Graduate Management News

December 2016

The Newsletter of the Graduate Management Admission Council

Make it Happen: Five Tips for Achieving – and Sticking to – Your Professional Resolutions for the New Year

Don’t let your resolutions slip by. Reaching and sticking to your career goals for the New Year means developing strategies to keep them.

Professional Development Tips

When we think of New Year’s resolutions, most often we first think of the personal – like losing weight, quitting smoking, being a better parent or friend, etc. Sometimes we stick to these resolutions, but more than likely, we start out the New Year on the right foot, but then many of us abandon our well-meaning intentions by February.

Consider these tips to making and keeping your career New Year’s resolutions, particularly as they relate to your professional development:

  1. Develop a plan. Your resolutions are only as effective as the plan that’s behind them. Consider identifying a professional resolution and then defining some steps to achieve and keep that resolution. Make a list of your goals, but be realistic and then brainstorm the things you can do to achieve them. Getting a promotion may not be a realistic goal, but identifying things you can do in your job to distinguish yourself might be. Impulsive resolutions are the least likely to be kept or achieved.

  2. Prioritize your goals and focus on one at a time. You may want to make a lot of changes in your professional life, but it’s best to remain focused on just a few. Once you make your list of changes, rank them in order of priority. If you want to change careers, but need to further your education in order to do so, then your top goal should be to go back to school to gain the knowledge and skills you need to reach your career goal.

  3. Think outside the box. You may set the same goal each year with zero results. This should be a signal to try different ways to achieve that one goal that finds its way on your New Year’s list every December. If you’ve tried several years to move to a different role in your organization, and have yet to be successful, then consider your current methods and develop another strategy. Perhaps discuss with a mentor you can confide in and brainstorm some new ideas.

  4. Get support. When possible, make it a priority to enlist the help of a professional mentor, or even family and friends. If it’s strategy, then a trusted colleague or mentor may be the answer. If it’s willpower, self-confidence, or self-doubt that’s nagging you, then a family member or friend may provide the support you need.

  5. Document — and celebrate — your successes. Record your progress for each goal. This will help ensure that you stick to your resolutions. Looking back on the progress you’ve made will serve as a motivator for keeping your resolutions, even when you think you may be struggling. Be sure to reward yourself with each small achievement.

Whether your resolution is to switch careers or simply to be better organized, you will have setbacks in achieving your goals. If you prepare and plan for roadblocks at the outset, then you can more easily manage expectations and accept setbacks --  it’s all part of the journey. If one tactic doesn’t work, then go back and develop a new one. Being realistic and resilient will help you stay on course toward meeting and keeping your career resolutions for 2017.