the Strengths and Weaknesses are internal factors, usually within your power to change them. While Opportunities and Threats are external factors and can only be leveraged or prepared for respectively.
How do I conduct my SWOT Analysis?
You can use various personality assessment tests available online or just ask sincere and objective peers to evaluate you. Not common but powerful if objectively done. Strengths can be increased while weaknesses should be objectively identified as they pose the threat to prevent progress and leave you in a perpetual cycle of no-progression.
It is only when these weaknesses are identified that help can be sought. Opportunities are best pursued through wise counsel, hence the need for a professional mentor, if without one; this is the same for threats – mentors. Also note, SWOT Analysis can be customised for specific aspects, for instance, there is a difference between my personal SWOT analysis as an individual and that of my profession/career.
Setting And Achieving The Goals
With a clear knowledge of your SWOT, you can now set achievable targets and have a higher probability of achieving same. For setting targets, there is a popular framework – SMART. This is an acronym for Specific Measurable Achievable Realistic and Time-bound. Though your goals have to conform to this list, we, however, seek to discuss goals in a different perspective – to facilitate a higher chance of getting results. Here are some simple but effective recommendations.
- Keep your professional goals few or possibly to just one thing. This is the hardest part for most to consider – though simple. Nobody wants to believe it only takes focus on a single line of action to get great results. Here is a hypothetical case to illustrate the point. If your goals are to travel, buy a car or just have a better life in short – the fundamental issue is tied to earning much more money. You have to realize that this can be achieved by changing your job or moving to a higher paying industry.
This will usually come at a price – a new certification, new skills etc. Therefore, your focus should be concentrated on achieving that desired skill that will eventually translate to all of the above. Most young people would instead pursue the certification but will then want to start one business, volunteer in another association and add more. At the end, something will either give way or none is effectively achieved. Being laser focused allows us to conserve our energy required to generate the force to propel us to change our lives.
- Learn to use your idle time. If in traffic, download audio books and podcasts on the subject that matters to you and listen. You can actually acquire a degree in Lagos traffic over a year or two.
- Know your energy hours and use them to get things done. For some people, it’s in the mornings, others in the evenings or when everybody is out of the office. Using what is practical, you should determine what and when works for you and use it.
- Apply time management. There are 24 hours in a day divided into three parts. 8 hours for sleep/rest, 8 hours for work and another unaccounted 8 hours – use it for personal development. Please don’t say most of it is used commuting because we just discussed how you can gain a degree in traffic. A third of your day typically belongs to you. But if for any reason you work more than 8 hours a day, you have to recalibrate your other hours and know how much you have to yourself.
Don’t see this assessment as a waste of time. It takes conscious effort to grow in your chosen career path. Do a SWOT analysis, set SMART goals and work consciously to achieve them. We wish you a successful 2018.
Emmanuel Tarfa has 10 Years Strategy Consulting Experience with strong inclination to: Strategic, Critical and Analytical Thinking, Problem Solving and Value Creation. He is currently a Partner at Enzo Krypton & Company, a Strategy Consulting Firm based in Lagos Nigeria. He is Passionate about young people and job creation and has worked on some proprietary solutions that could be explored to create millions of jobs.
Editor’s note: This article was originally published in the Spark Magazine. Find the magazine here to read more articles.