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  1. Blog
  2. Career Development

How to Make Work Resolutions That Actually Stick

Hey there, accountability partner

Coffee cup that says begin
Photo courtesy of Danielle MacInnes

Although you can set goals throughout the year, there’s just something about setting a New Year’s resolution! As you wrap up 2020, you might find yourself thinking about your own resolutions, especially those involving your career. We spoke to Neely Raffellini, founder of the 9 to 5 Project and career coach with The Muse, about setting career resolutions (and sticking to them)!

What steps should I take to choose a career resolution?

Get started by thinking about what you want next in your career. Common examples of work resolutions include:

  • Getting a new job

  • Securing a leadership position at current job

  • Asking for permanent remote work

  • Earning a certification

  • Expanding professional network

  • Increasing number of clients

  • Starting a new business

Once you identify your work resolutions, start thinking about goals you can achieve to bring those resolutions to life. "SMART goals is what you want to pick," Raffellini says, referring to the goal-setting framework which promotes specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-based goals (SMART). Raffellini suggests starting out with a general career resolution then adding more detail. "Make your ask really specific." 

The next step is to prioritize your resolutions. List your resolutions in the order you want to achieve them. Even though you typically set resolutions at the start of the year, you can plan them out well past January or take it one month at a time. "What's important to you right now?” Raffellini says, reinforcing the idea that you can prioritize short-term resolutions if it helps you stay on track. “Don't feel pressured to think too far ahead."

Read more: 25+ Short-Term Goals to Strive for Right Now

How do I align my resolutions with my goals?

If you're anything like me, you may be wondering what the difference is between a goal and a resolution. "I feel like with a resolution, the feeling is that you have to wait until the first of the year to do it. With a goal, you can start now," Raffellini says. But, there's no need to get hung up on the terminology. Look at your career resolutions as bigger aspirations then break them down into SMART goals. "You can align the two. Focus your goal on what your resolution is or has been," she says. For instance:

Example 1

  • Resolution: Be more productive at work.
  • SMART Goal: Complete and submit all three client projects by January 15, 2021.

Example 2

  • Resolution: Get a new job.
  • SMART Goal: Secure a job offer for a mid-level digital marketing position by February 1, 2021.

Example 3

  • Resolution: Learn a new work skill.
  • SMART Goal: Develop basic proficiency in data analysis and coding before the start of summer 2021.

How to define and clarify vague goals

The clearer your goal is, the more likely you are to achieve it. Get into the habit of making vague goals more actionable and measurable. You can even start with a resolution then use that to set SMART goals. Review this example to guide you in clarifying your goals.

Original goal: Be more assertive.

SMART goal: Be more assertive in asking for a $10k salary increase within three months of the new year. 

What makes this goal smart: The SMART goal is targeted and includes a timeframe. 

How to achieve it: Do salary research to figure out what the right number is. “Then, take small steps to be assertive in your daily life. Speak up about your Starbucks order if it's wrong," Raffellini says. She also encourages you to define assertiveness for yourself. Figure out what assertiveness means to you and what that looks like in your daily life as well as your career. Then, take the next step in achieving your goal. "Schedule a meeting with your boss and have that conversation." 

Raffellini suggests that you don't have to conquer your resolutions all at once. She says it's okay to "build up to your resolutions". By taking small steps, you can progressively achieve your resolutions and increase the chance that you'll stick to them.

Read more: 4 Body Language Clues to Watch for While Negotiating

How do you hold yourself accountable?

Next to figuring out where to start, holding yourself accountable is the most challenging part of achieving your resolutions. "Think about what motivates you," Raffellini says. "Do you need check-ins? Do you need an accountability partner?" She also suggests maintaining a productive environment to keep yourself on track. "If my goal is to not eat chocolate, I can't have chocolate in the house!" The same is true for your career resolutions. Eliminate distractions and avoid any vices that threaten your progress. 

Other quick tips for holding yourself accountable? Be honest with yourself and celebrate small wins. Finally, eat well and stay active! You’ll likely be more accountable if you feel healthy, rested, and energized.

Read more: 14 Creative Ways to Celebrate Small Wins

About our sources

Neely Raffellini is the founder of the 9 to 5 Project (formerly Splash Resumes), which helps women get the tools they need to land the job they want. One of her specialties is helping job seekers easily articulate their accomplishments so that they have confidence in themselves and their careers. With more than 10 years of experience in communications, launching startups, writing, and branding and identity design, Neely will work with you to tell your story to employers in a fresh, compelling way.

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