How to achieve your career goals

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A woman’s legs as she’s running up stairs on her morning jog.

What are career goals, and why do you need them?

It’s a valid question. After all, we all know at least one person who has wound up being incredibly successful in their careers just by chance. But whether your ambitions are certain or uncertain, conceptual or specific, identifying them in the first instance plays a very important role in career planning.

Goal setting is the process of taking active steps to achieve your desired career outcomes. It’s important to set short term, medium term and long term goals. To help you achieve your desired outcomes successfully, be sure to create SMART GOALS.

SMART is the acronym to help you establish solid goals. It stands for:

Specific: The goals you set must be clear and well defined, the more specific you are about what you are trying to achieve, the easier it will be to achieve your goal.

Measurable: It’s important to include a quantifiable way of tracking your progress so you are aware when you have hit each milestone, and can celebrate.

Achievable: The success of your goal needs to be within your control, you need to set goals that challenge and stretch you but that are also achievable.

Realistic: Be sure to set goals that are within your reach this year, for example, is it realistic to expect to have achieved a salary bump of 20k in one year?

Time-bound: You need to set a time frame for each of your goals, with deadlines attached to each one.

Let’s look a little deeper into the reality of setting and achieving career goals.

Have clarity

Incredibly, for most people, identifying their goals in the first instance presents one of the bigger challenges. We meet so many people who are disorientated and unhappy in their careers, but are unsure as to why and don’t know how to get out of a rut. Similarly, many candidates want to leave their roles believing that the issue is their boss, or team, or company – only to accept the same job somewhere else and realise the problem is the job itself.

To gain clarity in your career ambitions, start by really thinking about the next two, three and five years and where you’d like to be then. Where do you picture yourself? What will it take to create a happier version of you? Once you visualise where you want to be, you can start to think about the building blocks to get there.

We recently met a candidate called Stephanie*. She was fairly early in her career and had worked for the same business since university. She had started in a receptionist job for this highly esteemed professional services firm, and worked her way up to a team assistant and then into a PA job. When we met her she was personal assistant to two senior executives. She’d spent five years in the same firm and felt it was time to make the next step. Stephanie knew exactly what she wanted from her career.

Even before she’d graduated, she identified her career goal to be promoted into an EA job to a CEO before she turned 30. She visualised exactly what the team would be like, the travel possibilities in that role, the money she’d earn, and the kinds of projects she’d work on. Her decision to go into the professional services firm had been a deliberate one on her part and was her first step to securing her ultimate goal.

Be realistic

Your career goals should certainly present challenges but, equally, make sure they’re realistic. For example, it’s highly unlikely you’ll be leading and managing a team within the first few years of your career.

Stephanie knew that to reach her career goal, she would need to work for an esteemed firm and progress up the ladder there. She did her research by speaking to people about her ambitions, surrounded herself by those she could learn from and took additional courses within the business to improve her skillset and acquire the right knowledge she’d need to progress.

Don’t lose patience

Achieving your goals takes patience and a willingness to make a change over the long-term. You’ve probably heard Einstein’s saying, ‘the definition of insanity is doing something over and over again and expecting the same result’. Don’t complain about your state of affairs without taking action. Similarly, don’t expect things to change overnight. It will take time, probably a considerable amount of time.

Get feedback

Stephanie identified a few mentors along the way that she knew would be able to give her honest and valuable feedback. By committing to meeting them on a regular basis, she became accountable for her own progress. She also broke down her ambitions into bite size portions, for example taking extra training, networking, or achieving good feedback in her appraisals.

By sharing her progress with her mentors, they could then suggest tweaks to her action points which enabled her to stay on track. Subsequently, she stayed motivated and gained a valuable sense of accomplishment along the way too.

We successfully placed Stephanie in a role that – we believe – is one step away from her ultimate career goal. She should get there before her 30th birthday and we can’t wait to see where it takes her!

*not real name

Author Rebecca Siciliano Tiger Recruitment Team

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