Create a future that works for you, because it was designed by you and take your career goals from ideas to action.
In the whirlwind of professional life, setting career goals often takes a backseat, especially when you are a results-oriented person. It can be easy to think that your career will advance just because you do great work, while in reality, this is rarely the case. But, the good news is that carving out dedicated time for self-reflection and strategic planning can significantly impact your journey toward success. And I have learned this the hard way. Some of my biggest career goals have been put in my head from my manager or another leader because I have been hyper focused on delivering results in my role. So, today, I am sharing the six actionable tips that I have found have really helped me to set and achieve career goals effectively.
6 tips to setting your career goals
Reflect on Your Journey
Take a moment to pause and reflect on your career and consider the areas where you've grown, stumbled, or felt stuck. Understanding your experiences and lessons learned can provide valuable insights for future goals. Ask yourself:
What 'fork in the roads' have I faced over my career and in hindsight, would I make the same decision again?
What do I love/like most about my job? Does it lean more towards the work I do, or the people I work with?
Who has been most influential in determining my career path?
I am not a naturally reflective person so I need to carve out this time to sit with my own thoughts and consider the wins and struggles of the year. Through this practice I have learned to better recognize my wins and consider the misses that I have tended to repeat. I have always preferred to just do the hard work and let my career flow, but that strategy means that other people are in control of your next destination and their vision may not align with your own goals.
Often, we end in in our job because of a long series of opportunities. We are good at what we do and have followed a path that was decided long ago. But when was the last time you thought about a dream career? Start by seeking out a job posting for your dream role. Analyze the required skills and qualifications and the assess which skills you currently possess and pinpoint the ones you need to acquire or improve upon. Try printing this off and putting it in your desk because you never know when you will come across it in the future and it will bring a spark to your day.
Whether it is a vision board, a mantra, a mental image, big hairy audacious goal or that annual dollar figure that drives you, giving yourself the space to dream in an unrestricted way is super important. If carving out the dreams for your life feels too overwhelming, start with the dreams you have for yourself for the next season and grow from there.
Keep it short!
Choose a feasible goal for the next six months that aligns with your aspirations. Whether it's transitioning to a different team, mastering a new software, or forging a partnership, focus on a goal that feels attainable within this timeframe. I love this timeframe because it is SHORT! It allows a hyper-level of focus on one area and gives you a window to assess incremental progress.
But don't Forget about the Long Road
Referencing the skills needed for your dream job, select one to develop over the next 12 to 18 months. This deliberate skill-building will not only enhance your market relevance but also pave the way toward your career aspirations. If you are early in your career, I recommend focusing on building technical skills or new domain knowledge (E.g. an expert topic you can deep dive into!). Keep in mind that as you grow in your career, less of your time will be spent learning these areas because you have built a strong foundation. For example, you might want to "become the leading AI expert on my team" or "build a client-base of 500 primary leads". Make it something that would make you say "wow!" if you saw this on someone else's resume.
Engage with Your Manager
Schedule dedicated time with your manager specifically to discuss your career goals. And be sure to avoid delving into current work matters and instead focus solely on outlining and aligning your professional ambitions. Twice a year seems to work well for most people, but time this based on how quickly your business moves. Here is a simple agenda to follow for the conversation:
Discuss your career achievement (lead a big cross-functional project in a new area, move to a new job family, build a new skillset)
Share 1-3 specific actions you will focus on (E.g. Complete the Intro to AI-course from Google by March 2024)
Ask for specific support with an action item (E.g. I would like support finding a mentor with AI-expertise)
Document and Set Reminders
Writing down your career goals and making them visible is a good start, but I also recommend creating calendar reminders periodically throughout the year to review. These are mechanisms that help hold yourself accountable by reviewing and assessing your progress periodically. For me, pre-booking a quarterly conversation with my boss is a great way to keep myself on track and hold myself accountable.
Remember, setting career goals isn't just about reaching a destination; it's about the journey of growth and self-improvement. By dedicating time to introspection, skill development, and aligning your aspirations with strategic planning, you pave the way for a more fulfilling and successful career trajectory. In the pursuit of your career goals, consistency and commitment are key. Keep your eyes on the prize, stay adaptable, and embrace the learning curve. Your dedication to personal and professional growth will undoubtedly steer you toward a brighter and more rewarding future - a future that works for you because it is designed for you.
Take charge of your career journey, one goal at a time!
As always, if you are looking for support through a challenging talent situation at work and want a fresh perspective or someone to talk to, reach out! I would LOVE to chat! Connect with me here, shoot me a DM on Instagram or check me out on LinkedIn!
Ps. Did you know ChaptGPT3 helped me write this post? AI gave me an outline and I incorporated with my own experiences to bring a unique and valuable perspective to the topic.