Focusing on your job simply in terms of its ability to help you pay your bills is completely normal. However, such a mindset can also be very limiting. Your job is not only what you do every day, but is also where you put your time, effort and creativity.
Setting career goals for yourself can help improve your job satisfaction, as well as place you on a path for professional advancement.
In order to formulate your career goals, you will need to have a clear idea of what you are ultimately aiming for, or your career “vision.” You probably have one already, but perhaps you do not yet think of it as actually achievable. Using smaller, realistic objectives as stepping stones can help you make your way to your end goal in a practical manner. There are a couple of basic steps you can follow to create a clear plan to reach your career goals.
Establish Your End Goal
In order to begin setting your career goals, you must first determine the career vision you have for yourself. You should also ask yourself how you see success. Does it involve creative fulfillment, a position of leadership or something else? The answers to these questions can lead you to your ultimate career vision. You may consider a career in design and technology if you enjoy art and computers. Conversely, how you perform a job may be more important when it comes to career goals and you may be better suited for a position working from home. At this point, you do not need to know how you will achieve your goal. You only need to know what your goal is.
Setting your end goal will take time, as you will need to carefully consider where you would like to see yourself in the future. In this regard, it is important not to let negative or even logical thinking hold you back from setting a lofty goal. Perhaps imagine what career you would choose for yourself if you were given any option or what you would do with your life if you never had to worry about money.
Once you have your end goal, you can use it to plan backward to your current position. This is the point at which you will need to consider logistics and realistic thinking. However, you also have the freedom to determine how long you have to achieve your goals. Every step should be fairly small and as specific as possible, as well as having a well-defined deadline. This will enable you to achieve each goal more easily, which should, in turn, motivate you to continue with your plan.
Large, ill-defined goals are difficult to achieve, because you may not even be able to tell when or if you have achieved them. A small, solid plan, such as “raise salary by a certain amount within the next year” is much better. In addition to this, you can use certain smaller goals as a direct step toward a much larger and more difficult one. For example, taking an extra training course may be a relatively easy way to raise your chances of a promotion.
Keep Records of Your Plan
Writing down your plans may seem nothing more than an administrative task. However, it is vital to your goal-setting and achievements. There are two parts to this record keeping, the first being the career vision itself. However, high-up or even unrealistic your end goal may seem when you envision it, you need to write it down in a short, concise sentence or paragraph. This will solidify the vision, enabling you to better picture it as a real future for yourself. Keep it in a place you will be able to read it whenever you need to, reminding yourself of what you are trying to achieve.
The second part of your planning will be to record the individual steps of your plan. If you are planning correctly, then there should be many steps toward your end goal and writing them down will help you to remember them. You will also be able to read through the plan in order and ensure the steps make logical sense. You will be able to check each one off the list as you accomplish it, looking back on what you have already finished as a way to remind yourself that the upcoming steps are just as achievable.
A written plan will also enable you to review your goals after a set period of time, altering them as needed. Do not alter them too often, but an occasional review is important to ensure you are maintaining a realistic plan.
Match Goals with Opportunities
It is important to get started in achieving your goals from your current position, whatever it may be. If you are already in a job that could help you toward your career vision, then you will need to see which of your short-term steps can be achieved through your current job. Matching your personal ambitions with your company’s objectives can be one of the most effective ways of advancing your career. This way, the company itself will be supporting you as you achieve your goals. You may find the next steps in your plan will open up all the more easily as a result. Finding ways to achieve your personal goals through your workplace is also an excellent way of increasing your current job satisfaction.
As you set your goals you may determine you will need to change careers at some point. Alternatively, you may be about to enter the workforce for the first time. In these cases, use your short-term goals to search for jobs that may offer you the necessary opportunities. Remember there may be multiple entry points toward the career you have envisioned for yourself. Advancing from an entry-level job may be a good way to break into a new industry. Consider each job available you in terms of how it could help you achieve your goals.
Find a Support Structure
Trying to meet your goals without any help will be difficult. Simply telling those around you about your plan can act as motivation to act on it. Ideally, your chosen friends, family members or co-workers may be able to keep you accountable as you work on each step, perhaps offering you feedback on your progress.
If possible, then getting the feedback and support of someone who has already achieved some of your goals may help with your planning. You may find that some of your work skills are transferrable to your desired position. Meeting with a supervisor, manager or mentor on a regular basis to receive advice and constructive criticism is one of the most effective ways of staying on track.