Career goals: Separating fact from fiction

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Commonly raised at half-year or annual appraisals, it may come as a surprise to hear that many people don’t actually set achievable career goals (or understand the value in doing so). At Tiger, we’ve found that the process of setting career goals can be clouded by misconceptions and misunderstandings, even among experienced professionals with many years under their belts[1].

To help you set achievable professional goals and establish where you want to be, we’ve decided to bust a few common myths on this subject.

Common questions asked about setting career goals

Not everyone can have career goals, can they?

So, let’s start with the most obvious myth – only people high up the hierarchy should take the time to set career goals. They’re reserved for the top managers, CEOs and anyone else who has a huge title that precedes their name.

Not true! Setting long-term career goals is something everyone should do, regardless of their position, experience, or industry they’re working in. Whether you’re a designer fresh out of college, a pastry shop owner, or a CFO of the biggest bank in the world, you’re entitled to take time to figure out exactly what you want out of your career. So, no matter where you are, grab a pen and start writing!

Professional development goals require a lot of time and energy, don’t they?

While developing your goals is going to require some time and effort, it’s often the very task of creating them in the first place that seems so overwhelming. Many people give up before they even begin, which is a mistake!

To help you get started, it’s important to spend some time simply thinking about where you want to be in one, five, or ten years (depending on the scope of your goals). Having a firm idea in place of where you want to be will make it that much easier to come up with a few achievable goals.

I should follow a certain process, shouldn’t I?

It’s true that there are some established tools, methods and patterns that you can use when you set up your career goals (or any goals for that matter) — one of the most famous being the SMART method[1]. Using a method like this is definitely very useful, especially if you’re a beginner and this is your first time setting goals.

On the other hand, using these well-worn strategies can also be limiting, especially if your goal is innovative or unique. If you find that your goals simply don’t fit into a pattern and you need to draw outside of the lines a little, that is completely fine.

Two business people having a handshake

It’s not enough to simply set them, is it?

The (perceived) mountain of establishing your career aspirations is quite high. Unfortunately, this is only the first step. Following through is much more important since it makes all the difference in the end. So, how can you make sure that your goals don’t just stay written on a piece of paper?

One thing you could do is have a buddy – a partner, a friend, a coach – someone who will follow through with you and who will keep you accountable. Another important thing is to break down your goals into smaller actions to follow through every month, week, or even day. That way you’ll be able to see whether or not you’re making progress and you can easily correct yourself if you’re going down the wrong path.

It’s better to just focus on my current situation, isn’t it?

When setting long-term career goals, most people tend to focus on their present issues. Let’s say you’re looking for a job and your first goal is to get hired at a good company. Logically, you would sharpen up your CV[2]and focus on improving your LinkedIn page. While these are great initial actions, it’s also important to look at a holistic approach to your goals. In this example, a person looking for a job should also think about how industry events, networking, improving their portfolio and learning additional skills will help them in the long term.
Even if you’re not looking to move on from your current role, don’t underestimate the value of looking at all your options. For example, if you want to expand your client base, posting regular articles on LinkedIn will help you become known as a thought leader for your particular niche.

Try to think outside the box when considering your career aspirations, because sometimes the best opportunities come to us unexpectedly. If the COVID-19 pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that, no matter what our original plans were, a positive mindset and adaptable goals can present new opportunities to improve our situation and grow even further – through a new role, a new relationship or simply a new activity.

Author Rebecca Siciliano Tiger Recruitment Team

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