With a new year comes resolutions, so here are some points to consider if you want to improve your professional growth curve next year
The new year is almost here and with it comes the customary resolutions. What kind of goals can you set for yourself to pursue your dreams? More importantly, how can you stay persistent and inspired to realise them?
Resolutions for change tend to clash with our ingrained habits, necessitating a shift in established patterns. The trick lies in crafting realistic goals and sustaining motivation, according to organizational psychologist Tomas Chamorro-Perumuzic, author of books such as Confidence: Overcoming Low Self-Esteem, Insecurity And Self-Doubt, and I, Human: AI, Automation And The Quest to Reclaim What Makes Us Unique.
Here are some strategies to adopt to boost professional as well as personal growth in 2024 and beyond.
Be clear & specific
If you go by American psychologist Edwin A Locke’s Goal Setting Theory, goals that are clear, specific and challenging motivate one to stay the course rather than vague goals.
According to the Goal Setting Theory, clarity about goal orientation is a must. The more clarity there is in goal setting for oneself or employees, the less the chances of underperforming or misunderstanding.
The theory also states that if a goal feels too complex or overwhelming, it can negatively impact motivation. For instance, business leaders should break down large goals into smaller, more manageable tasks. As employees complete each small task, it will deliver a boost of motivation, and that will ultimately help them progress towards the larger goal.
According to Mumbai-based mental health counsellor Aanandita Vaghani, people should set goals that “are actually achievable. Or you might burn out and deplete your resources in the first month of the year.” Set specific goals, says Vaghani, who is the founder of UnFix, a mental health counselling company.
For example, instead of saying, “I would like to advance in my career”, aim for “how to receive a promotion within three months,” and then set steps to move towards this goal each month.
It’s action time
Your plan of action should be based on a strategy that can be executed. Chamorro-Perumuzic, in a Harvard Business Review article from 2014, notes that a good strategy is dependent on several factors, including the industry and competitive landscape of which one is a part. Check if your strategy is set at the right level of ambition and the actions you have to take/demonstrate to accomplish it.
Dr Sonali Singh, a life and leadership coach based in Gurugram, recommends an additional step. “Share your goals with a team member who can hold you accountable for continued growth,” she says. “A supportive network is critical to achieve your goals so take the help of your colleagues, mentors or a professional coach for growth.”
Vaghani believes that an important resolution to make is building emotional regulation strategies to combat burnout. “One of the biggest career changes for the workforce in 2023 was adapting to a less hybrid, and more in-person working format,” she says. This led to a host of mental health challenges for people who had become accustomed to working from home.
Post-covid economic challenges like inflation and layoffs have contributed to low job satisfaction and eroded trust in company support. Technology, while beneficial, blurs the personal-professional boundary, impacting mental health.
Vaghani recommends that business leaders discuss mental well-being more openly, fostering trust. Employees should recognize signs of burnout—depleting energy, negativity, low motivation, irritation, and reduced sleep. Collaborate with supervisors for work-life balance, new roles, or adjusted work methods aligned with individual productivity.
No matter what, stay positive
Vaghani counsels on focussing on the positive aspects of your job that bring out your strengths rather than things which stress you out. Instead of thinking too much on what we need to do better, consider what you are good at and leverage those strengths. If you are a good public speaker, for instance, create goals that will use that skill better in your organization. When you move your organization forward, chances of propelling your career are higher.
Feedback is a must
When have you last asked your colleagues or manager for feedback? Vaghani notes that asking for periodic and specific feedback is one of the most underrated goals. “One of the biggest reasons for burnout is having low morale which is fostered by ambivalent feedback,” she says.
The golden rule
In the rush to achieve your goals, don’t forget to rest. Fight that urge to check emails before or after working hours. Don’t entertain work calls when on personal leave. Take all your privilege leave. Those who prioritise work-life balance will bring their best version to work, says Vaghani. “And that’s the most crucial part to stay happy and motivated at work and in life.”
Questions to ask yourself to progress:
1. Are you punctual?
Punctuality is a sign of reliability. Set your timers, alarms and get organized.
2. Do you meet new people within your industry?
Meeting new people not only helps you in job placement, but also gives you an opportunity to have shared experiences and reduce anxiety and lowers the risk of burnout.
3. Are you adaptable at work?
Learn to be adaptable with a growth mindset. Invest in learning and training and assess your progress from time to time. Employers value employees who master new skill sets, approaching learning as an opportunity rather than an obstacle.
4. How good are your communication skills?
Hone communication skills, both verbal and written, to channelize assertiveness with empathy and authentic self-expression.
5. Are you proactive?
Employees who take initiative and come up with innovative solutions instead of waiting for instructions will power ahead. Employers also appreciate those who take ownership of projects or assignments.
6. Do you regard failure as a lesson?
By embracing failure and learning from it to forge ahead will allow you to improve. Practice, practice, practice till you know to avoid pitfalls.
Jayanthi Madhukar is a Bengaluru-based writer.