Defining Career Goals: The Recipe for Success
As we start creating our new year’s resolutions, we reflect back and try to set our brand-new career goals for the coming year. However, how do we define career goals, and why might setting goals early grant us a lucrative promotion and help us professionally succeed? As Lawrence J. Peter said: “If you don’t know where you are going, you will probably end up somewhere else.” Hence, by identifying achievable career goals early in our lives, we set the foundations for future success. We shape “tomorrow’s wishes” based on a series of goals, principles and standards set today because “a goal without a plan is just a wish” – Antoine de Saint-Exupery. Therefore, defining our goals helps us develop a well-structured plan with key steps to follow to achieve our desired outcome.
Career goals are clearly defined personal objectives, statements or targets that specify one’s professional aspirations. Some career goals can be short-term, like an upcoming promotion, a professional certificate or a practising license. Other career goals can be long-term like starting a business or competing for a C-level position at an international corporation. Timeframe aside, career goals should be both realistic and distinct to be achievable too. However, as stated, well-defined goals cannot stand alone. They need a plan. So, ask yourself first: Why do I want this goal? What do I expect to achieve and when do I want to reach it?
Why is Setting Goals Beneficial?
Dr Edwin A. Locke, in his 1968 article “Toward a Theory of Task Motivation and Incentives,” supported that clear goals and appropriate feedback motivate employees. Working towards a goal, especially a hard one, is a major source of motivation that produces a higher level of performance. Furthermore, as it has been stated in a relevant study, “being specific about your goals significantly increases the motivation of people within an organisation”. Thus, achievable career goals give us a sense of responsibility, commitment and discipline. Keep reading below and find out why setting career goals is beneficial for reaching professional milestones and improving ourselves.
- Motivation: Having a goal to reach automatically activates your underlying motivation mechanism and encourages a behaviour towards intense action.
- Commitment: Career goals keep you concentrated and tied to specific tasks that will help you advance and positively influence your career paths. In this way, you carry a duty to reach your goals within a specific timeframe.
- Developing a broad skill set: In order to prepare yourself for the future career opportunities you aspire to take, you have to expand your skill set. This is a great chance to research and see what it takes to become eligible for that desired position or promotion.
- Sense of direction: Achievable career goals give you focus and direction. Having decided on the goals that are important to you, you learn how to prioritise, stay focused and produce more.
Mapping-Out your Career Goals
What if I told you to dedicate some time to visualize your future success, promotion or dream job, and then make it happen. Once you have clearly defined your professional goals and envisioned yourself in that position, follow the goal-setting tips below to get started!
- Write down your goals:
Organising your thoughts in written form has proved very effective. In fact, a study conducted by Prof. Gail Matthews, a psychologist from the Dominican University of California, revealed that people who write down their goals are 20% more successful in accomplishing them compared who those who do not. So, grab your pen and a piece of paper and start translating your goals into words.
- Set SMART goals:
Achievable career goals are SMART goals. They are Specific, Measurable, Action-oriented and Realistic with Timelines. Choose your goals based on your strengths and capabilities. Do a self-evaluation of what you can achieve right now and what you can achieve in the future. Decide on the actions you need to take and set deadlines for each one of the steps.
- Manage your time effectively:
Effective time management is the secret ingredient for the execution of every task. Following a timeframe to achieve career advancement will make you more disciplined and committed to your goals. By working to achieve your goals, you learn how to manage your time and avoid procrastination. Break them down based on the time you think each one will take. Separate the smaller daily targets from the longer and more time-consuming ones.
- Be patient:
Rome was not built in a day. With patience and determination, one step at a time, your dreams and goals come to fruition. Be patient, have your eyes wide open and remember that obstacles are challenges that will make you a more resilient professional.
- Ask for feedback:
Apart from specific and achievable career goals, feedback also motivates people to work harder and achieve more. Hence, in whatever position you are in, ask for feedback from colleagues and senior-level employees. Exchange ideas with like-minded people and choose a mentor you can work with. Additionally, treat both negative and positive feedback as constructive. It is another tool that can strengthen and equip you for your future role. At the same time, appreciate your progress and reward yourself for every victory you have, big or small.
- Learn and connect:
The bigger your professional network, the more opportunities you will have to receive industry insights and job opportunities. A great way to start is by connecting through LinkedIn and building a network of industry contacts. In the meantime, you can also enrich your knowledge, earn certificates, attend seminars and generally get involved. Do not miss any chance to educate yourself further and polish your knowledge and skills as the industry keeps changing. This is part of the goal-setting journey you are on.
Set your Career Goals with Unicaf
Achieving your career goals is not only about the skills you already have but is all about the skills you are willing to acquire for your future role. As said, goal-setting helps you clarify what you really want to accomplish and ongoing learning facilitates this process. As you learn, you dive deeper into the field and better understand your place within it.
Whether you aspire to earn a Master’s degree with a specialisation that will improve your career prospects or a PhD that will make you stand out from the competition, Unicaf brings you a step closer to your career goals by offering you a range of postgraduate, doctoral degree programmes and more than 300 professional development courses. Gaining academic and professional expertise will put you on a fast track to that promotion.