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Why bother setting career goals?

Updated: May 23, 2022

Many of my clients often say that they haven't been intentional with their careers and just said "yes" to opportunities as they presented themselves. However, whilst this often leads to variety and challenge it doesn't necessarily result in you working in line with what REALLY matters to you.

Your professional values.

Your north star.

Achieving your career goals isn’t just about being in the right place at the right time. Unfortunately, it’s not even about hard work and hours on the clock. It’s about understanding your definition of success and identifying the strategies you need to put in place to accomplish success.

Sheryl Sandberg, Chief Operating Officer of Facebook, writes about picturing your career not as a ladder – “ladders are limiting” – but as a jungle gym. “Jungle gyms offer more creative exploration. There are many ways to get to the top. The ability to forge a unique path with occasional dips, detours and even dead ends presents a better chance for fulfilment.”

I know from personal experience that making a career change mid-career is daunting and it can make you feel as if you’ve lost the plot. After a lot of soul-searching I decided to leave behind an 18-year professional services career and partnership at Deloitte because I realised that I could be MORE fulfilled.

I loved my old role and my team but there was something missing; I wanted the opportunity to effect real change one-to-one and with organisations. So, I took that leap. And I’m here to tell you that you can to.

Taking a fresh look at your career and allocating some real thinking time to ask what things are the most important to you in order to achieve the rewards you’re after is imperative to success. Give yourself space and permission to daydream about the possibilities – it’s so fascinating what you uncover.

Start by thinking about your core career values – what’s most important to you in relation to your professional life?

Be honest with yourself. What do you care about most? Be candid about what gets you out of bed in the morning. What are the biggest things that motivate you?

And don’t, for one second, think about apologising for it. You might be drawn to the status that a high-powered job can bring. Or it might be about how much money you can earn in a given timeframe. It might be about finding ways to give back to your community.

Whatever it is, whatever the reasons, it’s ok – they are YOUR values.

Once you’re happy with these, and understand the motivation behind them, it’s time to start setting your goals – and writing them down. A study conducted by the Dominican University in California found that commitment and accountability were key to successful goal setting. It also revealed that those who write down their goals are significantly more likely to achieve them.

Have them visible around you – so put them on the wall in your office, on the fridge, on the notepad by your bed. Keeping them on your radar at all times will help them sink in and be part of your DNA.

You should treat your career goals with the same rigour and professionalism as any project you’re handed at the office. Setting goals is a good way to start; just be prepared to revisit them regularly in order to check your progress and revise them when things change as they inevitably do.

One thing I get asked all the time is how is it possible to make yourself accountable for the goals you set? Well, that’s simple: tell someone.

By telling a mentor or trusted friend it’ll cement your thinking, make it real and make you accountable for your plan. Think carefully about who you might want to share this with. Try to find the person who will be able to offer advice and a different perspective on how to make your goals a reality. I get it. The idea of sharing your thinking might fill you with dread – the process of goal setting can be exceptionally personal – but be courageous and trust in your ability.

Because the first step to achieving any goal is your own self-belief.

Find out more about our career coaching packages - they're based on our tried and tested signature coaching model "Elevate" and are designed to deliver you real results for your career.

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