Career Advancement: How to Set and Achieve Professional Goals
Understanding what it takes to forward your career may seem like an arduous task at first, but small steps in the right direction is sometimes all it takes to move the needle.
In this article, we’ll be going through the small changes you can introduce which will help realize your career goals in no time.
What are professional goals?
When you set an objective which aims to help you define what to achieve in your career in the short and long term, you are inadvertently setting a professional goal for yourself. These serve as a means to push and advance yourself to new heights in your career.
In the course of setting a professional goal, you seek to provide clarity to yourself in the form of a well-defined direction and purpose, helping you clear your mind and focus on where you want to go amidst your current reality.
In the Mahabharata - an epic about a war in Ancient India which took place close to 5000 years ago, Dronacharya, a guru asks his students to strike at a wooden bird placed far upon a tree. When the student, or soon to be warrior, steps up, Dronacharya asks them what they see. Almost all of the students point out the objects surrounding the wooden bird; the branches, the tree and the leaves. But, when Arjuna is finally asked, he says firmly, ‘’I can only see the eye of the bird’. Arjuna's clarity of vision serves as a reminder that great focus drives off all other distractions. Arjuna was able to hit the target directly on the eye, a task which all other students failed at.
Likewise, the importance of a well-defined goal helps you to progress in line with what you are after. Consciously deciding what you want, and how you’ll get there serves to crystallize the thoughts in your mind so that they do become real.
How to set and achieve professional goals
Sitting and writing down goals on post-it notes which lay on your desk to be forgotten about is not merely sufficient. Time and care must be spent dealing with organizing your thoughts and seeking clarity on what you really want to achieve. You may not get this on the first try, but a day or two should give you a clear enough idea to get them written down.
Here are some steps you could use to aid in this process, depending upon how clear you are upon your ultimate career aspiration:
Identify your core values
A good starting point is to ask yourself, what is the most important thing in your life and what type of work will fulfill you the most. This allows you to escape your short-term thinking of gaining a promotion or looking good on a performance review, and ideally to see things in terms of the bigger picture.
Perhaps you are someone that seeks joy in helping others achieve their goals, in this case you would do well to base your professional goals around becoming for e.g. a consultant or a coach.
Visualize your ideal future self
Try spending some time before sleep and immediately after you wake up to visualize an ideal mental image of yourself, depict yourself as clearly as possible and relax into the visualization.
This visualization technique was used by Olympic gold medalist swimmer Michael Phelps, directed to him by his coach Bob Bowman. Each and every night, Phelps would get himself into the “videotape” in his mind and play his ideal performance. “By the time Michael gets up on the blocks to swim in the World Championships or Olympics, he’s swum that race hundreds of times in his mind before he gets up there.” Bowman says.
Trying to sort your priorities and gaining an understanding of what kind of goals you want to achieve is hard. One of the reasons most people fail at this is because they fail to spend enough time on it, allowing external distractions to take hold.
This is one of the reasons why staying inspired to take action is key, you may have all the ingredients it takes to be successful but without remaining inspired to get there - whether it’s to help others succeed or to help your community, you will not remain motivated enough to achieve it.
Once the necessary clarity is achieved upon what your primary goal is, the next step is to write it down. This can come in the form of both a long-term objective and a shorter-term objective.
A simple example is provided below:
- Become a CMO and successfully network with the top marketers in your city within the next 24 months.
- This week, start a personal development course.
- This month, talk to your current manager about potential growth opportunities within your current role and identify 3 goals to support this.
- In the next 3 months hire your first remote VA.
In the age of remote work, successfully advancing your career may seem different to the norm that used to work in the past, but the fundamentals are still the same.
The more time you spend understanding the intricacies related to your current path, the more the likelihood that goal-posts will pave out for you ahead.
At first, professional goals may appear daunting, but articulating them clearly in writing will equip you to efficiently progress through your plan in no time.
Author: Daniel Taylor - Head of Content, Hereiwork
Daniel Taylor is an experienced professional in supporting candidates with new job opportunities and helping startups fill their open positions. He has over 7 years of experience in writing and strategy. He is a contributor to various sites and currently serves as the head of content for Hereiwork, partnering with SEO and Ops teams to build and nurture content. Here is his LinkedIn.