How to set your professional goals for the year ahead

What does the year ahead hold for you? Perhaps you’re planning to change jobs, start your own consultancy business, deepen your experience in your current role or aim for a promotion?

Whatever you’re planning, I’m going to share 10 career aspirations you’ll be able to keep this upcoming year.

2021 update: If you’re starting a new role, enrol in my How to create a 90 day plan Online Masterclass today.

How to set your professional goals

Grab a piece of paper or open a new document file and jot down your answers. I find the only way to have any chance of new year goals or aspirations lasting to Easter and beyond is to make them visible, tangible and realistic.

I encourage you to hold yourself to account e.g. making promises to yourself in 30-day increments.

I recently shared my 2020 planner with readers of my newsletter, The Water Cooler. Sign up today to receive your own copy of my newsletter delivered to your inbox every month. Not seen the planner? Download your own copy.

1: Personalise your goals

You don’t need to write reams or copy what others write. But do make them SMART: specific, measurable, achievable, realistic/relevant, time-bound.

Short on time? Try creating answers to these statements:

This month/year I will:

  • start…
  • stop…
  • continue… 

Or use the headings in my 2020 planner above.

Further reading via All Things IC: Do you like to map out your goals and aspirations? So do I. Get a copy of my All Things IC workbook/journal to help you plan your goals. They are £5.99 +VAT each for UK buyers and a hardcopy will be posted to you. Outside of the UK? There are European and US shipping options.

2: Invest time in self development

Will 2020 be the year you finally read that pile of books next to your bed? You can make it happen. Investing in your continuing professional development is essential to keep your skills fresh, knowledge up-to-date and to constantly grow. Podcasts, blogs, professional association’s publications and social media make this easier than ever. Start small, aim to read a blog post a week or book a month.

Once you’re in the habit, this becomes easy. For example, I listen to podcasts while getting dressed, it’s a part of my daily routine. Before you know it, you’ve listened to hundreds of podcasts over the course of a year. You could do this at a time that suits you e.g. walking a dog or on your commute.

If you are a CIPR member, I recommend working towards becoming a Chartered Practitioner. Find out more.

Further reading about using podcasts for internal communication via the All Things IC blog

Podcasts I was a guest on in 2019 

I have recorded a show for the Employee Engagement podcast by Matt Manners, which will be out in 2020.

If you are FutureNet member through the Institute of Internal Communication, you should have access to an exclusive podcast interview I recently recorded with Rachel Bowyer.

Further reading on the All Things IC blog:

Recommended books: Internal Communication:

Books I’ve contributed chapters to:

Recommended books: Public Relations (PR) and social media:

Recommended books: How organisations (and people) work:

Recommended books: Personal branding and development:

3: Build your network

Who will help you achieve your career goals? Do you know the right people to help you make that next step? Building your network is essential for any Comms or PR professional to help your professional growth. As the saying goes, if you are the smartest person in the room, you’re in the wrong room.

I recommend joining Twitter chats e.g. #CommsChat at 8pm UK time on Monday nights, or the monthly #ICBookClub chat from CIPR Inside.

Further reading on the All Things IC blog:

The Big Yak is back in 2020. This is an unconference I host alongside my fellow The IC Crowd co-founders Dana Leeson and Jenni Field. Save the date: Saturday 6 June 2020 and come and join 130 professional in-house communication practitioners for a day focused on networking, learning and problem solving together.

Find out more: See The Big Yak website or follow us on Twitter @TheICCrowd.

4: Develop inside and outside of your niche

My specialism is Internal Communication and every year I invest time, money and effort in learning as much as I can about it. But I recognise the need to expand my horizons and burst out of that “Comms bubble”, so every year I choose to learn about interrelated disciplines.

How can you do this in 2020? Look for conferences, Twitter chats, events, webinars and books that will not only help you appreciate the wider business world, but in turn deepen your understanding of your specialism and how it relates to others.

For example, in 2019 I invested in professional memberships including the Institute of Directors, Content Marketing Association, Youpreneur (for entrepreneurs) and Make Your Mark Online via Jammy Digital.

5: Choose self-care

What does your self-care and wellbeing routine look like for 2020? How can you invest time in creating space for you?

Working in Comms is incredibly visible for many practitioners, how can you build in time for wellbeing? Ideas include being offline, choosing to spend time outside away from devices or blocking time in your diary for an activity you love. How can you encourage your team to do the same?

I spoke about this at CIPR Inside’s Changing the Conversation conference in October this year: How to change conversations about internal communication.

I choose LEGO, it’s my mindfulness activity and helps me to be creative and focus on making space and time for me.

Further reading on the All Things IC blog: How Scottish Natural Heritage focuses on wellbeing.

6: Prioritise your mental health

What are your mental health habits like? It’s common to plan health goals for the year ahead, but what are your mental health goals?

Being aware of your mental health habits and triggers can help you set goals for the year ahead. What do you need to start/stop/continue to enable you to thrive this year?

Further reading on the All Things IC blog:

7: Ask for help

What do you need help with this year? Write down the areas you’d like to develop over the next 12 months. Who do you need to know to help you achieve them? You could consider joining a mentoring scheme, appointing a business coach or asking someone in your organisation to advise you.

Knowing what you want, then going for it, often requires asking other people for help. I’ve made some difficult business decisions over the past 12 months and sought advice from trusted friends to reinforce my gut instinct.

I offer a variety of ways to help practitioners. Dates for my upcoming All Things IC Masterclasses can be found on my website. They are held at my brand new All Things IC Hub and your investment is £599 +VAT.

Opening the Hub was one of my goals for 2019 and I can’t wait to welcome you to the space in person or share it with you via my remote support options, wherever you are in the world.

If you are thinking about becoming a Comms Consultant, or wish to build momentum in your existing business, my How to be a Comms Consultant – Exploration and How to be a Comms Consultant – Momentum Masterclasses are for you.

2021 update: You can enrol in the Online Masterclass version of How to be a Comms Consultant – Exploration, today.


All Things IC Online Masterclasses



8: Give help

Who could you help over the next year? Could you sign up to be a mentor with a professional association or is there someone in your organisation you think could benefit from your expertise?

Could you volunteer to speak on a webinar, via a careers fair or at a conference to share what you know? Could you offer a guest blog post opportunity to an aspiring PR pro?

Further reading on the All Things IC blog: What are the benefits of having or being a mentor?

9: Create time to think

In this ‘always-on’ world of Comms and PR, it’s common to get locked into a tactical cycle of delivery and not have time for strategic planning. How can you change this over the next 12 months? How can you block time in your diary to create time to think and plan?

If you’re planning to change roles, do keep an eye on my All Things IC Jobs board and @AllThingsICJobs on Twitter to explore the latest vacancies. You can advertise your role/s for only £125 +VAT per week.

Further reading via the All Things IC blog: What you need to know before applying for a Comms job.

10: Dream big

What will you be reflecting back on at this time next year? What will you have achieved in 2020?

Be bold, be brave and dream big.

I wish you a Happy New Year, may 2020 be a healthy and happy one for you and those you love.

Thank you for stopping by


First published on the All Things IC blog on 29 December 2019.


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