The New Year is a great time to take stock. It calls us to reflect on aspects of our lives we’d like to change. Many of us will make resolutions as a result. However, usually a few months down the line our good intentions have been forgotten.
These resolutions are often about things we’d like to change or achieve in our working lives. However, like all our resolutions, attaining our career aspirations takes more than daydreams or even determination. Setting career goals and defining the necessary actions keeps us motivated and ensures we are headed in the right direction.
Planning helps make our career dreams a reality
A recent article by Harvard Business Review explains that, psychologically, a clearly defined plan is what it takes to realise our good intentions.
‘Research shows that to engage our motivational systems…we need to have a clear sense of where we are, where we’re going, and whether we’re closing the gap between the two at the right rate.’
Psychologists say challenge is good for us and having a sufficient challenge keeps us motivated and builds our self-esteem by letting us see what we are truly capable of.
When we view the effort required to make progress with a growth mindset, it’s clear that improving our skills is a win-win situation. Developing our skills and experience will always be beneficial, helping to future-proof your career, make yourself more valuable to employers and open up new opportunities.
Yes, working towards your goals requires effort, but you really have nothing to lose.
Determining what kind of change you want to make
Joyce Maroney, former director of the Workforce Institute recently gave some good advice on defining your professional goals in Business News Daily:
“When considering a professional change, the best first question to ask is, ‘Am I running toward something or away from something? If it’s the former, go for it. If it’s the latter, the change you need to make may just be a change in manager or company, not your current career track.”
This helps us evaluate how big a change we want to make in our careers. Do you still enjoy many aspects of your profession? Then researching a new role or employer might be a sufficient target for what we’d like to achieve.
If you have been in your current role for a while, research which roles you could advance to. Look at recruitment sites for average salaries. Consider also reaching out to professionals on LinkedIn to ask what day-to-day life in this role is really like. It’s better to find out first what you could expect and have an idea of whether a role would suit you before focusing your energy on working towards it.
If you feel uninspired with your current profession and want to identify a career you will love, ask yourself a few questions about your dreams, goals, and strengths. There are hundreds of great career aptitude tests around to help you do this, such as What Career is Right for Me? from 365 tests.
Once you have a few ideas, narrow them down by researching these roles on career sites. The gap between the skills and qualifications you need and your current skills may have an impact on your decision. A complete change may require a significant investment in time and money if it requires a high-level qualification. Lifestyle factors like where you can work from, average salaries and work/life balance should also factor in your decision making.
Determine and define your ultimate goal
Having explored the possibilities now make an informed choice where you want to go. Your ultimate career goal should be just that – the pinnacle you are aiming for.
When setting this goal, be ambitious and make the goal challenging. Something that, through taking regular steps to achieve, you could attain in about two to five years.
Use the ‘SMART’ formula when creating your career goal. This means being specific about the role and your earnings bracket if this matters to you. This will help you measure your progress in relation to achieving your goal. Your goal should also be achievable within the time scale you’ve set. Make a list of the experience and skills you would need to be considered for your ideal role and set a realistic period of time in which you could achieve this.
Here is an example of a SMART career goal:
‘In five years, I want to be working as the Senior Account Manager for a Telecommunications company, earning between £150-£200k.’
Establish the steps to your goal
There are various sources of information which can help you identify the steps you need to take to reach your goal. Job sites like Indeed have advice on paths for hundreds of different careers. This can help you establish which roles you may need to gain experience in to be considered for leadership. They also cover what qualifications and skills you will need to pick up along the way.
LinkedIn can also provide real-life examples of paths to your dream career. Simply type the role you have set for your career goal into search. This will suggest the profiles of many people who have attained your goal, the work experience and training they undertook and how long it took them to climb the career ladder. The more recently the person achieved the goal, the more relevant the qualifications and experience they attained are likely to be to in the current market. It could be worth reaching out to them to gain their perspective on what skills you should focus on or what performing the role is really like. They may be able to pass on some useful insiders’ tips.
When you have broken down your goal into steps and set out on your path, keep returning to your plan to measure your progress. Set reminders to make a quarterly review. Use these, not only to identify where you may be falling behind, but to congratulate yourself on your achievements. Rewarding yourself for your progress will help to keep you motivated!
If your good intentions fall by the wayside, consider what obstacles have appeared in your path. Remember the famous phrase, ‘Life is what happens while we’re making plans’.
It’s natural that sometimes unforeseen circumstances occur, such as illness, increased family responsibilities or financial difficulties which may set us back. But don’t be disheartened. Be flexible and identify which steps are still achievable. You may need to tweak your plan every now and then to accommodate changes in your life.
Keeping yourself motivated
Sometimes it will seem hard to devote time and energy to our development, especially in the early stages when the goal seems far away. This is why it’s important to view the journey as worthwhile. Focusing on making small improvements rather than fixating on the destination.
Having this mindset also helps you be more resilient when you encounter obstacles or get knock-backs. Look back and praise yourself on how far you’ve come. Viewing every action you take to develop your skills as an achievement will help keep you motivated.
Looking for more support in attaining your dream career?
Finding a recruiter who is a specialist in your chosen field can also be an invaluable source of information. For example, the expert consultants at Wireless Mobile International Search offer the latest information, not only on career paths within IT/Telecoms Sales, but salary ranges and which roles are suited to your lifestyle choices. They can also help you identify companies which offer good opportunities for career progression.
If Sales is your chosen profession, why not give them a call today to see how they can help achieve your ambitions?