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Setting career goals

By Simon on

A big reason people struggle to achieve their true career goals is sometimes a lack of thought, vision or discipline, and often, it’s because their goals are too vague or open ended. It must be said that times are very different now and a search for a new role is very tough, but you should not let it detract from a few certain golden rules.

‘Seeing what’s out there’ is a phrase I’ve heard quite often and I’ve not seen many achieve much or make a move that gives value to their career. If you convince yourself that a great opportunity will land in your lap without a lot of research and dedication, you will find yourself disappointed.

It’s quite ironic that we’re all great at telling others what they should do with their lives and careers but, when it comes to our own destiny, we find it difficult. It’s also why we will make mistakes in our own careers because we aren’t taught the art of cultivating a great career – we mainly tend to learn from our mistakes and knowing what it is we don’t want. Moving jobs is always a risk but we now live in a world of high uncertainty, the only things we can be sure of is birth, death, and taxes, but a well-thought out career move can avoid potential pitfalls.

To start, you must look at the issues or frustrations in your current role and decide how best to move away from them. You also must think, deep down, about what it is you want. This ranges from the industry you’d like to work in, size/ culture of the company, scope of the role, location, salary, and so forth. This will provide a solid foundation for your search.

It is very important to get a grip on the salary you’re aspiring to, be clear on your worth and gauge market rates for your expertise and skills. You do not want to our-price yourself out of a move and certainly, do not want to undervalue yourself. This can happen so it’s best to get rid of seeking unattainable salaries. As a general rule of thumb and, depending on which level you are at, people can expect a salary increase of between 10% – 20%.  I’ve known some people move for the same salary if the mid-long term career prospects are far better than their current predicament.

It is vital to be realistic and make your goals, clear, concise and achievable. Do not try to control the uncontrollable.   Realistic goals help you stay motivated and focused but, also be mindful of not putting too much pressure on yourself. You’ve also got to expect a bumpy road and trying to control it too much is bit like trying to put out a fire by throwing more wood on it.

Set a timeframe to keep you focused and efficient in your pursuit of a goal. Do allow for flexibility because some hiring processes can take longer than others and for that very reason, do not put all your eggs in one basket. Always keep going until you have that offer in black and white. Setting a schedule that is too rigid can lead to a bit of angst so don’t get angry if things take a little longer than expected. Think of a job search as an adventure or journey and you’re more likely to end up where you want to be.  Like travelling – it’s best to focus on getting to your destination rather than what you are trying to get away from.

Do not be too concerned about knock-backs. There will be times you will receive zero feedback at all. It will happen and whatever you do, do not let it affect your momentum or intensity.  You can learn a lot from near misses or tough interview processes and will gain more confidence from it. Your motivation will wane and shine at different points and it’s therefore very important to share your experience with others, and look to people in your network, family, friends and peers that can provide comfort and guidance.

Do keep a record of all your applications as well as your progress because, it will help you stay motivated.  If your motivation flags, spur yourself on by looking at how far you’ve come. Do this at regular intervals and it will help you re-focus. Don’t over think things either and, do not underestimate your ability to overcome hurdles and setbacks.

People often start looking for jobs on a whim or after a bad day and when this happens, you won’t move to the right role or for the right reasons. Change in any domain does not happen overnight – the best jobs and companies do not grow on trees.  A big part of looking for a new role or making any significant changes in your life takes clear and savvy thinking as well as hitting a few bumps along the way to bring long-term gain.

Finally, do not put it off until you’re in the mood. If you want to act until the ‘time is right’ or you ‘feel like it’ may lead you to waiting a very long time. Putting things off in the short term may save you discomfort but, leaving things can weigh heavily on your mind. Once you’ve decided to move and the CV and LinkedIn profile is in tip top condition, do get moving.

Most of all, be proud of how far you’ve come and best of luck.