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Stephanie Mifsud for Hotjar

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5 easy steps for choosing the right goals

Thinking about goals you want to achieve in six months can be challenging. Here are some questions and suggestions that can help you find the mental space for paving the way to a better version of yourself.

At Hotjar we have performance reviews every six months. This process generates a lot of peer feedback on one’s strengths and career opportunitiesβ€”plus it provides a space for thinking about future growth. Susanna has posted some great tips on how to digest this feedback and make it actionable. As peer feedback tends to get more generic as one becomes more senior, this post outlines some resources that are helpful in specific goal setting for the next few months.

I invite you to grab a cuppa and some pen and paper and follow these few steps to identify which goals matter for your career progression.

1. [5m] Brain dumpβ€”what’s on your mind?

Our mind is usually cluttered with thoughts about the present or near future. Let’s start by listing those thoughts so we can consider them later.

Make a list of the things on your mind, things you have been postponing, things that worry you because they are close to their breaking point, pending follow-ups, etc. Write it all down. Now put that list aside for now.

2. [15m] Tech laundry listβ€”what needs to be done

Write out (or type out) a laundry list of tasks/projects you think the team needs to work on in the near future.

Think of it as a backlog of tech tasks to bring the code and infra to a better place where you can be proud of how well it serves our users.

You might want to look into the team backlog for inspiration. If you have a North Star document for your team, now is a good time to resurrect it and see what steps you need to take to reach it.

3. [20m] Focus on the destination β€” keep your eye on the prize

Now it’s time to think about how you want to grow in your current roleβ€”or what you need to do to switch roles if you are aiming for that.

Consider these questions:

  • What are your career aspirations?
  • What do you want to know in a year that you don’t know now?
  • What interests you? What articles/books do you read?
  • Look at the seniority criteria for your current role and your aspired role. What skills do you need to hone to help your growth?
  • What opportunities came out of your last performance review?

You guessed it, put all these responses in a list, we’ll need it later.

4. [25m] Look for the opportunities β€” watch for blind spots

After this introspective phase, it’s time to zoom out, to take into consideration higher-level goals. Different companies have different ways of communicating strategy and focus areas. Whether it’s KPIs, OKRs, KPAs or something else, dig up strategic guidance and investigate how it dribbles down to your team and role.

There might also be more horizontal initiatives to become familiar with such as Chapter Group Projects, North Star Initiatives and Golden Path direction.

Here you may see gaps that you are interested in filling, for example. suggesting a new chapter topic or pitching a new initiative for your team in alignment with the Department OKRs. These are excellent material for open-ended goals (see section 5)

5. [30m] Write your plan β€” pulling it all together

The plan

The follow up of a performance review is a development plan. A development plan is how we describe and track goals for the next six months. It provides a basis for one-on-one conversations on growth and helps your lead highlight practical opportunities for reaching those goals.

A development plan is in essence a set of personal OKRs. It includes a couple of broad goals β€” think of these as the areas you want to focus on. For each goal, we set two outcomes, where we describe the better situation we want to be in in a few months' time. These outcomes are split into specific actions that will lead to the improved situation we want to achieve.

Broad goals

Take a look at your answers and ideas in numbers three and four. From this, try to come up with two broad and open-ended goals.

The best goals will overlap between what you want to achieve and what the company is trying to achieve. Try to find aligning themes, as it will increase your chances of success.

Examples of broad open-ended goals

  • Identify opportunities for improvement/innovation in our area of ownership
  • Improve knowledge sharing and collaboration around data visualization
  • Invest more time in increasing technical expertise

Outcomes and outputs

Now try to come up with an outcome-based objective. This is probably the hardest part.

So I suggest you try to aim for a direction here, rather than a specific output. This allows for flexibility in your approachβ€”and as time goes by you can adapt the outputs which achieve the outcome if the original ones no longer become outdated.

The list you made in step two will help you here. Your list likely contains actions or tasks, but you can group them if they achieve a common outcome, for example:

  • Increasing our test coverage by 50%
  • Working with multiple teams on a shared vision for DataViz
  • Build awareness to be able to propose a NorthStar direction

Putting it all together

The result will look like this:

Invest more time in topics related to the expertise criteria

  1. Build awareness to be able to propose a North Star direction (outcome-based objective)
  2. Complete a Micro FE course (specific task)
  3. Document modern libraries and how our code can benefit from them (specific task)

If you get stuck in the writing part, just list the open-ended goals and specific tasks, and reach out to your lead or manager to help you put it all together in a coherent way.

If you made it to this point, you might have noticed that you haven’t used the list you made in stage one. Take a look at it again β€” did any long-term themes surface in your goals? Do you need to tweak anything in your development plan based on this list? Probably not, the aim of this list was mostly to help clear your mind of the imminent needs and focus a little bit more on the long term!

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