10 things you can do to reach your career goals

It’s nearly time to say goodbye to 2020 (insert sigh of relief here) and with a new year on the horizon, now is the perfect time to start thinking about pursuing career goals that you may have been forced to put on hold. 

Here we explore 10 things you can do to help you reach your career goals in 2021 and beyond. 

  1. Take the time to learn about yourself 

Knowing yourself is a vital first step in planning how you will identify and achieve your career goals. Consider your strengths and weaknesses, your values and interests and ask yourself how these align to your career goals 

When it comes to making big decisions on your career direction, you should always consider the reasons behind ‘why’ you are pursuing this. Are you looking for a better work-life balance, seeking to increase your financial opportunities or looking for more responsibility and authority to make decisions and make a change? Whatever your reasons may be, make sure you understand how your own interests and values can play into your career journey. 


2. Identify and set goals 

You may have a good idea of where you want to be in 1 year or 5 years, but actually reaching your ‘big’ career goals can be daunting and leave you unsure where to begin. 

Once you know where you want to be in your career, you can break down what you want to achieve into smaller, more manageable goals and milestones. This can be simple things from; researching opportunities and roles, freshening up your resume, tracking down proof of learning and training or even just updating your Linked In profile. 

You may find it very helpful to make a list of things that will act as steppingstones in your career path, as well as noting any possible obstacles to overcome.  

Finally, once you have broken down your bigger goals into more manageable steps, its time to take action on them. Be accountable to yourself here, flag reminders in your calendar, leave yourself a sticky note or plan a way to reward yourself upon completion of a goal.  


3. Consult with a mentor

Once you have an idea of what you would like to achieve and how you will do so, consulting with a mentor can give you valuable perspective and insight. A mentor is someone whose opinion and knowledge you value and is preferably someone who has a greater level of experience in your areas of interest.  

Ask your mentor for their input on your career goals – they are sure to have insight on how they went about their own career journey and overcame obstaclesHindsight is always a teacher and being able to learn indirectly from the mistakes and successes of a mentor is valuable in approaching a career move. 

If you don’t yet have a mentor, there are several ways you can go about entering into this mutually beneficial arrangement. Some organisations and government departments will offer internal mentoring programs, so be sure to enquire with your HR representative or manager. You can also take part in the IPAA SA Mentorship Program, which will pair you with an experienced leader in the public sector 


4. Get involved in networking 

As they always say ‘its who you know that matters”. Whilst you will be considered for future roles on your merit and capabilities, you should not underestimate the value of making valuable connections with both peers and those positioned at higher career levels.  

A key benefit of networking is access to a wealth of knowledge and opportunity. Building your networks with peer groups will allow you to discuss common issues and ideas, whilst exposing yourself to leaders in the sector will put you foremost in mind for future opportunities. 

One of the best ways to begin networking is through events and forums or by joining an association dedicated to your profession or interest area. For example, IPAA SA offers regular networking opportunities and exposure for its personal members, bringing them in contact with both peers and sector leaders. 


5. Seek new opportunities 

Keep your ear to the ground for new opportunities to expand your skill portfolio or to demonstrate your capabilities. With your career goals firmly identified seek opportunities that will help you meet these goals. This might include putting yourself out there to volunteer as a leader in a project or committee or even getting involved in mentoring a less experienced colleague.   

Saying ‘YES’ to new opportunities can be full of trepidation and uncertainty as they force us out of our comfort zone, however the reward almost always pays off. 


6. Develop your skills 

In world where the need for certain capabilities changes rapidly, it’s essential to engage in life-long learning throughout your career. As best-practice expectations change you will need to commit yourself to identifying learning and development to fill in any skill gaps which may emerge, or even better yet to go beyond expected capabilities and learn something that will give you the advantage in your role.  

You can seek professional development through a number of avenues including through internal offerings in your organisation or department, or through external training providers such as IPAA SA. Often your employer will be willing to cover the cost of your training, however if they do not, consider investing in yourself and your career path with some well spent time and money on a growth opportunity. Most professional development that you pay for yourself is tax deductible along with your membership to a professional association related to your employment. 

Once you have undertaken some professional development, don’t be afraid to showcase and share your knowledge with your team. Not only will you be imparting some valuable insight to your colleagues, youll highlight yourself as a team player. 


7. Take initiative 

A bit of hard work goes a long way in achieving your goals. If your next career move centers on promotion or gaining a sought after role, you will need to put the time and effort in.  

Simply ticking the boxes on your performance and task checklist may not always be enough. You will find it very beneficial to approach those you report to for additional responsibilities for you to demonstrate you commitment not only to your role but to your department or organisation. 


8. Seek feedback 

Make it a point to ask your managers and those you respect for their feedback. Feedback is an invaluable mechanism for enhancing your self-awareness and in understanding where you should see improvement. 

Ideal times to ask for feedback from your managers or colleagues can coincide with the completion of milestones or goals, or even better yet, when you are struggling to meet deadlines or goals. 

When you do receive feedback from others, keep in mind not to respond negatively. Its easy to become defensive when we feel that we are being criticised. Remember that the feedback you are receiving is for your benefit, so try not to take it personally! 


9. Join a board –  

Being part of a board can be a great way of improving your skills and professional standing and a valuable addition to your resume. As a member of a boardyou will expose yourself to a new understanding of all aspects of business operation and add to your repertoire of leadership and interpersonal skills. 

Finding you first board appointment can be tasking, though some valuable places to begin include the BoardingCall portal available through the Government of South Australia, enabling you to register your interest to join the board of a government department or agency. Additionally, IPAA SA is led by a Council and Strategic Advisory Committee, which is open to Personal Members to apply to join. The IPAA SA Divisional Council and Strategic Committee are headed by some of the foremost public sector leaders and present the opportunity for you to gain vital experience and exposure in your career. 


10. Be resilient 

Sometimes we find that obstacles and unexpected challenges interrupt us achieving our career goals. When this happens to you (as it does to most of us) be prepared to hold a positive and resilient mindset to help you move past adversity and continue in reaching your goals. 

Strategies for building your resilience focus on developing the four key fields of; physical, cognitive, behavioral and emotional resilience. These areas encourage you to: 

  • Care for your physical wellbeing and health; 
  • Use Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) strategies to make positive changes to our thinking patterns; 
  • Make positive behavioral changes for handling stressors; 
  • And to understand and respond appropriately to your own feelings. 

You can seek professional development to help you build your capability in personal resilience. The IPAA SA ‘Personal Resilience’ short course will help understand the previously mentioned aspects of resilience in-depth, along with providing the all important tools for understanding and growing your resilience.  

So Now What? 

If you are ready to begin working towards your career goals, you will find it helpful to take time for reflection. IPAA SA offers ‘Career Development’ sessions, led by facilitator Scott Way, Director, BDO who is highly experienced in providing career direction for public sector employees. This course will give you the opportunity to identify and explore your goals along with in-depth exploration of other content in this article. Additionally, the IPAA SA team are happy to assist you in locating Professional Development suited to your goals.  

Whatever your career goals look like, as we emerge from a challenging year, now is the time for you to make a positive step forward in your career. 


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