Ditch resolutions and make real goals for your marketing career in 2015

We recently completed our annual performance appraisal process at work. It’s the time of the year where everyone sits down with their manager to discuss their achievements for 2014 and goals for 2015. We also use the opportunity to create a short and long term development plan for each team member, which looks at how they’ll develop their skills and knowledge throughout the next year, and the following 1-5 years.

Ditch resolutions and make real goals for your marketing career

It’s a valuable exercise, and even if you don’t have a structured appraisal process in your current role, here’s why you’re going to have a more successful year (and career) if you ditch resolutions and make real goals for your marketing career in 2015.

How many times have you made new years resolutions (I will not procrastinate; I will be better organised this year etc) with all the enthusiasm in the world, only to find that it all goes pear-shaped by the end of January?

This typically happens because resolutions don’t have deadlines. Or there is no plan or accountability to ensure you actually follow through. Or you get sidetracked with projects. Or work gets busy. All the excuses, right?

A study conducted by psychology Professor Dr. Gail Matthews, found that people who wrote down their goals, shared this information with a friend, and sent weekly updates to that friend were on average 33% more successful in accomplishing their stated goals than those who merely formulated goals.

Setting goals gives you something to aim for

As this and many other studies have found, even just the act of writing down your goals helps to focus your thoughts and provide clarity about what you want to achieve.

But writing any old goal is not in itself going to guarantee success. You may have heard of SMART goals, which are:

  • Specific
  • Measureable
  • Attainable
  • Realistic
  • Time-bound

For example, “get a promotion next year” is not a smart goal. The statement is too broad, too vague. There is no specific timeframe, and because there is no specific job title referenced, how do you know if the goal is attainable or realistic for you?

So how can you make it work?

Let’s say you’re currently a marketing coordinator and the next most senior level in your team is a marketing specialist. You want a promotion in the next year. Some of your smart goals for 2015 might be:

  1. Identify the skills, knowledge and experience required for the marketing specialist position by 31 December 2014 – this helps you to clarify what you’re aiming for.
  2. Deliver Project 1 on time and on budget as per my current role’s requirements, by 30 June 2015 – delivering on work assigned to you builds proof of your ability and reliability to get things done.
  3. Deliver Project 2 on time and on budget as per my current role’s requirements, by 30 June 2015.
  4. Complete half-yearly progress review with manager by 30 June 2015 – this gives you the opportunity to check your progress, get feedback and take any corrective action if necessary.
  5. Deliver Project 3 on time and on budget as per my current role’s requirements, by 30 September 2015.
  6. Deliver Project 4 on time and on budget as per my current role’s requirements, by 30 November 2015.
  7. Demonstrate the skills, knowledge and experience required for the marketing specialist position, and be promoted to that position by 31 December 2015 – be prepared to discuss specific examples of where you have both achieved your current role and gone above and beyond, so that you can demonstrate your readiness for the next level.

These goals acknowledge that you have some work to do. It has to be about more than just wanting a promotion. Your goals should incorporate the plan of how you are going to get there.

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If you were to sit down with your manager and have a discussion about a big goal like working towards a promotion, you should come away with a clear picture of the skills, knowledge and experience you are expected to demonstrate in order to be considered for the promotion. You can then build a plan with the steps required to hit that goal. This process should also give you an indication as to whether your manager thinks the goal is realistic and attainable for you. Setting a series of smaller goals that lead up to the big goal, is far more effective than simply expecting or hoping to be promoted because you just graduated or you have another year’s experience and feel you deserve a promotion.

And while some of the elements of the overall goal will happen on the job, ie, delivering the projects at work that we listed in the example above, it’s likely that you’ll be expected to develop skills and knowledge outside of work in your own time. In my experience, the most successful marketers are always reading, learning and experimenting in their own time, in addition to what they do at work.

Let’s get practical again. Say a key responsibility of the marketing specialist role that you want to be promoted to, is to write and publish a monthly newsletter. While you may not get direct experience of this in your current role, to be considered for the promotion, you’re going to have to be able to demonstrate that you have the skills to do it by the end of the year. You could substantially improve your chances of success if you set personal goals around this area, such as:

  • Subscribe to 24 different company newsletters and analyse two per month, to better understand what makes a great newsletter and what does not – by 30 June 2015.
  • Read XYZ book on how to create amazing newsletters by 30 June 2015.
  • Identify and subscribe to 10 blogs which discuss best-practice in newsletters; read 10 blog posts per week on this subject.
  • Volunteer to write one article per month for the current newsletter from January through June 2015.
  • Create a personal blog outside of work, so that you gain very direct experience in developing and publishing content to a timetable. Set goals around the number of posts you write each week or month.

Can you see that by breaking down big goals into smaller, actionable goals – and creating your own tailored learning program, you are putting in place a system that drives you closer to what you’re trying to achieve?

What types of goals should you set?

You can (and should) use the SMART goal setting process to set goals for what you’ll actually do in your job each year. For example, “send out the monthly customer newsletter on the last Thursday of every month” or “create and publish one customer case study by the end of each quarter, starting 31 March 2015”.

Your goals may be set for you, but if you’re handed a list of goals that are not specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time-bound, work with your manager to convert them into SMART goals.

You may also consider setting goals around:

  • Self-development – what are the key interpersonal skills you need in order to progress up the ranks?
  • Education – what are the qualifications you may need for future roles? Or which courses are must-haves for your industry?
  • Building your network – how many new people are you meeting each year? How are you expanding your network so you have a broader base of experience to tap into?

As you start to clarify where you want to take your marketing career, create both large and smaller, incremental goals that will help you get there.

One of my goals for 2015 is to do more writing – I’ll get specific about it in a minute! I have found that the more senior my roles become, the less writing I do. Not only do I miss it, but it’s really easy to get out of practice. One of the reasons I started this blog, was to create an outlet where I could write regularly about the topics I’m most interested in.

So – one of my goals for 2015 is to write at least one post a week on this blog, and supplement it with one inspirational photo quote a week (who doesn’t love a good quote!). I am finalising other metrics to measure the effectiveness of each post – but writing regularly is definitely on my agenda for 2015. I look forward to you kicking my butt if I miss a weekly post.

As we draw towards the end of the year, I really encourage you to ditch the idea of resolutions and think more about setting goals that will drive your career forward. Remember to make your goals SMART and to share regular updates with a friend, to give yourself the best chance of success.

Feel free to share your 2015 goals in the comments below!

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive, off-topic or contain spam.

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