The New Year is the perfect time to take stock and evaluate the various areas of your life—including your career. Whether you’re looking to start a new career or want to get to the next level in your career, the following tips from two of Sheridan’s professional Career Counsellors will help you to set strong career goals that will position you for success.
- Set career goals instead of New Year’s Resolutions. Most people make New Year’s Resolutions, which are by nature destined to fail. “New Year Resolutions are notoriously unlikely to be kept, in part because they are usually behaviour changes and often unrealistic,” says Sheridan Career Counsellor Neil Baldwin. “Setting career goals, on the other hand, at the outset of a new year is about creating a vision that can guide your choices and help you make plans to move toward those goals.”
- What’s your ideal career? When setting career goals, you first need to figure out your ideal career. Look at your occupation (what you do), your industry (where you do it), and work setting (the type of employer you work for), says Baldwin. When evaluating your career, “an ideal occupation is one which suits your abilities, interests, personality, and work values as closely as possible.” However, he cautions that your ideal career must be balanced with realistic expectations. “There should be reasonable opportunity, working conditions, wages, and so on, to reflect your priorities and life situation,” he says.
- Employers look at the top candidates: how do you measure up? Employers look at the top 10 to 15% of candidates when making hiring decisions. So it’s important to keep your skills current and stay ahead of the competition, says Sheridan Career Counsellor Mary Beth Michaels. “You have to focus on specifics, remain current and learn new skills,” she says. “It’s important to be well-defined and plan your education accordingly. Set yourself apart from the pack.”
You should also focus your education around your career goals, instead of choosing a program or course, and then letting that program or course to define your career path, says Baldwin. “It is better to make a proactive decision. After all, the better your career reflects your unique combination of qualities and attributes the more likely you are to find happiness, success and satisfaction in what you do,” he says.
- Seek professional guidance. If you’re unsure of which career direction you’d like to take, visiting a career counsellor can help you choose the right career path for you. “Students and alumni often come to me for guidance for the future and which direction they should go into. And I think it’s very important to get that direction,” says Michaels.
- Network, network, network. Networking is key to building a successful career. Effective ways to network include:
- Joining a professional association. Professional associations provide many opportunities for networking, as well as volunteer and professional development.
- Setting up informational interviews. “Informational interviews are a good way to network and meet people, and find out if you truly enjoy that career you’re thinking about,” says Michaels.
- Network via social media. LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and other social media are also great ways to enhance your networking.
- Job shadowing. Whether for just a few days or a week, job shadowing can help you learn first-hand about the career you’re considering. “It’s an eye-opener for a lot of people,” says Michaels.
- Get a resume and cover letter critique. It goes without saying, but before you set out on a job hunt, make sure your resume is up-to-date, and that it makes you shine. Sheridan’s employment consultants offer a resume and cover letter critique to give you objective feedback on whether your resume is maximized to help you reach your career goals.
- Brush up on your public speaking, writing and computer skills. Writing, computer and presentation skills are a critical part of many jobs. Enhance your skills by joining a Toastmasters group, taking a writing skills workshop or business communication course, or computer course.
- Market yourself for the future. Don’t just think about your current job—you need to think ahead to the future, says Michaels. “Just because you’re in Job A doesn’t mean you’ll always be in Job A. So you have to think about Job B and C these days because there are so many contract positions, and more movement than ever before in the workplace,” she says. “There’s no defined career path anymore so you have to know a little bit of everything.”
- Keep the momentum going. If you’re already taking continuing education courses, you have to complete what you started, says Michaels. “Keep going, focus on the prize at the end.”
- Use Sheridan’s Idea Generator. If you’re not sure about which careers are a good fit for you, Sheridan’s Idea Generator is a great way to match your preferences with career possibilities. It also includes occupational and labour market information to help you make informed choices. “It’s not the same thing as a comprehensive career assessment, but it is a great way to generate possibilities and understand yourself better,” says Baldwin.
- Be flexible and be willing to adapt. Understand that your career path doesn’t always move in a straight line. This means that while you should aim for your ideal, you need to be willing to compromise and refine your goals as your situation changes. “Realistic career goals are dynamic, not static,” says Baldwin. “They should be allowed to change and morph, as life does the same around us…So as you begin the New Year, start spelling out your career goal(s) and then make education & training choices which will move you closer to them.”
Current and prospective Sheridan Faculty of Continuing and Professional Studies students and alumni can receive help with career direction, career counselling and resume and cover letter critiques. Sheridan’s Faculty of Continuing and Professional Studies also offers a wide variety of continuing education courses to help you learn new skills and remain competitive in the marketplace. Visit caps.sheridancollege.ca for more information.