As John Lennon once said, “Life is what happens when you’re making other plans” indeed, you can’t manage every aspect of your life, but setting out career goals can sometimes be the difference between great job satisfaction, and less than. Many can fall into their position or role at work, but those who dream it often do it.
Career goals will look different for each person, it depends on your industry, how many rungs there are on the ladder and what matters most to you. Each person’s idea of success and source of satisfaction will be different, but there is a universal structure that you can use when it comes to nailing down exactly what you want.
How do you set career goals?
Identify where you want to be, but be realistic
We might have ideas of what we want to be “when we grow up” as youngsters, it could be a singer, dancer, astronaut, vet, or another variety of infinite possibilities!
A lot of the time, our childhood dreams are influenced by what looks cool or interesting. Indeed in a Haris Poll/Lego survey, it was found that 29% of 8-12-year-olds want to be a YouTube star, which is three times as many as those who would like to be an astronaut. Trends change, and so will your aspirations throughout your life, but when it comes to setting career goals, you should focus on what will make you happy, your natural talents, values and where you see your interests and passion lying into the future.
So, how do you put pen to paper?
You could be setting your goals before your formal education, after, or even long into your career. The best thing you can do to equip yourself before starting to put the groundwork in is to ask others how they did it.
Seek out people who are successful in their field and ask them what it took, outside of their education to get to where they are. A little research with a dash of flattery can go a long way, don’t cold call people during this process.
Alongside asking the experts, you should do some research into your industry, do some digging on the LinkedIn profiles of people you admire, and even consider engaging a career guidance consultant. The first stage of the process calls for equipping yourself with as much knowledge as you can about where you want to go and what it’s going to take to get there.
Once you have identified what you want, it’s time to make some lists. As the old adage goes, Rome was not built in a day, and you are not going to be at the top of your ladder in a matter of months and even years, it’s going to take perseverance. You can’t strive for one large goal, they need to be granular, measurable, objective and realistic.
1.Whittle it down and be specific
You could have one big goal or five big goals that will take you to your ultimate goal. It’s useful to put a realistic time limit on each of these goals, so start with the big picture and then whittle it down to the present day. Maybe one day want to be a CEO, but to get there, it could mean managing a department, being a Director or acting CEO, so start with those steps and then note down everything you will need to do within each position and milestone that will help you to progress.
2. Set goals that are measurable
You can’t track every aspect of your progression but it helps to set time limits or create your own personal key growth points. Your goals will depend on the bigger picture, try to identify what can be measured and then note down how and when you will check in on these measurements. Ensuring that your goals are measurable will help you to implement self-discipline along the way.
3. Ensure that your goals are realistic
If you were running a race, would you keep looking at the runner beside you? Probably not, because if you did, you would fall behind. Don’t mind other people’s business, mind your business, because your version of your success is your business. Do not set unrealistic goals or focus on what others are doing because it will only hold you back. Set goals that are achievable and that will give you the confidence to keep moving forward.
Quickfire tips for smashing your career goals
- Tell people you trust what your goals are, this acts as a social contract and will motivate you to keep going.
- Surround yourself with motivated and competitive people in your industry, there is nothing wrong with some friendly competition.
- Use an easy to access tool for keeping track of your goals, for example, Trello.
- Tick as you go, everyone likes crossing off a to-do list.
- Manifest! It might feel a little holistic for your liking, but visualising success could make it a reality.
- Don’t be too hard on yourself if you don’t hit every target, you’re still swimming and that’s what matters!
Keep reading: How do you know if you are in the right career?
Keep reading: 10 signs it’s time for a career change