It's well known that successful people are intentional in how they set out goals for their day, month, or year, so planning ahead to reach your career goals in order to advance professionally is a must. Whenever it's time to do anything, I'm a big fan of starting with my "why" and moving forward from there. And in putting on my coaching cap here (I mean, I guess I should put that master's degree into use), the major "why" starts with a line of open-ended questioning---a fun exercise in reflection and honesty with yourself.
Whether career advancement means a promotion, a total change, a jump into entrepreneurship, a salary increase, or taking a total break from the hustle altogether, you can come to a few great realizations and learn how to set and achieve career goals for 2024 by asking the following questions:
1. What aspects of my current work make me feel motivated, happy, and accomplished?
For me, this question allows me to not only think positively about the next steps in my career but to ensure that the work I'm doing aligns with my values. I like to feel accomplished and challenged in my work. I'm also motivated by doing acts of service and building a certain quality of life. I think of these things when I consider my career development and advancement.
Write down what you love about the work you do, what tasks are your favorite, and how your work makes you feel. Are you into moving up the ladder or being of support to leadership? Are you great at administrative tasks but hate public speaking?
Are you more passionate about being the visionary versus handling tedious tasks? Are you more into working from a corporate or home office, or do you like being out in the field or working hands-on with people or things? What is your standard when it comes to feeling accomplished, and how does your industry measure success, results, or impact? Does success tie directly into how much you earn a year? These are just examples of the secondary questions you must ask yourself to assess what keeps you going and makes you tick when it comes to a career.
2. What is my current standing or status in my industry?
It's always good to assess where you currently are in order to know where you're going. And keep it real with yourself. Take a look at your resume and the reality of your job duties, what you actually do from day to day, where you work, and how you've been an asset to a company or industry. What were your sales last year? What projects did you lead that met deliverables? How have you positively impacted the life of someone else as part of your job? What was your attendance like? What's your current salary? Did you get promoted? Why or why not?
Take into account the feedback---constructive criticism, praise, or "bad"--- that you've gotten in your performance reviews, from your managers, or from your coworkers. Also, consider your education and training, whether it's traditional or learned through experience.
Are you at the epicenter of excellence and healthy competition when it comes to reaching the highest levels in your industry (related to location, market, or company)? Are you making the impact you want in terms of the number of people you serve and the types of clients you work with?
If there are areas of improvement, such as communication, time management, leadership, or soft skills, write those down as well. You want a full picture of who you are as a professional in order to map out where you need to go from there.
3. What aspects about my current work do I totally hate?
The answer to this one can come easy for many of us, as oftentimes, we are very clear on what we don't like about our jobs or careers. (That's a major reason I didn't make this the No. 1 question.) And even if you totally love your job, there are always some aspects that aren't as enjoyable as others. Write down the tasks, office culture nuances, and other things related to your daily or monthly work life.
Do you hate going into an actual office? Does the company's way of doing business clash with your values or what you believe to be a better way? Is your company not quite a good fit for working parents or diverse professionals? Are you finding yourself becoming smarter and more efficient than your boss? Do you cringe about the tasks associated with managing people or processes?
Again, get real about this so that you can plan accordingly in terms of changing jobs, and careers, or simply shifting your perspective and approach if your job is one you want to remain at but you don't enjoy the grunt work of it.
This question is also a good way to find out what you want to do when you're utterly clueless about that as well. Maybe you're in a rut or still figuring things out when it comes to what you'll do for a living, so figuring out what you definitely don't want to do will help lead you to what you do.
4. Considering my lifestyle, triggers, and way of thinking, what method of goal-setting serves me and will realistically work?
Many coaches tout the benefits of setting S.M.A.R.T. goals, but that's not the only method you can use to set goals and stick to them. I'm a big fan of the HARD method (which stands for heartfelt, animated, required, difficult) because it's more along the lines of how I think, how I work, and how I process goals with the consideration of my obstacle triggers (i.e. people and things that lead to procrastination, heightened anxiety, or waning determination).
I find the SMART technique to be formulaic, strict, and quite boring, so I'm less inclined to meet my goals because I don't feel the passion or excitement to do so. (That's not to say it doesn't work. Again, this is based on the person and what motivates them to follow through on a process of setting goals.)
There are other methods for setting goals, including OKR (objectives and key results), micro goals (setting multiple smaller goals versus one larger goal), or backward goals (starting from the outcome and planning backward from there based on what that end goal entails).
With any technique, you'll need to come to some sense of clarity about where you want to go (or at least how you want your work life to look in 2024 or beyond) and be able to hold yourself accountable by setting deadlines or measurable targets to hit within setting the goal. There might be changes you need to make, additional classes or training you need to get, or maybe even relocation in store, but you won't know until you actually map out using some sort of technique that can organize your thoughts and plan of action.
5. What resources do I need that contribute to career fulfillment and the quality of life I want?
Another commonality among the successful is the fact that they have a tribe, and they don't achieve success alone. It takes community and resources in order to advance. Write down what resources you might need and how you can tap into those resources in order to meet some of the goals you've set using the methods mentioned previously.
