Goal setting should be met with careful attention to the guidelines above. Making a defined decision on your goals will help ensure a commitment to achieving them.
Most career goals will include both shorter- and longer- term activities. Also, in creating your goals, allow for the fact that circumstances will often change over a period of a year. Goals must, therefore, be kept under review during the career transition process, and revised accordingly.
We will begin with your top career goals and then work through a series of lower level plans, culminating in a daily to-do list. By setting up this structure of plans, you will break even the biggest career goal down into many small tasks that you need to do each day to achieve a positive outcome.
The process of goal setting applies to anyone, whether a chief executive officer, nurse or secretary. Setting career goals is not an exact science, and it depends on using a common sense approach in line with the guidance provided here.
Career goals should reflect the range and level of responsibilities undertaken by you. For example, goals for educators might include at least one in each of the key areas: research, teaching, and administration/management. Customer service representatives might have goals relating to service provision. Librarians might have goals relating to the provision of management information; or to the accuracy, timeliness, and quality of their work. Engineers might have goals relating to safety or legal requirements or the use of specialized equipment. Anyone with staff management responsibilities should have at least one goal relating to that aspect of their job.
The following broad guidelines will help you set achievable career goals:
- State each goal as a positive statement: Express your career goals positively, and use dates and times, so that you can measure achievement. If you do this, you will know exactly when you have achieved the goal and can take complete satisfaction from having achieved it.
Example: “Achieve a new marketing job by August 15” is a much better goal than “Do not be unemployed for another month”.
- Set priorities: When you have several goals, give each one a priority. This helps you avoid feeling overwhelmed by too many goals, and directs your attention to the most important ones.
- Set realistic targets: It is important to set goals that you can achieve. Keep goals small and achievable. If a goal is too large, then it can seem that you are not making progress towards it.
Example: “Within six months, obtain a position as a sales person selling enterprise software in the supply-chain space for a start-up high-technology company that has a collaborative, upbeat culture. Within five years, work my way up to top-producing salesperson earning a minimum of $1 million annually.”
- Use To-Do Lists: Use a to-do list, and include all of the tasks needed to achieve your goals. At an early stage, these goals may include reading books. In the longer term, it may involve enrolling in a course to earn a credential. This will help you to improve the quality and realism of your goal setting.
You will most likely have a long list of goals. Refine this list to focus on only the most important.
- What goals can I realistically achieve over the next week, month, and year?
- Can I describe these goals to people in short terms?
- Can I speak about my goals to others quickly?
- Am I doing everything that I signed up to do to achieve my goals?
Honestly recognizing what skills or attributes you may be lacking will help you focus on which goals you will be able to deliver quickly. Armed with this knowledge, you can take the time to work on tasks that will help you achieve a positive outcome. This will also save you from repeatedly trying to achieve a goal that seems impossible. You may be inclined to create your own limitations, or someone else may put roadblocks in front of you. As you go through the planning process, it will be helpful to ask yourself these four important questions consistently:
- What career or personal limitations could sabotage my ability to achieve my goals?
- What can I do to prevent this?
- What specific competencies will I need to gain to fill any skill or knowledge gaps?
- What are my true fears regarding career transition?
In setting goals, make sure that you apply the SMART strategy to test whether or not your goals are practical. We provide information on the plan below and provide a few goal statements to demonstrate how the approach is used.
Career goals must be SMART:
- focused on a Result, not an activity, and
Sample Goal Statement #1:
“To make incremental investments in my future to become an entry-level forensic investigator within two years.”
Sample Strategies to Support Goal:
- Sign-up for a 2-year certification/degree program by March.
- Invest $500 per year, or 15 hours per year, in my future to increase my marketing and research skills.
- Develop a study schedule that does not interfere with work and family.
- Find volunteer work within forensic department and contribute three hours a week of my time.
- Register for two seminars per year to gain new skills, abilities, or knowledge in the major areas related to forensics.
Sample Goal Statement #2:
“To become a marketing manager within two years and start a marketing consulting company in five years.”
Sample Strategies to Support Goal #2:
- Year One: Complete my bachelor’s degree (12 credits left to go), apply to MBA school, get accepted to MBA school.
- Year Two through Year Three: Enter MBA school, earn excellent grades, and graduate with five job offers.
- Obtain a part-time entry-level marketing job and get promoted to manager.
- Year Five: Start my own marketing consulting company.
This guide includes a “Goal Brainstorming Worksheet” to help you think through some of your goals. Once you have completed the exercise of writing down time-bound, measurable goals, and have spent some time thinking about what limitations and obstacles may stand in your way, you should have a clearer sense of purpose. Utilize this new information to map out where you will focus your efforts.
After you complete the worksheet, the next step involves moving your primary goals into the “Goal Contract” located on page14. This contract outlines the specific actions that you will engage in, to achieve a successful career transition. This document should often be referenced throughout the rest of the development process.