“I hope you had a happy new year and are getting settled back into the swing of things.” This is how I have started most of my emails for the bulk of the month (especially for the people that I’m following up with).
As I’ve mentioned before, the New Year is a great time to do some big-picture reflective goal-setting, but it’s not the only time. Even if we’re 4 weeks into the new year, you can still set a goal for the year! It just means you only have 48 weeks to complete it instead fo 52!
It’s very common to hear people set goals around their health and fitness, but less often, especially as millennial women, are we setting goals focused wholly on our professional beings. Usually that’s done within the context of company goal-setting initiatives that are usually guided by company goals.
That doesn’t mean that you as an employee can be off the hook! You should be setting goals aimed at bettering you as a person and you as an employee because, as you improve as a driven person, you will also improve as a contributor at work. For example, if you want to learn more about marketing, reading more on the subject will give you new knowledge AND that knowledge can also be applied to your work.
Transitioning from entry-level to not-entry-level is an interesting career stage. I love knowing what I’m doing in terms of having the technical skills to execute, but I don’t have the background or knowledge to make the non-technical decisions well. That is definitely something I’ll be keeping in mind this year, though it’s not one of my formal goals (look at me putting that prioritization muscle to work).
Your work skills are much like your biceps. If you work them, they will grow. You’re using them all day, though, so by the time you get home from work the last thing you want to do is MOAR CURLS. I can’t blame you. This, though, is where the improvements are really made. Muhammad Ali has been quoted saying:
I don’t count my sit-ups. I only start counting when it starts hurting. When I feel pain, that’s when I start counting because that’s when it really counts.
When you’re fatigued and keep going, that’s when there’s really room for growth. Keep that in mind when you’re exhausted coming home from work on Monday.
If you’re looking for easy steps for ways you can keep growing as a yopro this year, keep reading.
Set Reading Goals
Or set non-fiction reading goals.
I have long been an evangelist of reading goals! In 2015, I set the goal of reading 7 books and barely squeaked by, having to finish my last one on New Year’s Eve! In 2016, I set the goal of reading 24 (two per month) and ended up reading 26. In 2017, I set the goal of reading 30 (2.5 per month) and finished 32. In 2018, I set the goal of reading 36, so I’m hoping for three per month. I know this seems ambitious, but it’s only four more books than what I read in 2017, which included a couple of doozies. This is the perfect goal for me because it will push me to read more than I have before but it’s not totally unrealistic. It is doable but will require effort- that happy middle ground where I think goals are best.
I don’t really need to break down this reading goal into fiction and non-fiction or specify a certain number of books in each category because I know that most of the books I real are professional and personal development-oriented (aggressively Type-A, sorrynotsorry). In fact, I set the goal of reading 3 fiction books this year- more than I have read in the past two combined- because I want to make sure that I am reading fiction! If that’s not how you read, I would encourage you to set a goal that is more specific or relevant to you, such as “I want to read three marketing books this year” or “I will work through one technical book each quarter this year.”
There is no pressure here to read 30 books. If you’re not an avid reader, focus on rebuilding the reading habit by reading 10 pages per day. Until today, this is my daily minimum. I might not have time to sit and make a thing out of reading everyday, but I do have time to always squeeze in ten pages. I suggest you do the same!
Learn a New Skill
How you interpret this is a little bit subjective to whatever you do and what field or industry you work in- whatever the case, though, I’m sure we can all agree that growing your skillset is a good thing to do.
This goal is a good one on multiple facets. The first might be most obvious: another skill makes you more marketable. The more marketable you as an employee are, the more money you can make. Learning a new skill, thus, has the potential to have an ROI in your professional life.
Of course, you don’t actually have to learn a skill related to your job. You might decide instead to learn the guitar or join an improv group. These skills might not lead to a pay bump or an easier process the next time you decide to get a job. They will, though, exercise your “learning a new skill” muscle.
Consider this: I grew up in a bilingual household and speak three languages, but I studied two more over the course of my academic life. Latin and French, the two languages I studied but never continued to use, were very easy for me to pickup because, well, I spoke other languages. I never learned them because I used the other romance languages I knew to infer whatever was going on. On the other hand, people who speak many languages, including languages that are from different roots, are constantly learning, a skill in itself.
Getting into the habit of learning new skills is a great way to build that muscle. The more you continuously learn, the easier it will be for you to learn new things in the future!
If you want to learn how to code, I suggest getting a taste from One Month HTML which will get you from 0 to a static web page in the span of a month!
Increase your Income
If you want to make more money this year, make that a goal. It’s not going to happen on its own! Make a goal. Then make a plan to make it happen.
You might want to approach your boss with a “What I’ve done and what I’m going to do” list to remind them about the value you’ve added to the company. Alternatively, brush up that resume and put it out there. Don’t quit a job you love, but you lose nothing from knowing your options!
You may need to learn a new skill, commit to a learning plan, or find a new mentor in the process of growing your income. In the United States there is still a pay gap between men and women. As career-driven women, it is OUR responsibility to work to close that gap! This is a great goal to set and is one I have always kept at the back of my mind.
Here’s the things though: we all want to make more money. Why do you want to make your money? Are you trying to pay down debt more aggressively and have already maxed out your budget? Are you trying to save for a year abroad? Knowing your why is core to helping develop your plan to getting to your goal. For example, if you’re focused on just paying down debt, you might be willing to make money through a second job or some side work. If you think you’re being underpaid at your existing job (do your market research!!), improving the pay situation in your career might be your focus. Knowing your why can help guide your way.
Find a new mentor
Professional mentorship is so very powerful. I don’t even know how to articulate this to really convey the point. Mentorship- having someone that you can have tea with and talk about an issue, concern, or just how things are going- is one of the most powerful resources you can have as a budding professional.
A mentor will not do things for you, but he or she’s additional experience comes with life lessons that they can share. They also, often, come with a network that you may be able to tap into for additional guidance. Mentorship is really just is SO powerful.
When I was in college, my sorority had a mentorship program that connected juniors and seniors with local alumnae. The woman I had as a mentor is still someone I occasionally email. I just sent her a Christmas card, over two years outside of graduation! When I had lots of qualms around balancing my career ambitions with C’s and our relationship (and an eventual family in a far away future), she introduced me to I Know How She Does It by Laura Vanderkam– and I’ve been an LV groupie ever since.
She is definitely one of the most influential female mentors in my life. I’m so grateful for her. ❤️
In my experience, though, that’s not really how mentors are found. I was lucky that one of those “pairing” things worked out, but I have generally found that organized “find a mentor” programs don’t work. I suggest instead just putting yourself out there. Go to meet-ups, ask questions, and introduce yourself! Gravitate to where the women (or men!) you’d like to be mentored by are. Connect with them- and not just on LinkedIn! Ask them for coffee or lunch. It’s not enough to just want to be mentored but be willing to put in the work to get there!
If you’re looking to grow as a young professional in 2018, these four goals are a great place to start, but they’re not the only place. Let me know in the comments if you’ve got other professional goals for this year. You might inspire another reader!
Emilie is an Army Wife, Data Engineer, and CrossFitter with a love for working through her thoughts in this space on the internet. She lives with her husband Casey and their pup Bo in Savannah, GA.