5 Tips for Early Career Goal Planning

As a young professional, I’m constantly receiving and retaining information and putting my skills to the test. However, there’s always so much more to learn – professional development is a wheel that keeps on turning. 

The overwhelming amount of opportunities can feel intimidating to someone so new and eager to become a sharper professional. “Analysis paralysis” is real, so I wanted to share these annual goal planning tips. Just five, simple ideas to consider that could aid in the forming of a motivating, comprehensive goal plan for 2023. 

Use what you have available to you. You’re responsible for setting your own goals, but not for developing a performance plan or set of job expectations for your current position. These documents can influence the structure and themes of your goal plan. Review them to identify skills gaps and new opportunities so you can become proficient in your role and surpass expectations. No need to start from scratch if you don’t have to.

Make sure your goals are SMART. When drafting your goal plan, it’s okay to have some bulleted ideas. When you’re ready to commit to a goal, it helps to write it out in a way that’s specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound. I definitely can’t take credit for the acronym – it’s simple but can help you think through your goals and the required steps to achieve them.

Identify goal categories. Each individual goal should be specific and achievable per the SMART goal recommendation, but your overall goal plan can have some variety. For example, my 2022 goal plan had several SMART goals within broader categories such as product marketing, client and teamwork, internal business initiatives and general professionalism. Those categories can be whatever makes sense for you and your role, but having multiple categories ensures that you’re growing into a well-rounded professional.

Look ahead. Don’t dive so deep that you drown – your goals still need to be achievable. Yet, with growth as an objective, it doesn’t hurt to be aware of what’s next. If you’re aiming for a promotion, ask your manager for the job expectations at that next level. Meet with someone who’s currently in that position and ask what helped them advance to where they are now. Focus on being excellent in your current role as a top priority, but keep an eye on the next phase.

Refine your plan with a manager or mentor. A large focus of your manager or mentor’s responsibility is to help you grow, so use them. Whether you’re struggling to prioritize skills or turn your ideas into SMART goals, your manager or mentor can give you an outside perspective that you may not have considered yet. They can also connect you with the right people to learn from based on the subject of your goals. My mentor at Innovatemap helped me in these exact ways for 2022, for which I am so grateful.

Take the time to plan your goals for the year – you won’t regret it. In the process, you can reflect on how far you’ve come, what you’re passionate about and who can help you reach success. Good luck and cheers to a productive 2023!