How to set a career goal… and stick to it!

Posted in Personal development.

Goals change. It’s a natural part of life. After all, as we grow, as we develop, as we understand more about ourselves, and as we learn new skills, it’s normal for us to change what it is we want to achieve.

Despite this, setting a career goal can have its benefits. Even in a non-linear career — one that’s chock-full of twists, turns, and unexpected avenues — having a long term goal not only helps to keep you moving forwards, but also works to motivate you to succeed, regardless of what it is you’re ultimately aiming for.

However, it’s easy for problems to pop up. Your career goals as a 20 year old may be very different from your career goals as a 40 year old, and this can result in a breaking of the chain; a break in motivation.

So just how can we set useful career goals – and stick to them? Here are some great tips:

Think About the Destination, Not the Journey

While some people would say that it’s important to set short, medium, and long term goals, this can be detrimental in terms of careers. That’s because the economy — and the workforce — is constantly changing. This can sometimes mean that you need to go off track a little bit to stay on your journey. It’s a bit like climbing a mountain — if you’re part of the way up and find your trail is closed off, do you head back down or do you choose another path? Another route will get you to the summit, but there just might be some different scenery!

Be Flexible

When setting a career goal, try not to be too specific about what it is you want to achieve. That’s because precision can limit your ability to be flexible and ‘roll with the punches’. For example, rather than setting a goal to be a sales manager by age 30, and earning a six figure salary, consider the bigger picture. Perhaps set a goal to be working within a sales role in a specific industry, and working in a company you love. As we all know, not everything in life always goes exactly to plan!

Be Honest

Perhaps the most important factor when setting an achievable career goal is simply to be honest with yourself and acknowledge your limitations. While our parents and mentors have always told us we can be anything we want to be, in reality that’s not always the case. Don’t set a goal that’s mission impossible. For example, if numbers aren’t really your strong point, don’t pressure yourself to become accountant. If you’re not entirely comfortable around cats, lion-taming is probably out. Instead, consider related professions where you would still find enjoyment and challenges.

Perhaps the biggest trick to sticking to your overall aim is to find the right balance when setting your career goal. Ideally, your goal should not be easy to achieve; it should require hard work, determination, and passion. However, your goal should also be achievable. There’s no enjoyment in promise unfulfilled!