Now’s the time to focus on taking steps towards where you’d like to go professionally
Now that the holidays are over, you might be looking at your future and feeling ready to make some positive changes. Working towards goals is the way to think of this—especially in a professional context. It’s an incremental process, but knowing where you want to end up can inspire you to keep at it and take the necessary steps along the way.
Here are some suggestions for how to get organized and stay on track in the coming months, so you’re making progress towards your career objectives in the coming months.
Make sure your goals are SMART
Making a list of your goals is always a good start. Putting them down on paper makes them more real, and the process of organizing your thoughts can help to clarify your objectives. If you need a little more of a strategy to get and stay on track, use the SMART method. This stands for Specific goals that are Measurable, Achievable, Rewarding/Realistic, and Timely.
- Specific and measurable: This is about quantifying your goal so it’s easier to know when you’ve achieved it. For example, rather than trying to obtain a job interview, target specific companies you’d like to work for in your area.
- Achievable: Make sure your goals are within your reach, in the short as well as long term. If you are interested in the healthcare profession, but don’t have healthcare experience, consider going after entry-level jobs rather than more ambitious positions that require advanced training. That way, once you’ve met your intermediate goal, you can set new goals and keep moving forward, while feeling encouraged and proud of what you’ve accomplished already.
- Rewarding (and realistic): Don’t just choose goals you think you should have. Integrate your genuine interests and passions into what you’re striving for. It will help to keep up your energy and enthusiasm when the striving gets more challenging. If you’re on the fence between two career options, or two subjects to study, ask yourself which one feels more meaningful to you and resonates with your existing skills and preferences. This will also help you to make sure your goals are realistic.
- Timely. Make deadlines your friend! You’re more likely to achieve a goal if you set parameters around how much time you give yourself. Look at the end result you want and then work backwards in terms of what you think is realistic. Take into account each of the steps involved, how long they will take, and the existing demands on your schedule. But don't be too permissive with yourself—stay on track and make sure you’re doing something each week to move yourself forwards.
If you make SMART goals, you’ll be well on your way to a plan for how to implement them.
Spend some time on that resume
If finding a new job is on your list of objectives, a resume is an essential tool. Writing the resume doesn’t need to be overwhelming, and you can work on it a bit at a time, using examples you find online as a model. Keep in mind that many resumes you submit to online job applications will be scanned electronically, so the formatting and keywords will be important. Also make sure you stay up to date on LinkedIn.
Focus on networking
Networking is simply a way to socialize your career objectives and bring other people into the process. It’s a highly effective way to transform any job search. But it can be an enjoyable process as well, of expanding your professional circle to include others who potentially have information and resources to share. All you have to do is start reaching out.
Some suggestions for how to go about effective networking include:
- Start with people you know. You might be surprised to find out that friends and family members (and their friends, and friends of friends) have contacts that could be useful to you. It’s much easier to strike up a conversation with a person who knows you already than to make “cold calls” to someone who’s never met you. Don’t be shy about making clear that you’re looking to learn more about a particular area, and you might be surprised by how much people are willing and able to offer in terms of assistance. Spend some time each week sending emails and making phone calls. It probably won’t be long before you find you’re having conversations that are not only educational but maybe open up new possibilities and ideas for how to tailor your search.
- Research job fairs in you area. There may be existing events near you in the coming months where professionals will gather to talk about the industry you’re interested in. Job fairs are a convenient way to meet a lot of different employers in a short amount of time. Set yourself a goal to talk with at least a handful of employers, so you can practice talking about yourself, asking good questions, and using effective body language (handshake, eye contact, etc.)
- Request an informational interview. Once you meet someone who has the kind of job you think you’d like, you don’t have to wait for their company to post a job opening to find out more. An informational interview is an opportunity to sit down and ask them about what the job entails, what strengths and skills are required, and what kind of person would succeed in that environment. It’s an excellent time to ask professional advice. You get a first-hand understanding of a job, and if you make a good impression, the person can keep you in mind for any future openings.
It’s important to show gratitude to anyone who has helped or given you advice along the way. By the same token, share information you may have found with others who are also trying to make a change. If contacts or job leads come your way that aren’t quite right for you, take a moment to forward them on to someone you know who might be looking. This creates a community of support, where everyone helps each other and ultimately everyone wins. That should be a goal that we all share.
If you decide that healthcare is the direction you’d like to go, consider a professional training program. Schools like the American College for Medical Careers provide the targeted skills and hand-on experience you’ll need to be job-ready in the coming months and years. Check out the programs we offer in Dental Assisting, Medical Assisting, and Medical Billing and Coding. Whatever path you decide on, working towards your goals in 2018 is the key to a satisfying new career!
This article is part of the weekly blog of the American College for Medical Careers in Orlando, FL. We care about helping our students strive to attain their career goals. For more about any of our professional training programs, visit us online or call 407-738-4488. We look forward to hearing from you!