Update your career goals for the new year

Do you have goals for your career? Have you developed a plan outlining how you will accomplish them? If you haven't set specific goals, you may feel frustrated with your progress, or lack of it. You may also be moving down the wrong path, or not moving at all.

Highly successful, goal-oriented people are sometimes seen by others as "lucky." Although luck plays a part in some careers, it usually has very little to do with realizing your goals.

Many people confuse activity with accomplishment. They expend time and energy on their tasks and fail to do long-range career planning. It's often been said, "If you don't know where you're going, you'll probably end up someplace else."

Goals often fail because people don't consider the following criteria when developing them:

  • Be Specific.

Visualize the end result and write a detailed description of what you want to accomplish. This is the distinction between a wish and a goal. Stating, "I want to be the manager of the data processing department." is more specific than "I'd like to get a good job."

  • State your goal in measurable terms.

Determine a way to gauge your progress and to tell when you've reached your goal. Ask yourself, "When I achieve my goal, what will be different from what I have now?"

  • Challenge yourself.

Your goal should require you do to something that will allow you to grow and improve yourself. Goals are stimulating when you commit yourself to actions that will stretch you to do your best.

  • Be realistic.

Keep in mind your abilities, interest, economic and corporate environment, family and financial situation -- anything that will play an important part in accomplishing your objectives.

  • Establish a time frame.

This is one of the most important elements. Don't state that your goal will be achieved "sometime in the future." As any dieter knows, "I will lose 10 pounds by October 4th," is a better goal statement than, "I will lose 10 pounds."

  • Use action words.

Paint a clear picture. "I will be appointed to..." or "I will graduate by..." or "I will be hired as a..."

  • Bridge the gap.

This is a crucial test. Will your goal really bridge the gap between where and what you are now and what you want to be?

Once you have a long-range career goal, you're ready to develop a plan. First, list all the barriers to achieving your goal. Ask yourself, "Why aren't I there now? For example, if your goal is, "I will be promoted to supervisor of the accounting unit within five years," and you are presently a clerk in that unit, you may have barriers like these: no college degree (if required), no supervisory experience, lack of understanding of some technical operations, and so on.

Now, turn your barriers into positive action plans. Using the above examples, your action statements could be: enroll in college, seek experiences that will give me supervisory experience, obtain more exposure to the technical operations.

The next step is to turn your positive action plans into medium-range goals. For example, "during the next two years, I will complete four courses toward my degree. I will receive grades of B or better."

Finally, break down your medium-range goals into daily, short-term activities. This is absolutely essential, not only to get you started but to experience progress toward your goals. For example, for your medium-range goal of "learning the technical procedures" in your unit, here's a short-term action: "On Monday, July 9, ask my supervisor if I can cross-train with co-worker so I can gain experience and act as a backup during her vacations." Short-term actions will increase your confidence and enthusiasm as small successes are realized. Step by step, the barriers to your long-range goal will be eliminated.

And if luck is really only "preparation meeting opportunity," your careful planning for a successful career will make you "lucky," too.

Joan Lloyd is a Milwaukee based executive coach and organizational & leadership development strategist. She is known for her ability to help leaders and their teams achieve measurable, lasting improvements. Joan Lloyd & Associates, specializes in leadership development, organizational change and teambuilding, providing: executive coaching, CEO coaching & leader team coaching, 360-degree feedback processes, retreat facilitation and presentation skill coaching and small group labs. Contact Joan Lloyd & Associates at (414) 573-1616, mailto:info@joanlloyd.com, or www.JoanLloyd.com 
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