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This time of year, many of us are reflecting on our New Year’s resolutions and setting new goals for the year. As we consider what changes we might want to make or new skills to master, I challenge you to think about your career.

  • Where do you want to go?
  • What do you want to do?
  • Where do you see yourself in five years?
  • Are you where you want to be to get there?

Many of us put ourselves and our self-interests on the back burner. What if you took the time to invest in your own personal and professional development?

If you don’t have a destination in mind for your career, it’s easy to let other things take precedence and have your career remain static or happen by chance rather than design.

Choose more specific goals

I challenge you to make small, attainable goals rather than lofty, life-changing adjustments. Many people resolve to lose weight and set significant goals around going to the gym. But if you make more reasonable but still hard-to-achieve goals - like losing 10 pounds or start going to the gym twice a week - it makes it seem like the goal is more attainable and allows you to reset your goals once you begin to hit them.

In addition to health goals, also consider your financial objectives. Maybe it’s paying down debt or refinancing your home. That is something tangible. If you want to set up a Christmas savings account, what’s the point unless you start contributing money early in the year?

Personal goals and career goals should also be a focus. Consider the steps needed to achieve these goals and start working on them one at a time. We put a lot of pressure on ourselves to set unrealistic goals. In reality, you should think about goals across the spectrum for your life to create more balance.

There are many methods to define your goals, such as STAR (Specific, Testable, Attainable, and Relevant) or SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Timely). The key is knowing what you want to achieve. Your goals should be specific and clearly defined, state when you want to attain them, how you will get there, and ensure that it’s realistic and relevant.

Once you have them defined, write them down and ensure they are visible so you don’t lose sight of what you want to achieve. Don’t try to boil the ocean; break your goals down and develop a plan to move forward. Don’t be afraid to adjust your goals; they can change as your life and situations change. Things happen. Be kind to yourself and modify your goals and update your plan accordingly.

Two career/leadership goals to consider:

Listen more

Many people get caught up in day-to-day tasks, which makes it easy to lose sight of your goals. Instead of listening to respond, listen first to understand the other person. Ask questions to gain clarity in your effort to seek understanding. So many things get lost in translation, especially in today’s digital age. Clarity will help both sides, allow you to demonstrate empathy, and appreciate their perspective before you articulate your response or reaction.

Develop soft skills

Developing or honing your soft skills is necessary at every stage in your career. Interpersonal communication, negotiation skills, and critical thinking are all examples of soft skills that you can develop.

I’m proud that Maximus began providing soft skills training and tools to all our employees and contingent workers.

Making professional development opportunities available to everyone was an investment Maximus made to help employees improve themselves. Even though it may feel as though technology and artificial intelligence have taken over, there’s an art to being human. Computers can’t replicate the human skills that allow for empathy and emotional intelligence, creativity, collaboration, flexibility and adaptability, leadership, and ethics.

Serving others

While it’s easy to think about yourself when considering resolutions or goals for the new year, maybe think about what you can do for others in your community. Nothing makes you recognize the role you can play in the world like caring for loved ones. It teaches you that the world doesn’t revolve around you and makes you want to make the world a better place.

At Maximus, many of our employees work remotely in the U.S. and globally. Volunteering ties us back to our communities. The Maximus Foundation, for example, provides grants to nonprofit organizations in the communities we serve. Some of our employees volunteer at those organizations in their spare time.

Serving others and seeing your impact in action makes people feel good and gives us a sense of purpose. Volunteering can lead to new experiences, more personal and professional connections to people in your community and learning and developing soft skills. It has health benefits, too.

Whatever goals or resolutions you set for 2024, think of yourself and what’s attainable. Think of the small things you can do that will lead you to where you want to be – personally or professionally.

We all want to leave this world better than we found it. Start by investing in yourself, giving back to others in need, and finding balance.