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Should You Set Career Goals?

June 21, 2016

Your manager thinks career goals are important to have. Period.

Before those of you who don’t believe in career goals roll your eyes, let me first say that I’m one of you. I hate goals. And I hate when people make a big deal about setting career goals. I was always one of the “go into work, try as hard as you can for that day, and life will play out as it should” types of people.

Simply “setting a goal” was not motivating enough for me to try to accomplish them. If someone else challenged me, that was one thing. But challenging myself with a goal? Didn’t do much for my performance.

However, let me tell you a few reasons why we are wrong.

Career goals help improve your self-awareness.

One of the main challenges I had with setting goals was they never actually helped me with my current performance. Until I learned that I was setting them wrong.

Goals don’t always have to be a long-term dream job or position. The best goals are set around how you can improve in your current position and be more well rounded.

Ashley from Textron recommends setting your goals this way, “I would suggest, first taking the time to reflect on your strengths and weaknesses. Knowing your development needs will be a good start in determining which areas you need to improve in. Once you have identified a weakness that you would like to progress, consider creating a development plan. As you create this plan, try to think of ways you can learn and improve in 3 methods—on-the-job experiences, learning from others, and training or courses.” Full Quote

Career goals give you some direction.

To continue on my point above, having a plan, or goals, will help give you direction from week to week.  While my method of  “going into work and trying as hard as I can for that day” didn’t mean that I was a bad employee, but it did mean that I was happy being complacent in my current position.

By setting long term, then short term, then very short term (day-to-day) goals, it helps you focus on the tasks that you need to complete. There are millions of things vying for our attention and we can easily chase them on a rabbit trail.

Knowing exactly what you need to accomplish helps you know what projects and opportunities you should seek out and put your energy into.

Steve from Caterpillar says, “One of the most effective ways is to seek out opportunities to participate on projects teams, particularly those that are not in your direct area of expertise. It is also important to work to establish yourself as a leader on these project teams. You do not have to be a formal position of leadership, but you should show a willingness to step up and take on tasks that others do not want to do and be a vocal presence in project meetings.” Full Quote

Career goals help you get through the mundane days and weeks.

By now, you should have learned that mundane days and weeks are a part of any job. There will be weeks that you are assigned a task that is a little boring and mundane, but necessary to your job.

Setting goals about where you want to be in five years and then breaking it down into how you are going to accomplish it will help you find purpose in these days and weeks. You can see there is a point beyond this week.

Career goals give you something to celebrate.

By far, this is the biggest perk to setting career goals. You will someday accomplish one of your goals and be able to celebrate. I’m talking, treat yourself to a nice dinner celebration.

Being able to accomplish a goal gives you something concrete to look back on and see your progress. It keeps you motivated to show you that you are in fact improving and getting better. It may not feel like it day by day, but you are.

Set different rewards for each goal you accomplish. The bigger the goal, the bigger the celebration. Keep it fun. 

Career goals give you something to show your manager.

After you celebrate your newly completed goal, you will be able to show your manager exactly what you accomplished. When your yearly review comes and you have to speak on what you think you did well on this past year, you can show them the goals you set and how you improved on each of them. There will never be a question about how hard you are working and if you will make a valuable employee.


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