3 Steps for Setting Career Goals Ahead of the New Year

3 Steps For Setting Career Goals Ahead Of The New Year Featured Image

As an eventful year draws to a close, it's time to look ahead to 2021. The New Year is about change and fresh starts, so naturally, it's when many people start reviewing their careers and considering their next step.

While setting goals and resolutions can be a great way to generate renewed energy and focus for the upcoming months, it’s easy to fall into the trap of generic, hard-to-track objectives that do more to discourage and confuse you than launch you to new heights.

To avoid this, it’s important to look at your career and establish clear targets that you can actually measure and achieve. Here are three key steps to help you set career goals that will set you up for success in 2021.

How to Set Effective Career Goals

Step 1: Reflect and Review

Before you begin setting new goals, take a moment to pause and reflect on the past 12 months, including what you’ve achieved, challenges you’ve faced and areas where you could improve your performance (to help you with your career reflections, we provided a list of questions to ask yourself in this blog).

In addition to looking back at the past year, you should also review your career path to date. How have you grown over the last five years? Can you see a clear progression? Are you striving towards a particular objective, role or business milestone, and is this the same as it was a year ago? Remember, a lot can change in a short period, so regularly reviewing your career journey is vital for setting goals that will get you where you want to go in the long run.

Step 2: Set Well-Thought-Out Goals

Once know where you’ve been, it’s time to look at where you want to go. Begin by writing down a list of potential goals, which you can then use as a starting point to hone in on what you ultimately want to achieve. It’s a good idea to set a mix of both short- and long-term objectives that will propel you towards your career aspirations. Some of these targets might be reachable with just a few months, such as perfecting your SQL skills, while others might span 2021 and take you one step closer to your final destination, such as gaining new experience that will support you in becoming a Software Engineering Manager.

Whatever goals you set, it’s important to ensure they are well thought-out. The most effective goals are “SMART”, meaning they are:

  • Specific: Your goals should be specific, clear and well defined. Make sure you know exactly what you want to accomplish, why it matters, what’s involved and what resources are needed.

  • Measurable: Each goal must be easily quantifiable so that you can track your progress and stay motivated.

  • Achievable: Your goals should be realistic and attainable within your time and resource constraints, but still challenging enough to push you.

  • Relevant: When setting goals, make sure they align with the bigger picture of where you want to be in the future.

  • Time-bound: Determine how long the goal will take to accomplish and set a timeframe for it. This point is especially vital because many of us subconsciously use deadlines to drive action.

Step 3: Create a Detailed Action Plan

Setting your goals is an important step, but it’s only half the equation. Implementation is the part that many people struggle with, which is why a lot of New Year’s resolutions end up being wishful thinking rather than practical roadmaps. It's easy to get so focused on the outcomes that you forget about the process that leads to achieving them.

Visualise your endpoint and build a comprehensive action plan to get there – this will give you clarity and direction as you move towards your goals. Your action plan might include:

Making a list of all the individual steps and milestones that will lead to achieving your target, crossing off each one as you complete it

  • Putting each step into your calendar to help you stay on track

  • Displaying your goals in a visible place to remind you of where you’re headed

  • Reaching out to a friend, mentor or recruiter who can give you advice and serve as an accountability partner

  • Conducting periodic reviews to check your progress and ensure your goals are still relevant


As you wrap up the year and prepare for a clean slate in January, setting career goals will help you get the most out of the fresh new year. The trick is to be intentional with your goals, putting a considered and deliberate strategy in place to ensure you achieve what you want to.

When it comes to accomplishing your career goals, you don’t have to do it alone. If you need help taking your career to the next level in 2021, reach out to our team of Technology & Digital recruitment specialists at Talenza to start the year off on the right foot.