Column: Career Goals
It's a new year - are you going to use it more effectively to meet your career goals?
While I have never been big on New Year's Resolutions, winter's short days often seem a time to clean out one's mental and physical house and get organized before the delights of spring tempt one away…. And so this column will focus on some of the things you should be doing for your career or your job search.
- Where are you going?
Most people change their career goals and interests over time. You can pay attention to your career and define where you are going or you can hope things work out. Which one do you do? Which one do you think provides better results? Far too many of us ignore our desires and needs until we are forced into thinking about career goals by being fired or by others' actions. Sure, planning career steps takes some time - but a little work and time will help you be happier as well as more successful.
You know you should, but have you actually taken the time to plot out some short and medium term career goals? Whether you set aside several hours at a time or do 15 minutes a day for some weeks, this is an invaluable assist in figuring out what you really want to do. And then - how to get there.
If you have a job which you really enjoy, your focus is on how to continue to grow and develop in your current work. If you have a job that is mostly good, your focus is on how to grow the parts you really like and minimize the negatives. In both these cases, you want to develop some goals in the context of the organization that enhance your future. This requires you to learn the strategic direction of the organization, your work unit's role and responsibilities, and to then fit in your work role. Research the basics via public information and employee communications first. Then, if your boss has not discussed all these aspects with you, set up a time to talk about them. Tell her that you are interested in remaining with the organization and you want to contribute as effectively as possible. Once you understand the strategic goals and annual plans, you can prepare your own goals much more effectively. And you may develop some c! areer goals which you can work toward as part of your work goals or ask for your boss's support to help you address them.
If you have a job which you dislike, your focus is on whether you can find another role in the organization which better uses your skills or whether you should look for another job elsewhere. Here, too, you will need to learn the strategic direction of the organization, your work unit's role and responsibilities, and other work units' needs. Research the basic information in public materials and employee communications first. Check out what your organization's website and intranet say versus what you already know. Consider discussing your interests with Human Resources and/or mentors in other parts of the organization. Talk to your boss: see if you can use your strengths more effectively to help meet work unit goals or ask for support for a move within the organization. Then set your goals to help yourself to make the changes you need to become more successful.
If you do not have a job, your focus is on ways to find that new opportunity. Take a look at what you are 'selling' and how you are job-seeking all over again. Think about goals that relate to finding the right position. Be sure you are doing the smartest things to help yourself find the best-for-you options. Without wanting to sound too pushy, one place to start is with these Jobseekers columns. Go back and review them in order. What steps have you missed or skimped on? What might you try that is new or different from what you have been doing? Are there short-term employment options that will help pay the bills while enhancing your marketability? Is there additional education or training that you can fit in now that will help you? You might also find this Fast Company article useful in terms of defining what you want to do: "What should I do with my life?"
As you gather information to develop your goals, you need to assess your interests and commitment. Don't set up a goal to please someone else or because you have a good friend who has the same goal. Think of your goals as your investment in yourself. No sense wasting money on an expensive trail bike if your real idea of a good time involves a cozy jazz spot.
- Defining Your Goals
Once you have gathered information and really thought about what you want to do, it is time to develop some specific goals. A few is plenty - think a max of 4! These short and medium term goals should be set up as concretely and realistically as you can. Write them down. Play with them a bit. Integrate the short and medium term goals so that you are building your roadmap to your destination.
"Learn to write for the web" is not a good goal all by itself. But if you add specific details to it, it can become one. Think of your goals in these terms:
- Understandable: clearly written and simple;
- Challenging: enough to stimulate interest and motivate you to do it;
- Achievable: realistic enough so that it can be completed; and
- Measurable: able to be seen or proven, although not always quantifiable.
One easy formula for outlining goals is:
I will and add
action words then add a
key result and then add a
Example: I will research and prepare a disaster recovery plan for my website by March 1.
Remember that some goals will have a number of sub-actions. For example, in planning to make one sale, the common actions include: finding x number of targets, calling x number per week, pre-qualifying each target, meeting with a certain number each month directly, and so forth. That is one reason that it is best to only have a few goals which you can actually concentrate on and achieve.
Once you have career goals you can commit to, you may want to write a contract with yourself or talk about them with a good friend. These steps help you actually commit to achieving your goals.
- Making your goals
Step 1: Now that you have some specific goals in mind, you need to take action. Start right away once you have developed the goals. Set up a system to help yourself to record your progress toward achieving your goals. Whether you set up an online file or keep a journal or any other type record, it is easiest to achieve your goals if you can look at them easily and record your actions. Do this in whatever style works for you!
Step 2: Take some action each week. You cannot lose 40 lb. overnight for that big reunion. Neither can you expect to complete a good goal in one quick action. So you need to have a series of steps that help you to reach the goal. And you need to keep at it or the goal becomes worth little in terms of helping you achieve what you want.
Example: recently I was asked to give a speech on changing retirement issues and their impact on companies. Now I had a lot of information on retirement issues from some previous research I had done, but not a lot on companies' actions. So some of the steps I took to get to my goal of giving a good speech to the professional group were:
- Researched topic on the web;
- Read several books on the topic;
- Contacted some companies;
- Collected all the materials and information to organize the speech; and
- Created the handouts.
Similarly, you should take your goals and break them down into manageable steps and start taking action. Then, record what you achieve. And, when life intervenes and you miss a week, just go back and check your record and pick up the work again.
When you are planning your actions to meet your goals, remember their purpose is to help you. Don't let yourself get discouraged or make excuses. This means that, if you cannot afford to go to the most expensive seminar on a topic you want to learn, you can choose a lot of other methods to learn about it. I have seen people who blame their inability to achieve their goals on all sorts of external factors - the company wouldn't pay full tuition, their boss wasn't supportive, and so on. What they really meant was that they were not willing to do much for their own goals. Sure, you will face obstacles. But you can get around them. Just think, for example, of all the help DCWWers provide for each other - on the listserv, on the website, at classes and meetings. You can find the help you need to grow, to develop, and to achieve your goals. Help is available at work, in professional groups, on the web, in the library, in volu! nteer work, or in any number of other ways.
Step 3: Celebrate when you achieve a goal! Tell your boss if it is work-related. Tell someone who cares about you. Buy yourself a new lipstick. Whatever works for you! And then go out and put that goal achievement into your next steps.
If you achieved a goal that will help you get a different job, get it into your resume. Start using the new skills at work or elsewhere. Act on it while you enjoy it.
Want more help with career goals?
Richard Bolles's What Color is Your Parachute is one of the classic books on converting your interests and achievements into the right job for you.
Paul and Barbara Tiegar's Do What You Are relates work choices to personal styles.
About.com has a career planning section at http://careerplanning.about.com/mbody.htm.
Career Intelligence for women has a lot of articles and links at http://www.career-intelligence.com/index.asp.
Most online recruitment services and job boards have career planning and goal setting articles as well.
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