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7 Simple Questions To Help Form Your 2021 Career Goals

In a more normal year, common career goals might include landing a new job, getting a promotion or learning new skills. But depending on how the coronavirus pandemic has impacted your life, not to mention your job, the plans you set for yourself at the beginning of 2020 may not have played out like expected. With a new year ahead, CNBC Make It heard from career coaches who offer tips to reflect on everything you’ve experienced in 2020 and how to bring those lessons into the next 12 months.

Here are the questions career coaches say you should ask yourself to kick off and guide your goal-setting.

What have you accomplished this year?

Before you start thinking about 2021, take stock of everything you accomplished in 2020, says Akhila Satish. The CEO of Meseekna, a leadership training program, says to think big and small and look beyond the scope of what you did during working hours.

“Did you write a blog post? Apply to jobs? Start a meditation routine?” she says. “Even if you had higher expectations for yourself, anything you accomplished during such a tumultuous year is worthy of your recognition and pride.”

Plus, she adds, “writing down your accomplishments will help you create a more positive mindset going into the new year.”

What makes you come alive?

Pick one or two bigger goals to focus on, and then think through concrete steps that you can do each week or month in order to make progress on them, says Ladies Get Paid founder and author Claire Wasserman.

Her favorite question to ask for inspiration is: “What makes you come alive?” Think about times when you’re working on something that makes you feel at ease and that you feel is worthwhile. What tasks are you completing? What kind of environment are you working in? Who are you interacting with?

Maybe you’ve spent the past few months organizing virtual events and really enjoyed it. Wasserman says to think about the jobs, companies or industries where those skills, like community building and delegating, can translate into paid work. Tap your networks, both social and professional, to learn about other opportunities, and to also find supporters who can hold you accountable over time.

“If you’re shouldering it all yourself, it won’t happen,” Wasserman says. “No one gets to where they want to be on sheer will alone.”

What do you not want?

Sometimes career consultant Jackie Mitchell’s clients have a hard time thinking about what they want to do and accomplish. So she likes to turn the question on its head and have them brainstorm: What type of work do they definitely not want to do?

Based on your experiences, you may already know that you don’t enjoy certain tasks or working in certain environments. From there, Mitchell says, think about what you would enjoy and ways to get closer to making that part of your day-to-day.

What can you accomplish by yourself?

A lot of goals involve waiting on another party, the way starting a new job requires waiting for job listings to be posted, waiting to hear back from the hiring manager and waiting to go through the interview process. So Randstad RiseSmart career coach Wendy Braitman suggests you plan for goals that you can accomplish entirely on your own.

Your ultimate goal may be to lock in a new job in 2021, but she recommends you build in achievements that aren’t reliant on anything else. That could mean your new-job goal includes benchmarks of researching a new company every week, or attending a networking event each month.

How are you spending your time each day?

Alexi Robichaux, CEO and co-founder of BetterUp, likes to do a periodic time audit and creates a pie chart that shows how he spends every hour in a day. From there, he can see how much time he spends on various tasks and meetings for work.

Others can do the same and, after reviewing their time pie chart, consider if they’re spending time on things that really matter most to them. If you’re spending more time than you’d like in one area, he says, set goals that can move you toward your ideal.

What would your perfect day look like?

Author and Earnable founder Ramit Sethi prefers to think of what his perfect day would consist of, and then work his way backwards to achieve that vision.

For example, he once realized that one component of his “perfect day” would be kicking it off with a leisurely two-hour breakfast. Outside of being on vacation, however, he had to think: “What is it about this idea that’s empowering to me? Then I realized, I want to have the freedom of a slow morning.” From there, he thought of concrete ways to work this into his routine: He began going to bed earlier, waking up earlier and not scheduling meetings first thing in the day.

What helps you find resilience every day?

If 2020 was a lesson in letting go of your original goals, 2021 is about sustaining the resilience you gained through challenging times, says Sarah Sheehan, co-founder of the coaching app Bravely.

Think about what helped you get through especially turbulent days this year: How did you organize your time? How much flexibility did you need from your boss in order to do your best job at home and at work? What did you do to take care of yourself each day?

Sheehan says you can apply those lessons to your intentions for the new year — for example, if you know exercising in the middle of the day helps you feel productive and focused, schedule that time for yourself in your workday. Or if you’ve come to dread video meetings, consider changing them to phone calls that you can take while on a walk outside.

Workers should communicate these ideas with a manager, she says, and leaders should also model this behaviour. Ultimately, Sheehan says, “redefine what success looks like for you.”

Originally posted by Jennifer Liu

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