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How to Achieve Your Career Goals
What are Career Goals?
I'm going to provide the definition of the word "career" and "goals" as it's used in this context.
Career - a profession for which one trains and which is undertaken as a permanent calling.
Goals - the end toward which effort is directed.
Essentially, when defining what career goals are, you are wanting to lay out what steps you have to take to reach the profession desired. However, it's not as simple as that. While you can define what career goals are, you need to lay out what those goals and how to accomplish them so you can finally net the career you have always wanted.
Having a career goal isn't just finding the perfect career. You may want to earn a pay raise or get that promotion in your current job. Setting career goals for those can be just as important. Without setting up goals, you can't expect to make more money or earn a promotion.
This article will cover how to plan your short-term and long-term career goals, as well as covering my own personal experience with setting and meeting career goals.
Before you read on, answer this question - Are you happy in your current career?
Career Goals by Dilbert
Planning Long-Term Career Goals
Before setting up your short-term career goals, you need to figure out what your long-term goals are. The reason for this is that as each short-term career goal is accomplished, it will lead to a larger goal. Some examples of a long-term goal could be:
- Lead supervisor in the office currently employed at.
- $3.00 per hour raise.
- A graphics design job with a video game company.
Once you determine what your long-term career goal is, you can move on to planning what short-term career goals you need to set to make that happen.
Set your goals high, and don't stop till you get there.— Bo Jackson
Planning Short-Term Career Goals
Short-term career goals are accomplishments you want to make to meet your long-term career goals. It's basically a means to an end. This may not involve getting a promotion or a pay raise, but those goals will pave the way to that happening. Here are some tips on setting your short-term career goals:
- Short-term career goals should take no more than 1-2 years. If you find yourself working on a short-term goal for more than a couple years, you need to drop it and move on. There are some exceptions to this, like education. If you feel you can't accomplish a short-term goal you set, then move on to another short-term goal or adjust the goal accordingly.
- Education. Getting a higher-education is probably the first and foremost short-term goal you can have. Getting a degree paves the way in obtaining your long-term career goals. Some people spend a very long time in college, bouncing from one program to another. So setting a very clear college path is key to obtaining your career goals.
- Obtain experience that relates to your long-term career goals. If you know what your long term goal is, then start finding a way to earn experience in that field, even if it's volunteer work or an internship. Not only will it give you a feel for the work you would be doing, it will also look good on your resume.
- Make connections. Talk to others who work in the same field that you want to work in, especially at companies you want to be hired at. It puts your foot in the door. If you go to college or take seminars about the career you want, interact with your classmates so you have a wide-network of people. An old college buddy may help you get into the job of your dreams.
- Watch the job market. In times of a good, strong economy you will find that your job could be in demand. But when you are ready to push for it, the economy could be in a downturn and your profession may not be as needed. You need to plan for such situations and ensure your short-term goals set you apart from those clamoring for the same job.
- Branch out. Even if you are at the organization or path you want to be on, continue to branch out into different areas. Take on new tasks, cross-train in a different area, join committees that shape the future of the organization. This will keep you well known and continue to build upon your experience.
- Engage in office politics. For years I ignored office politics and I still do to some degree. However, engaging in office politics and getting ahead of your foes is one of the best ways to get ahead and accomplish your career goals.
Goal Achieving Cartoon
Executing Long-Term Career Goals
Once you feel you have accomplished enough with your short-term goals, it's time to execute your long-term goals. Depending on the goal, you'll want to act accordingly:
- Obtaining that dream job. Once you have accomplished your short-term career goals, you are ready to land your dream job. Ensure your resume outlines everything you did towards obtaining the job. In the interview, discuss everything you learned and the goals you accomplished that make you right for the job you are interviewing for. Remember to set yourself apart.
- Getting a promotion or pay raise. Your boss should already know what you have accomplished, but during any discussion about a promotion or pay raise it needs to be brought up anyways. Don't talk as if you deserve a promotion or raise, talk as if you have accomplished a lot and have more yet to offer and accomplish.
- Just because you reached your long-term career goal, doesn't mean you are done. So you earned that dream job you have always wanted, or been promoted to a higher position. Great, but now the process starts all over. Maybe there is a better job on the horizon, or another promotion. So lay out new short-term goals and start the process all over again.
When it is obvious that the goals cannot be reached, don't adjust the goals, adjust the action steps.— Confucius
Tips When Planning Out Career Goals
Here are some things to consider when you are planning out your short-term and long-term career goals:
- Be flexible. You may find when implementing some of your short term career goals that you find you don't like the job you are going for. That's fine. Don't feel like you have to stick with it. Re-evaluate your long-term goal and adjust accordingly. If something throws a kink in finishing up a short-term goal, then adjust to that as well.
- Tell others. You want encouragement from your friends and family, not just your colleagues. When you encounter frustrations in obtaining your goal, those people will be there to support you. Just don't share too many details with your competition.
- Have a little fun. Learn to relax a little as well. You can't be all about work and your career. When you complete one of your short-term career goals, reward yourself. It will keep you motivated and push you to your long-term career goal.
Secrets to Set and Achieve your Goals
Have you reached your own career goals?
My Experiences in Planning Career Goals
To be honest I did a very poor job in planning my career goals. I didn't take it seriously when I was young and I didn't end up in the profession I truly wanted. However, I will go over what did happen for me and how I am developing my goals to obtain the job I did want.
- I had to find a job since I failed out of college. My parents were not going to support me since I was no longer going to college, so I needed to find a better job than the one I had then.
- I had a minimum wage job, but set a goal to find a higher paying one since I wasn't going to college. I found one, but was terminated due to poor work performance.
- I found another job, and did just barely good enough to keep it. I had no goals at this time, just work and play. I didn't think about my future.
- After a few years I grew tired of my job and wanted more. I made some new short-term goals. I worked harder, worked more overtime, and took on more responsibility. I was rewarded with a supervisory position.
- After receiving my supervisory position, I set a new long-term goal of getting promoted again. I worked just as hard, went to training classes, and learned from my mistakes. I was rewarded again with another promotion.
- I set a long-term goal of promoting again with a specific position in mind. However, I lost this job to someone else who was more into office politics than I was. While I did a great job, that was only known within my area and not my entire organization.
- I set a new long-term goal of finding a different position to promote to. To do this I joined various committees that didn't directly involved the job. This looked good on my resume. I also transferred to a different department to learn something new and expand my knowledge. This helped me net a promotion almost as good as the one I lost, but could propel me further if I continue to work on my career goals.
What goals have you made for yourself? Share them in the comments below.