How can you get a mentor? Do you need to go back to school or get more education? Are you able to intern, volunteer, or position yourself for certain projects at your current job in order to gain experience? If you're considering entrepreneurship, what grants or programs can you apply for in order to be a success, get funding, or transition from your 9-to-5?
What financial, time, or personal support will you need from family, friends, and colleagues in order to reach your goals? What expenses (and yes, time and your talent are expenses) can you cover in order to reach those goals (i.e., tuition, extra time after work, volunteer hours, or mental focus)? Consider all resources and possibilities, even if you deem them impossible or unreachable.
While there might be very real systemic and societal barriers to accessing resources for career development and advancement--- especially for Black women---there are resources that you can tap into. Add hard work, research, reliance on your network, use of your unique skills, and an attitude that nobody can stop you, and you've got a prosperous plan for career success in the new year.
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This was first evident more than a decade ago when she quit her job as the corporate executive of a Fortune 500 company during a Periscope livestream. “I’m not sure if there’s an alignment of [our] future trajectory. I’m going to work for myself. I'm promoting myself to work for myself,” she said at the time before flashing a smile at the viewing audience. As she resigned on camera, a constant stream of encouraging messages floated upwards on the screen.
By 2021, she’d fashioned her work as a corporate consultant and her personal life with her husband and three adopted daughters into a reality show, She’s The Boss, for USA Network. This year, she released the New York Times bestselling memoir Nothing Is Missing, written as she was in the process of getting a divorce and dealing with her eldest daughter’s struggles with substance use.
Convinced that there’s no way the 39-year-old has achieved all of this without intentional strategic planning, I asked her about it when we spoke less than a week before Christmas. I’d seen videos on social media of her working on 2024 planning for other brands, and I wanted to know what that looked like following her own year of success.
She listed a number of goals, including ensuring that the projects she takes on in the new year align with her identity “as a Black woman, as an African woman, as a mother, as someone who has lived a [rebuilding] season and is now trying to live boldly and entirely as themselves.” But, I was shocked by how much of her business planning also prioritized rest.
Despite the bestselling book, a self-titled podcast, and working with numerous corporations, Walters said she’s been taking Fridays off. This year, she doesn’t want to work on Mondays, either.
“A lot of us think we work hard until retirement hits. I want to progress towards retirement,” she said, noting that she’ll check in with herself around March to see how successful this plan has been. The goal, Walters said, is to only be working on Tuesdays and Thursdays by sometime in 2025. “It is intentionally building out what I know I would like to have happen and not waiting for exhaustion to be the trigger of change.”
"A lot of us think we work hard until retirement hits. I want to progress towards retirement... It is intentionally building out what I know I would like to happen and not waiting for exhaustion to be the trigger of change."
Walters said the decision to progressively work less was partially in response to her previously held notions about her career, especially as an entrepreneur. “When I first started, I thought burnout was a part of it,” she said. “What I didn’t realize is that even if you’re able to bounce out of burnout or get back to it, there’s a cumulative impact on your body. If you think of your body as a tree and every time you go through burnout, you are taking a hack out of your trunk, yes, that trunk will heal over, and the tree will continue to grow, but it doesn't mean that you don’t have a weakened stem.”
But, the desire for increased rest was also in response to the major shifts that occurred three years ago when she was experiencing major changes in her family and realized her metaphorical tree was “bending all the way over.”
“One of the things we have to recognize, especially as Black women, is that there is this engrained, societal, systemic notion that our worth is built around our productivity,” she added. “That is some language that I think is just now starting to really get unpacked.” In recent years, there’s been an increased awareness of achieving balance in life, with Tricia Hersey’s “The Nap Ministry” gaining attention based on the idea that rest, especially for Black women, is a form of resistance. Even online phrases such as “soft life” and “quiet quitting” have hinted at a cultural shift in prioritizing leisure over professional ambition.
"One of the things we have to recognize, especially as Black women, is that there is this engrained, societal, systemic notion that our worth is built around our productivity."
If companies are lining up to consult with Walters about their brands and products, then women have been looking to her for guidance on starting over since she invited them to livestream her resignation 12 years ago. As viewers continue to demand more from content creators in the form of intimate, personal details, Walters has navigated her personal brand with a sense of transparency without oversharing the vulnerable details about her life, especially when it comes to her family.
The entrepreneur said she’d been approached to write a book for several years and was initially convinced she was finally ready to write one about business. “I started to do that, and then I went through my divorce. When that happened, I said, why would I write a book telling people to get the life that I have when I’m not sure about the life that I have,” she said.
Instead, she decided to write Nothing Is Missing and provide a closer look at her life, starting with being born to immigrant Ghanaian parents (“You need to know my childhood to know why I’m passionate about entrepreneurship.”) through the adoption of her three daughters and eventual divorce. Despite her desire to share, however, she said she felt protective of the privacy of her family, including her ex-husband.
