Talking about career goals right now might seem strange when there is so much uncertainty. But, arguably, this is the perfect opportunity to think ahead and plan for your future. When did you last have the time to take stock and think about the career you really want and how to get there? Tiger Recruitment MD Rebecca Siciliano outlines 5 ways to set meaningful goals that will help advance your career.
Take time to think
For many people, the thought of identifying what they want to achieve in their career is overwhelming – and they give up before they’ve even started.
The key is to block out time – diarise it if necessary – to think about where you want to be in one, three or five years’ time (depending on the scope of your goals). Where do you picture yourself? What will it take to create a more fulfilled version of you? It may take several sessions to clarify what career success means for you, so don’t rush it. Once you visualise where you want to be, you can start to think about the building blocks to get there.
Turn your thoughts into goals
There are some established methods you can use to set your career goals — such as the SMART framework (SMART standing for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound).
However, using tried and tested approaches can also be limiting, especially if your career aspiration is innovative or unique. If you find that your goals simply don’t fit into a pattern, don’t force it. What matters is giving careful consideration to what you want to achieve, and being realistic about how and when you’ll get there. It’s helpful to write your goals down and keep them somewhere visible. That suddenly makes them very real.
Turn your goals into actions
Setting career goals is just the beginning. The bigger challenge is to follow them through.
Breaking down your goals into smaller, manageable steps to action every month or week, or every day can help keep you focused. For example, your goal might be to switch careers in two years’ time, so the steps might include a monthly activity to help you hone the necessary skills – such as attending a (virtual) event or completing an online course.
Achieving smaller goals often is also motivating, helping push you towards your larger goal.
Make and measure progress
Working with a mentor – a partner, a friend, a coach – can help keep you on track. This should be someone you can connect with on a regular basis who can give you honest feedback on your progress and hold you to account.
Research from The University of Sheffield shows that frequently measuring progress against goals increases your chance of success, helping to ensure that goals are translated into action. It also shows that people are more likely to succeed if they publicly share or report on their progress. This is another good reason why having a mentor or buddy with whom you can share your journey makes good career sense.
And don’t be afraid to review your goals from time to time to make sure they’re still relevant. If the pandemic has taught us anything it’s that situations change and new opportunities arise when we least expect them. Making adjustments as you go along is perfectly OK.
Achieving your goals takes time and a willingness to make a change over the long-term. Say your goal is to become a ‘thought leader’ in your sector. That’s going to take many months, perhaps years, of writing expert articles, blogging, speaking at events and sharing your views on social media. Each time you achieve one of the steps you’ve set yourself, it might be writing a weekly blog post or contributing a monthly viewpoint piece to a respected industry publication, then you’re moving closer to your ambition, but it’s not going to happen overnight. Have faith – with the right focus, discipline and commitment you will get there!