TCG 411: Career Resolutions Revisited

By Donna Farrugia, Executive Director of The Creative Group

Let’s face it. If you’re like most people, you’ve abandoned most (if not all) of your New Year’s resolutions, including those related to your career. But that’s no excuse to give up on them; after all, there are still more than 300 days left of the year.

It’s easy – and common – to let professional goals take a backseat to daily workloads and other priorities. This is especially true for many in-house designers who have lost colleagues due to budget cuts and downsizing, and who are now doing the work of two, three or even four people.

But being busy on the job is no excuse to let your career goals go to the wayside. In today’s competitive employment environment, many people (including those who are currently employed) will be looking at how they can enhance their career prospects and marketability, and gain recognition for their achievements.

While it’s important to keep up with your workload, it’s not OK to get so wrapped up in checking off your to-do list that you lose sight of your personal aspirations and interests. Now is the perfect time to sit down with your goals and figure out what’s keeping you from making them a reality.

The following questions will help you rework your career goals so they become ones you’ll want to stick with:

  • Are your goals too ambitious? It’s easy to become discouraged by resolutions that are overly ambitious or time-consuming. When we interviewed John Izzo Ph.D, author of The Five Secrets You Must Discover Before You Die, for our eZine, he said making small career shifts can help people increase their overall career satisfaction. If you’re goals are too lofty, break them down into smaller objectives and plan what you will do on a quarterly, monthly and weekly basis to achieve them.
  • Do your resolutions support your core values? If your goals are misaligned with the direction you want to see your career grow, or you don’t understand the motivating factors behind them, you’ll have little motivation to pursue them. One way to help you determine if a goal “clicks” with your true interests and values is to go through the “Five Whys.” This is a simple process that helps you to quickly identify the true reason for a specific line of thinking. It starts by asking, “Why?” Very often, the answer to the first “why” will prompt another “why” and the answer to the second “why” will prompt another, and so on. This exercise helps you assess your goal and, perhaps more importantly, personalize it; and when you personalize a goal, you’ll be more driven and committed to it.
  • Are your goals SMART? SMART is an acronym coined by writer and management consultant Peter Drucker in 1954. While the term was initially used in project management to refer to the method for checking the validity for objectives, the process can help you examine your personal career goals. You’ll have the most success achieving your goals if they are:

Specific – Details will help to focus your efforts and clearly define what you are going to do.

Measurable – Choose goals with measurable progress so you can see the change occur, and establish concrete criteria for measuring progress toward the attainment of each goal you set.

Attainable – As I mentioned before, goals that are too far out of reach are quickly abandoned. A goal needs to stretch you slightly so you feel you can achieve it, but not so difficult that you feel defeated just at the thought of it.

Realistic Goals should represent an objective you are willing and able to do. A realistic goal will push and stretch you, not break you.

Timely – Set a time frame for your goal. Without an end point or time limit, there’s no urgency to start taking action now.

Still uncertain of your 2010 career goals? Here are five resolutions geared toward in-house designers that you can make your own:

1. Beef up your book. Weed out and then update your portfolio with work you’re most proud of, making sure it showcases your most marketable skills.

2. Get in the know. Take some time to sign up for e-newsletters or RSS feeds from your favorite design news sources (like the GDUSA newsletter). Or, join a graphic design forum (like the In-HOWse Forum or Graphic Design Forum) to find out what others in the industry are talking about.

3.  Find alternate creative outlets. Don’t rely on your job as your only creative outlet. Look for freelance work or find nonprofit organizations that could benefit from your skills. It can help you gain new perspective.

4. Set up lunch dates. Build stronger bonds with people in your professional network by spending just one hour each week catching up with a peer, colleague, mentor or business prospect over lunch at a new eatery you’ve always wanted to try.

5. Track your achievements. All too often, in-house designers forget about the many achievements they have throughout the year. Set aside a folder where you can keep track of your accomplishments – this information will come in handy when you’re preparing for a performance review or updating your resume.

Here’s to a productive and rewarding 2010!

Donna Farrugia is executive director of The Creative Group, a specialized staffing service placing creative, advertising, marketing and web professionals with a variety of firms. More information, including online job-hunting services, candidate portfolios and The Creative Group’s award-winning career magazine, can be found at www.creativegroup.com.

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