Setting Career Objectives – 9 Steps to Achieve Career Goals

By Elizabeth Conley

How to Set Career Objectives & Achieve Career Goals

Many people find that the pressures of juggling with work, family and everyday life means that our career goals and career plans are more difficult to achieve than we had hoped. Well-intended resolutions such as setting up new career objectives are soon given up.

concept of goalsHowever, when goals aren’t achieved many of us can feel useless and frustrated. This is particularly so if we are giving up on our career goals for a better job. This drains our energy and limits our potential. What I have observed, whilst working with organisations and people going through change is that everyone’s approach to handling change is very different to anyone else’s.

The key to greater success in setting career objectives is having a better understanding of where you’re regularly stuck, and apply new steps at these stages in the cycle to achieve what you truly want in your career. Have a look at the cycle of change. What stage are your career goals at?

Career Goal Awareness Stage

This is the starting point for any change or goal. First there is awareness of dissatisfaction or a new need in your life. Think about the simple need to have a drink. You might feel a little thirsty but can you ignore it? Perhaps for a while if you’re busy. Eventually though you get a headache and can’t concentrate until getting a drink becomes the most important thing you must do, until your thirst is quenched. It is the same with setting career objectives. The more dissatisfied you are in your current career and the stronger your need for change the more compelled you will be to act. You might feel that you want to a promotion or a more challenging job, but if you feel fairly comfortable where you are, there won’t be sufficient motivation to energise change and achieve a career goal.

1. Remove the career goal ‘shoulds’. Remove all the resolutions that are being driven by your family or friends. These are the sort of goals you feel you should be doing. For example, ‘I should get another job’. ‘I should get paid more for the job I do’. All these might be well-meaning goals but unless they are your goals then you’re not at the awareness stage of change with these goals. What this means is that any positive results are going to be very unlikely.

Career Goal Mobilisation Stage

This is the stage where you feel the most excited and energised for what you are about to do, and you’ll be thinking about all your options and options and ideas. If you start off really excited about a new goal and then all that motivation and energy fizzles before you have made any real progress, the chances are you’re being over ambitious. Too much excitement can colour our judgment on our choices and direction. Equally, if you’re one of those people who say ‘I don’t want to get too excited in case it doesn’t happen’, then you could be draining the energy from the project before you’ve had a chance to create it. You need to mobilize energy to create change.

2. Remove unrealistic career goal options. You can make progress if you’re making unrealistic demands on yourself. Break down your career goal into smaller steps which can be achieved more easily. This will help create more confidence and a belief that you can achieve what you really want to.

3. Find a career supporter. Try to find someone in your circle of contacts at home or at work who will support and encourage you in achieving your career goals. If not, join a related self-help group or find a career mentor who can help you to focus on the positive changes, however small. Their excitement can help you keep up your momentum.

Career Setting – Goal Action Stage

This is when you start to experiment with different types of actions to achieve your career goals. So many resolutions are lost at this stage when the reality of achieving the goal becomes clear. It is often much harder and takes longer to achieve than first thought. If you are getting stuck at this stage the chances are that you’re being too much of a perfectionist and expecting to get great results all the time. It’s easy then to feel demoralised and give up too soon. To achieve satisfaction requires lots of action!

4. Experiment & be flexible with your career goals. Be prepared to try many different ways to achieve your goals. Ask yourself how many different options can you try to make this happen. View these approaches as experiments to be carried out rather than solutions. Inevitably some approaches will work better than others. Thomas Edison, the renowned electric light inventor was supposedly asked by a New York Times Reporter, “How does it feel to fail seven hundred times”. He answered that “I have not failed seven hundred times. I have not failed once. I have succeeded in proving that those seven hundred ways will not work.”

5. Face your career fears. Sometimes we give up very quickly not because our resolutions are really impossible to achieve but because we feel scared of trying to achieve them. It is easy to procrastinate and let day-to-day pressures get in the way of following our dreams. This is why some of the most fundamental life changes such as starting a new business or a new career are only made when change is forced upon us, such as following a divorce or redundancy.

6. Be kind to yourself. We are often harder on ourselves than we would be with our friends. Try and reframe your results so that there is no such thing a failure or mistake, just a need for new approaches. Ok, it can be scary but looking for failure is not going to help. For example, an unemployed man has applied unsuccessfully for over a hundred jobs! He now works actively as a volunteer three days a week, and has been on a training course to upgrade his skills. He could panic and give up. But his proactive approach means that he is increasing his chance of finding suitable paid work. It’s essential to find alternative options to improve your chances of success.

7. If it’s not working do something else. If something isn’t working there is a tendency to look for something or someone to blame. ‘I haven’t got the new job I wanted because of the children’. If you want to achieve something new in your life you will need to take responsibility for where you are, and then try to take some small steps to do something different.

Career Setting Satisfaction & Career Goal Celebration Stage

This is the stage when the project or goal is completed and satisfaction is reached. If you are the sort of person who has many half finished projects still open waiting to be completed then you probably feel that your career goals never get completed. However, you might have achieved more of your career goal than you think. Many of us have the tendency to look at what hasn’t been achieved rather than savouring the pleasure of what has. For example, ‘I’ve got a new job but at a lower salary than I wanted’ It is also very British to talk-down our achievements. None of us want to be seen to ‘be a show off’ but celebrations are good for our morale, confidence and give closure to projects which help us to achieve new dreams.

8. Appreciate completion of career goals. Appreciate how far you’ve come so far. It may not have been exactly what you had in mind when you started out, but good enough might be all that is needed now. It’s OK for your goal to change and develop over time.

9. Celebrate your career successes. A desire for perfectionism can get in the way of celebrating your achievements. Identify what you’ve achieved and find ways to celebrate your success regularly. A bottle of champagne, a meal out or a trip out can do wonders for your self-esteem and happiness. Go for it and enjoy.

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