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Three Things to Remember Come Goal Setting Season

Final reviews are a thing of the past and – at least for some of you – so are the days of terrible raises. Things seem on the up and up at most firms. That said, focusing on FY2011 is crucial for your career. Hopefully the potential for raises will be consistent if not better than this year’s, and but you need to be thinking about everything now.

The typical HR mantra is, “your goals need to be realistic and attainable but should also stretch you to push yourself.”

Yes, finding the middle ground between cruisin’ down Easy Street and setting yourself up for failure is crucial. So, what are you supposed to do?

1. Firm recommended goals: Every firm supplies their employees with suggested goals, and I’ve always recommended that people should use these at a starting point. Why? Two reasons:

a. Your managers and partners know them. While going through performance management training, partners and managers receive the outline of sample goals as part of their training materials. HR says, “Look, these are the goals your staff members should be shooting for” and the room goes “Ahhhhhhhhh.” Using these goals will be familiar to your superiors as you begin the review process. However, it’s important to…

b. Customize the goals to be you As valuable as the sample goals can be as a template for you, it is important that you adjust them to focus on your unique ambitions. This is your opportunity to voice your needs, i.e. – involvement in planning the audit, volunteering at firm events, or getting involved with recruiting. Showing your commitment to the firm away from the day-to-day engagements is just as important as being committed to busy season.

And for the sake of everything holy – PROOFREAD. Passed your CPA this year? Remove all of the passing-the-CPA related questions. Missing details like this will make your superiors question the effort you put into the process; don’t give them that option.

2. Review last year’s goals: Roll-forward successful goals. Re-evaluate goals you didn’t reach or didn’t surpass to your satisfaction. Demonstrating and documenting continual improvement is key.

3. Speak with your mentor: If you were promoted this year, congratulations! Newsflash – you’re in for an incredibly difficult year. New senior staff members and managers are put through the wringer, and rightfully so. Senior management doesn’t like being wrong and weeding out misguided promotions early is important to their long-term planning. Seek out the guidance of at least one person who was in your situation the previous year. What would they have done differently? Did they overshoot on a particular area in their goals? What’s one thing they recommend including in your goal setting?

Still unsure of what you should do? Talk to your peers, flip a coin, or Google it. Whatever you do, don’t miss the submission deadline.

Unless – of course – you actually want to be blacklisted.