It’s coming up to that time of year again where we all sit down with our Executive’s to review our performance and set goals and objectives for next year. I’ve often been critical of this process in the past because, in many organisations, performance reviews for Assistants can often be nothing more than tick-box exercises with little remuneration and reward for the Assistant. Saying that, the process of setting goals and objectives throughout the year is crucial for your career and personal development. Working towards something and seeing the value you have added to your organisation should increase your confidence and give you a reason to expect and ask for salary increases and bonuses year on year. So, if we take a step back, how should you set goals for your career that you can stick to?

I’ve just discovered a great article from Duuoo, a software platform that helps manage the performance review process, and I’ll be referencing this throughout my post. It is well worth checking out if you organise your Executive’s performance review schedule. The first point I think it is worth making is that there is a difference between goals and objectives. Often we use the same language to describe how we want the year ahead to play out, but there is a difference between goals and objectives:

A goal is a clear, single-minded statement of an outcome – an ambition – to be reached within a specific timeframe. For instance, “We will redesign the company’s website, so it’s more user-friendly, by the end of next quarter.”

An objective is an action you’ll need to take to achieve that goal. To redesign a website, you may need to redistribute some marketing spend towards your digital capabilities, or find the right web designer, or do some User Experience research to truly define what “more user-friendly” means in that context.

Today we are going to concentrate on goals – clear, single-minded statements.

How to set goals for your career that you can stick to

There are lots of goal setting advice out there, but I want to be very intentional in this post, and we are going to look at goal setting for Assistants specifically. Firstly, check out the Practically Perfect PA blog post on SMART goals and download our template. This will help you define your goals and document the process for your review.

Find out the why behind your goals – what is the context. 

When you are working with your Executive on your goals for next year, make sure you completely understand why they are essential to you, your Executive and the broader organisation. What is the context? How do your goals, and achieving them, make your Executive more successful and add value to the bottom line? If the goals are personal to your growth, understanding the why and being able to articulate your reasons behind the goals you set will make it much easier to achieve. So often we have work that we feel we should be doing. So make sure you pick goals that motivate you and play to your values.

Break your goals down into action points.

Big life goals can seem impossible when looked at as a whole, so you have to break your goals down into action points that you can tick off as the year pans out. It is unbelievably rewarding to see what you have achieved to date. Reward yourself when you tick off one of the tasks that take you further to your goal because it will motivate you to complete the next task and the next task until you achieve your final aim. When you are listing the tasks that make up your goals, write them all down and set deadlines so that you have a place to look and a schedule to follow.

Get some accountability.

When you set goals that you want to achieve, you need to hold yourself accountable. This is easier in a business setting because you have an Executive to report to, who wants to know how you are getting on with your goals. Your salary increase and bonuses are also dependant on you achieving your goals, so it is easier in one sense. But, if you have personal career goals you want to achieve, for example increasing your confidence, actually asking for a pay rise, attending a conference or going for a promotion, well these goals are harder to accomplish, and you will need to take some accountability. The good news is you can outsource accountability! Ask a colleague, friend or family member to check in on your progress, to give you pep-talks and push you when you are not feeling motivated. Get an accountability buddy!

Plan out time for your goals. 

We are always so busy helping other people achieve their goals that often we forget to plan our time for ours! For Assistants, this is important. You’ve got to try and carve out some time in your schedule to dedicate to your career and personal development. If you have a demanding schedule, this can, of course, be tricky and it comes down to communication and setting expectations. Communicate your goals with your Executive, state how important they are to you and how you want to achieve them and let your Executive be part of the process. If they know that you want to grow in the role, they should support you.

Don’t forget to download the free list of 20 example goals for Executive Assistants and Administrative Professionals.

SMART objectives for Executive Assistants