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Having long-term goals helps you set priorities that get you to the ideal place in your career: You're more likely to feel satisfied in your day job if you see how your work contributes to your long-term career growth. Don't get stuck in someone else's idea of what makes a sensible goal. Set objectives that get you excited about your professional future, even if they're a bit unorthodox.
Goals Don't Have to Move You Up
People often set their sights on promotions in their field when writing career goals, but aiming for the top isn't the best approach for everyone. Perhaps you enjoy your current position so much that a lateral shift makes more sense for you — explore related areas to hone your expertise without actually changing your job title. Dalhousie University suggests that there are five types of career moves: up, across, down, enriching and out. Although upward goals focus on promotions, and across goals help you gain skills, knowledge and perspective within your current role, down objectives are planned career changes. Maybe you're tired of work in the office and want to transition into teaching, for example. Enriching goals involve taking on more responsibilities, changing your work practices and joining committees, while out goals are plans to move to another organization or start your own business.
Drawing Your Roadmap
As Dayanand Allapur, the head of human resources at Tesco Hindustan Service Centre points out in a "Wall Street Journal" article, goals are like destinations. Your goal statement has to describe the journey, including the route you'll take, the vehicle you'll use, the cost of your "fuel" and the time it'll take to get where you want to go. Set realistic, measurable goals. You're less likely to see the improvement you want if you just write you'll "work harder" on your startup side project. Instead, write that you'll get yourself two new clients within one year through advertising and networking. You've described the destination, the time line and the vehicles, including advertising and marketing. To make your goal really effective, plan check-in points to monitor your progress and map the road you're taking. Also consider costs. How much will advertising cost? What about your time investment?
Push Yourself, but Not Too Far
"Forbes" warns that goal-setting can be detrimental when people pick goals that push them too far, such as into ethically questionable or even illegal territory. It's good to be committed to your goals, but the need to achieve shouldn't lead to shady business practices. If you're worried about falling into this trap, sign a contract committing yourself to making ethically sound decisions. Share the idea with your boss and coworkers.
Career Goal Examples
Remember the road map analogy when penning your own career goals. You can plan a year ahead, or think even further into the future. The website Next Chapter New Life suggests setting goals with two- to three-year time lines. Perhaps you can make your yearly goals part of your longer-term plan. The following are examples of solid, actionable goal statements: "I want to generate 10 percent more revenue in my small business within the next six months by attracting more customers. I'll do it by producing an email newsletter, establishing a social media presence and running ads on the radio. The radio ads should cost me about $500. To reach my goal, I need to spend five extra hours per week for the next three months working on advertising pieces." If you're making a career change goal: "I want to move from a career in marketing to a job in sales within the next year. I'll attend networking events, meet with sales managers within the next month to ask about internal opportunities and spend four hours a week preparing resumes and applying to external positions."
- "The Wall Street Journal"; Career Journal — Don’t Lose Sight of Long-Term Goals; Nikita Garia; May 2011
- "Forbes"; How Setting Career Goals Can Backfire; Susan Adams; February 2011
- Dalhousie University: Setting Your Career Goals
- Next Chapter New Life; Top 10 Career Development Goals for 2011; Dorothy Tannahill Moran
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