Will 2017 Be Your Year?
November 22, 2016
It’s that time of year again when we look back on the past 12 months of work and tally up our ‘score’. What went well? What went badly? What did you achieve? Which unforeseen obstacles complicated your 2016 aspirations? And even more importantly, what did you learn that can take you into 2017 with a renewed enthusiasm to reach your life science career goals?
How to Ensure Success in 2017
By planning your career goals before 2016 is over, you can begin 2017 with clarity and momentum. Set aside some time for yourself to plan your goals for next year—preferably several sessions as your mind will probably need time to ruminate over different options. Write these down in your diary as non-negotiable appointments, thereby giving this exercise the respect and time it requires to be fully successful.
When it’s time to sit down with the task, you may want to engage the right side of your brain and be as creative as possible, perhaps with a brainstorming session with markers and a large sheet of paper. Approaching the exercise in a creative manner may prompt some inspiration.
Decide What You Want
It’s time to ask yourself some searching questions. What does success look like to you? Where would you like to be in 6 months? 12? 2 years? 5? 10? The plan you make today has the power to resonate down through the years, so be sure that the goals you are deciding on are truly aligned with your ideas of values and success, rather than simply being a predictable career trajectory that you feel you ‘should’ follow.
Review What You’ve Achieved
In order to move forwards, we also need to look backwards. This is important for three reasons.
a. Firstly, looking back at our past achievements allows us to appreciate how far we’ve already come, and bolsters our confidence in our ability to reach new goals.
b. Secondly, we need to look at which tasks and responsibilities we really excelled at and enjoyed, because these ‘in-flow’ activities give us a valuable insight into which kinds of roles and projects we should be gravitating towards.
c. Thirdly, we must assess the lessons we learnt over the past year, so that we can apply them in future. Do thorny issues with colleagues need to be addressed if you’re working towards management? Did time-management on a project cause problems? Does your regulatory knowledge need improvement?
Remember, everything that went wrong (or went right) is just a lesson to build into your career plan.
Figure out What You Need.
What can you do to move yourself towards the goal? Where do your skill gaps lie? Do you need extra training? Do you need a meeting with HR or your manager to discuss your career aspirations? Do you need to take a sideways move into another life sciences field in order to get where you really want? Do you need to change to a company with better opportunities for advancement? If you’re working towards a particular role, it can be extremely helpful to obtain a job description of a similar roles so that you can work through which skills and competencies you already have, and which ones you still need to build.
Make a Detailed Plan
Now that you know your goals, have learnt your lessons, and figured out what you need to reach them, it’s time to make a detailed plan. Many people get this step wrong, not realising the power of effective goal setting.
1. Write them down. Writing your goals down makes it more likely that you’ll reach them.
2. Break them down. Most people are motivated by clear short-term goals rather than vague long-term ones that risk avoidance behaviour such as procrastination and excuses. Work with the natural preference for short-term goals by breaking big projects into their smallest constituent parts, and creating a schedule of milestones, deadlines and rewards along the way.
3. Make a back-up plan (or two) Career plans are fluid things, or at least, they should be. You cannot possibly know what obstacles will be put in your way in 2017—whether your department will get restructured, whether the research you’re working on will lose funding, or whether the manager who’s been coaching you for advancement will find a new protégé.
To succeed no matter what is thrown at you, you must remain flexible. Sometimes this means accepting that you might have to go sideways to eventually go upwards, or creating alternate strategies. Build some uncertainty into your plan with some alternate strategies and pathways to success, and you’ll find that you’re much more adept at dealing with career hiccups when they arise.
Go forth and Conquer!
Experts on goal-setting recommend that to retain momentum, you do something towards you goal every single day— even if that thing is as simple as sending a related email or reviewing your progress. By reaching the regular milestones in your detailed plan, you’ll feel the flush of success often, and the ultimate goal will appear eminently attainable. You may also want to enter you goals into a goal-setting app if you find yourself motivated by gamification.
Goal-setting is an art, and the vast majority of people unknowingly set themselves up for failure by setting large, long-term goals but making no precise plans on how to reach them. So set aside that time. Start now. Decide what you want. Review what you’ve achieved. Figure out what you need. Make a detailed plan. Then go forth and conquer.