When discussing this with me, Walters said she was reminded of a lesson she learned from actress Kerry Washington, who released her own memoir, Thicker Than Water, just a week before Walters’ book release. Washington’s memoir grapples with family secrets, too, specifically the fact that she was conceived using a sperm donor and didn’t learn about it until she was already a successful TV star. While Washington reflects on how the decision and subsequent deception impacted her, she’s also careful to hold space for her parents’ experiences, too. “A lot of things she said was that she had to recognize where she was the supporting character and where she was the main character,” Walter said.
This is something Walter worked to do in Nothing Is Missing when discussing her daughter’s struggles with addiction. “I was very intentional about making sure that I did not reveal more than what was required,” she said. “If I say something about someone’s addiction, I don’t need to go into the list of the substances they used, how they used them, what I found. [I don’t need to] walk into a room and paint a picture of what it looked like for people to understand.”
Walters said some of the most vulnerable moments in the book barely made a ripple once it was released. She was extremely nervous to write about getting an abortion, she said. But no one has asked her about this in the months since the book was released. Instead, people have been more interested in quirkier revelations, such as the fact that she once appeared on Wheel of Fortune.
“I have bared my soul about this thing I went through in my youth that has changed me for people, and people are like, ‘So how heavy was the wheel when you spun it?’” she said, chuckling. “It just goes to show that people never worry about the thing that you worry about.”
With the success of Nothing Is Missing, Walters said she still isn’t planning to release a business book at the moment. But, as she navigates parenting a teenager and two adult children while also navigating a relationship with her new fiancé, Walters said she believes she has at least one or two more books to write about her personal journey. “There is sort of an arc of where my life has gone that I know I’ve got something more to say about this that I think is important, relevant and necessary,” she said.
In just three years, Walters’ life has undergone a major transformation. There’s no telling what the next three years will have in store for her, but it seems likely she’ll retain an inspired audience wherever life takes her.
Featured image courtesy
It's 2024, and you're ready to get back into the dating scene. Well, you're not alone. According to Jonathan Kirkland, Head of Brand and Marketing of BLK, a popular dating and lifestyle app for the Black community, the day after Christmas through Valentine's Day is considered "peak season" for dating apps. So, whether romance is on your vision board or you just want to date for fun, it's necessary to make your dating profile stand out. If you've used dating apps, then you've probably seen it all. The shady profiles with creepy photos, the lack of info or too much info in the About Me section, and much more. While we know that's not you, you could be making some mistakes that are keeping you from making a connection with a potential love interest.
Jonathan says blurry pictures are the ultimate no-no. "Pictures are your first representation of yourself on the dating app. So make sure that you have a clear picture, make sure that the picture represents you. If it's a blurry picture, people can't see you. They will see your picture before they read your profile."
Next are inappropriate pictures. "Typically, they'll get flagged on dating apps by our moderators, but I mean a torso pic. I mean, even if you have a six-pack, people still want to see your face."
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"Another profile mistake; I will say incomplete bios because after people see your pic, if they like it. They want to, you know, get to know a little bit about you," he says.
"If the app gives you as much information to fill out like if you want kids, education, are you a smoker or do you work out, you know, fill out as much as possible because that way that also helps, you know, get you to your match quicker and can alleviate some of that time back and forth. If you know, it's not going to be a match."
Misspellings and Grammar Mistakes
Jonathan recommends that dating app users use spellcheck when writing bios. Grammar mistakes and misspelled words may show that you don't "pay attention to detail, which people probably don't want."
Being Vague About Intentions
While you may be looking for a serious relationship, other people may just be looking for a good time so revealing what you're looking for in your profile will help weed out those who don't match your intentions. "So on BLK we now have, you can select your intention right on your profile. Are you looking for long-term relationship, friends with benefits, friends, you know, things like that?"
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However, there is such a thing as too much information. "Because then that could be safety and privacy, like you don't want to put your phone number on there. I mean, you might not want to put your Snapchat or Instagram." He continues, "I will say like, keep your different social media separate and not give all your information out on your profile."
If you're on dating apps, then you've probably seen a negative profile or two, but don't follow in those footsteps. "Even if you've had bad experiences in dating apps or relationships, you don't take it to the dating app because it's supposed to be a place of hope."
Not Updating Your Profile
Have you dyed your hair or lost weight since creating your dating profile? Then you might want to update it, sis. "I mean, you don't want to misrepresent yourself, like if you got a picture from when you were in high school, probably not the best thing because if you meet somebody in person, you're not going to look the same. People's weights, especially during COVID, have gone up, gone down. So you might want to keep that updated to be in accordance with what's real."
Overuse of Filters
While we love our filters, we want to make sure our pics on our dating profiles match how we look in real life. No catfishing here. "Overuse of filters is definitely a faux pas because, again, it's not representing who you truly are," he says. "We want to be all about authenticity. Like that's why BLK exists because it's like you can be your real self, so with BLK, you don't have to code switch. So, I would say, like the filters and edits, let's not lean into that so much.
Lack of Initiative
Lack of initiative applies to after matching with someone. "Bumble says make the first move. We're not gonna say that, but it's like, I mean, send a message if you already matched, so it's like okay, you both swiped right on each other. Don't wait for the other person to message you first. Just go for it. I mean, all you can lose is just somebody you don't know."
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