With the start of a new year comes an opportunity for reflection and change in your professional life. It’s a time to take stock of all the lessons you’ve learned from your successes and missteps, and determine how you can build on those experiences to advance your career.

Research shows that setting challenging goals leads to higher performance, making it vitally important for you to head into 2019 with a clear list of objectives to keep you motivated and focused.

If you’re in need of inspiration for your New Year’s resolutions, here are five goals you should consider pursuing to elevate your career.


1. Earn a Raise or Promotion

As 2018 comes to a close, take some time to look back on your professional development over the last 12 months and the experience you’ve gained. If the thought of asking for a raise or promotion has been on your mind, use the new year as a catalyst to take your career to the next level.

According to a recent survey by Mercer, 88 percent of companies base their raises on merit, and high performers typically earn a salary increase more than 1.5 times that of their colleagues.

Before discussing your ambitions with your manager, outline the key contributions you’ve made at your organization and note how each one has led to a tangible return on investment. By preparing a list of concrete examples that demonstrate your value, you’ll be in a better position to advocate for why you deserve a raise.

2. Learn to Make Smarter Financial Decisions

The ability to make sound financial decisions is an asset, no matter what industry you work in. A firm grasp of basic financial concepts and terminology can not only give you greater insight into how the business world works, but make you a more effective leader.

If you need a baseline knowledge of topics like valuation or capital markets, consider borrowing a page from Eric Black, director of production and technical operations at Scholastic Entertainment, who took the online course Leading with Finance to better understand the implications of how his company allocates funds.

“In my job at a publicly traded corporation, I have been able to change my viewpoint of daily goals and accomplishments,” Black says. “Instead of just completing tasks to achieve an end goal, I now look at that end goal and consider how it affects the company as a whole, and if there are financial goals and benefits that will increase the value of the company.”

As in the case of Black, boosting your financial fluency through continuing education can bring substantial professional payoff, enabling you to find ways to both create and measure value at your organization.

    Related: Finance for Non-Finance Professionals: 14 Terms You Need to Know

3. Improve Your Managerial Skills

Whether you’re just starting out in your career or are a seasoned professional, the value of effective management skills can’t be overstated. A recent report by Gallup found that when companies systematically recruit employees with strong management talent, they can achieve 27 percent higher revenue per employee—underscoring the need for you to improve how you lead teams and initiatives.

Pledge to reach your managerial potential in 2019 by directing your team to make a critical decision or by communicating a major organizational change, and use those opportunities to identify your strengths and weaknesses as a leader.

Over the course of the year, lean on trusted mentors who can help you learn from their mistakes and offer advice to guide you through your development.

Improving your managerial skills takes time, but it’s a process that can pay long-term dividends for both your career and your organization’s success.

    Related: Experts Share 5 Tips to Become a Better Manager

4. Understand the Disruptive Trends Affecting Your Industry

Disruption is a reality facing businesses across industries. According to Accenture’s Disruptability Index, 63 percent of companies are experiencing disruption, and 44 percent are highly susceptible to it in the future.

As emerging technologies and business models move to upend the status quo set by well-established companies, it’s important for you to recognize how disruption can affect your organization.

Make a habit of reading trade journals and publications to stay up-to-date on the latest disruptive trends taking hold in mainstream markets. In addition, consider joining a professional group so you can network with like-minded peers and grapple with how disruption is driving innovation in your industry.

Staying ahead of the disruption curve will enable you to not only anticipate massive change, but put you in a position to help your organization craft a winning strategy for dealing with it.

    Related: 4 Keys to Understanding Clayton Christensen's Theory of Disruptive Innovation

5. Align Your Values with Your Work

Monumental problems including climate change, income inequality, and social injustice are spurring sustainability initiatives all over the world, and the role that companies play in those efforts is expanding. In a 2017 survey by McKinsey, nearly six out of 10 respondents reported that their organizations were more engaged with sustainability than they were two years prior.

In the coming year, commit to influencing your organization to be more purpose-driven. Reflect on the issues that matter most to you, and propose socially responsible actions that your company can implement as part of a wider sustainable business strategy to enact large-scale change.

Putting your values into practice can give you a deeper sense of meaning in your work, while at the same time helping your organization grow as it confronts the major issues impacting society.


Setting your resolutions is just the first step to achieving success in 2019. To accomplish each objective, you’ll need to devise a detailed action plan comprised of specific tasks that you can use to track and measure your progress over the coming months.

Don’t forget to reflect on and appreciate the immediate benefits you experience while working toward your goals. Doing so will help you find greater enjoyment in the process and reinforce your desire to propel your career forward in the new year.

Are you interested in broadening your business knowledge in 2019? Explore our online course catalog and learn about how furthering your education can accelerate your career.

Matt Gavin

About the Author

Matt Gavin is a member of the marketing team at Harvard Business School Online. Prior to returning to his home state of Massachusetts and joining HBS Online, he lived in Charlotte, North Carolina, where he held roles in content writing and social media. He has a background in video production, and previously worked on several documentary films for Boston’s PBS station, WGBH. In his spare time, he enjoys running, cycling, exploring New England, and spending time with his family.