The 7 Career Goals You Need to Succeed

How to Set Career & Salary Goals You Can Achieve This Year

New Year, New Goals

Everyone knows the beginning of the year is the time for setting goals. Lose weight! Get in shape! Spend more time with friends and family! It’s also the time to set goals for your career. If you do, there’s a good chance you’ll become rich. Didn’t you hear about that study on goal setting?

In his book What They Don’t Teach You At Harvard Business School, Mark McCormack tells of a study conducted with new graduates from the 1979 Harvard MBA program. In that year, the students were asked, “Have you set clear, written goals for your future and made plans to accomplish them?”

  • 84% had no specific goals at all
  • 13% had goals, but they were not in writing
  • 3% had clear, written goals and plans to accomplish them

Ten years later, they interviewed the members of the class once again. The results?

  • The 13% of the class who had goals were earning, on average, twice as much as the 84% who had no goals at all
  • More shocking, the 3% with clear, written goals were making ten times as much as the other 97% put together!

Set Your Goals with Care

I had definitely heard the study quoted several times, although sometimes it is told with Yale as the school, and the year being 1953.

But here’s where it gets interesting.

I came across the blog of Sid Savara, who wrote a post called “Fact or Fiction? The Truth About The Harvard Written Goal Study.” It turns out he had written a similar article as the one you’re reading right now, but in his research, he discovered no evidence that this famous study ever happened! He couldn’t find any definitive sources, and noted a Fast Company magazine article called “If Your Goal Is Success, Don’t Consult These Gurus” that interviewed members of the 1953 Yale class, and were unable to find evidence to substantiate the story.

He also found an official stance from Yale: There was no relevant record, nor did anyone recall the purported study of the Class of 1953, or any other class.

Is Goal-Setting Still Worth It?

So where does this leave us? Is goal-setting still worth it? Are there things we can set our sights on that can actually help us accumulate more wealth in the future?

The answer is there isn’t a magical thing you can do that will automatically set you up for success. Yes, setting goals will certainly help, but what’s most productive is combining tried and true historical data with the best information on future trends.

Here are a few goals that should be on your list if you’re looking for success this year.

7. Self-Assessment

Are you happy with your job?

One of the bigger risks to your career is getting complacent with it. The grind of the 9 to 5 starts wearing you down, you go through the motions, and the next thing you know, a few years have gone by. You look around and you’re unhappy, your career path has been derailed, and your skills have languished.

Make it a point to really step back and analyze where you are now, and where you want to be over the short- and long-term. What steps do you need to make that happen?

6. Networking

If your goal is to get a new job in 2013, then you need to be actively networking. Why? Quite simply, because that’s how you find jobs in the real world.

At the risk of misquoting a study such as the one above and giving a specific percentage (50%? 60%? 80%?), let’s just say the vast majority of jobs are found through networking, not through randomly sending out resumes shotgun-style. Why would you focus most of your efforts on any other method?

5. Tracking Accomplishments

It doesn’t matter if you’re asking for a raise, getting a performance review, or updating your resume — at some point you’re going to need to list out your accomplishments on the job.

The tough part is when this happens six months or a year from now and you need to go back from memory. Make it a point to start — right now — a simple document where you track your accomplishments throughout the year as they happen. Additionally, make sure to save any materials that you might use in a portfolio or a website. This includes printed items, emails, photos, videos, and screenshots.

4. Know Your Worth

The time to find out that you are underpaid by $15,000 is not the night before your review or interview.

You should be constantly aware of your value on the marketplace. This can be accomplished by checking’s Salary Wizard, keeping up with data in your industry, or ideally, going on an interview. I once worked with a salesperson that told me he goes on at least one interview every six months, even if he loves his current job.

3. Update Your Skills

What is the #1 must-have skill for 2013?

  • Is it something tried and true such as public speaking, strong writing, or sales?
  • Is it a buzzword such as “responsive design,” “big data,” “cloud computing,” or “mobile app development?”
  • Maybe it’s something very specific to your particular industry.

The one thing we do know is this: It doesn’t matter if it’s 2013 or 1983 or 500 BC. It’s been said, “The only constant is change.” One of the best ways to advance your career is to constantly be learning, no matter what new skill you decide to take on. So take a look at the landscape in your field and learn something new.

2. Negotiate

Are you getting paid what you deserve? The only way you’re going to find out is to ask.

If you like your current job, sit down with your supervisor to map out goals, review your performance, and determine when you are up for your next raise or promotion. If you’re going for a new job, that means getting in the right mindset, learning negotiation skills, counter-offering, and treating it like a business transaction.

Here are a few pointers on negotiation.

1. Allow for Downtime

Lastly, while it’s great to aggressively pursue your career hopes and dreams, it doesn’t take a Harvard MBA to understand that there’s more to life than work.

To keep you batteries charged, avoid burnout, and get the most out of life, take this time to also map out your goals for personal projects, family time, and travel.

Set Your Goals, Get the Prize

Setting goals is a positive and necessary step towards success. But once you’ve identified what you want you still have to make it happen. For most workers that’s a raise or promotion — and can help you get it.

The first thing you should do is research, so you’re able to come to the table armed with the knowledge of what your job is worth. Use our free Salary Wizardbelow to find out what’s a fair salary for your position. You can enter your location, education level, years of experience and more to find out an appropriate salary range before you negotiate.

Good luck.

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