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A lot of people spend 7 to 8.5 hours a day at work. That equates to 35 to 42.5 hours at work for the 5-day working week. That’s a lot of time when you think about it; time that could possibly make your life very unpleasant if you have no sense of direction as it may lead you to doing work that you absolutely hate. There are a few fortunate people who end up with the career they want out of chance and the right timing, but for most people it requires a little bit of planning, preparation and patience. The first step is to set career goals for yourself so that you have a clear path that you want to follow; leaving nothing to chance and pure luck.

Setting goals when doing anything worthwhile is important so that you have a measuring stick of your progress as well as a clear direction that you want to go in. Having no career goals leaves you exposed to the possibility of moving around from job to job aimlessly, never truly progressing. Having a clear set of career goals is the first and most important step you can take towards securing the career of your dreams.

What are career goals? They’re simply the things that you want to achieve in your career; what work you want to do, and how you will get there. These can be very broad statements like “I want to have a job that makes me a lot of money”, there are many jobs which can achieve this; or more specific like “I want to be a NASA astronaut working on the International Space Station”. Whether they are very broad or specific, ambitious or not, it’s important to identify them and note them down. You need to separate these into long term, short term, conceptual and operational goals. Conceptual goals deal with your preferences, interests and values while operational goals deal more with specific job tasks that you set for yourself.  Both are important and you must have a good balance.

When setting the actual goals you need to think of where you want to end up first of all, then work your way backwards to where you are now. In that process you will be filling in the blanks and identifying what you’re lacking and what is needed in order for you advance step by step towards your destination. Make sure that you formulate realistic and plausible goals. There’s nothing wrong with dreaming, in fact dreaming is very important because it gives you something to aim for, but your career goals must be grounded in reality.

You should normally start by planning your long term goals because it’s difficult to plan how you’ll get somewhere if you don’t know where you’re going. These long term goals can cover a time span of the next 5, 10 or 20 years. Think about what you’re good at, what you enjoy doing and the attributes of a job that matter to you. Think about whether you want to work from home, own a business, be a creative professional, etc. Once you identify these things it becomes easier for you to figure out how you’ll get there. The combination of what you’re good at and your values are a strong indicator of the direction that you should take. You can break these down into specific goals such as “I want to be a film director in Hollywood”, which is an example of moving from the broad creative professional goal, to something very specific. Specificity is good because it narrows down the direction you can take even more, so you end up having a clearer career path you can follow.

Once you’ve set your long term career goals you need to set short term goals. This is because a long term goal can take many years of work to achieve; as such you need to fill in the blanks as to how you will achieve it. Short term goals are stepping stones towards the long term goals; the things you can do in the next few months or years that will lead you towards your long term goals. Some examples of short term goals are to get a certification, diploma or degree in your area of interest, interning at an organization that deals with your area of interest, learning new skills in your area of interest, etc. These are small steps that prepare you and align you towards your long term goals. You should work on these frequently and take as many steps as you can without overwhelming yourself. The short term goals act as a benchmark and measuring stick of your progress towards your final destination.

During the process of setting up your goals it’s of utmost importance to be realistic. Having unrealistic career goals will only set you up for failure and disappointment. Some of the factors to consider are:

  • Whether you have access to the required resources to achieve your goals
  • Whether the goals you set are in line with you as an individual or not
  • Whether there’s a market for what you want to achieve
  • Whether it’s really possible to achieve your goals in the set time frame
  • Whether you have the education and skills needed to achieve your goals
  • Whether you have the time and commitment to achieve your goals

You should share your goals with someone who knows you well so that they may have some input. A lot of the time we as people overestimate ourselves and believe we can achieve more than we really can. Having input from someone who knows us well can help bring a sense of realism to the process. Focus on maintaining your strengths and strengthening your weak areas and stay humble. Pride can give you a false sense of achievement and cause you to falter. Don’t be afraid to change your plan as you go along if you see that some things are too unrealistic or if your interests change drastically.

Remember that Rome wasn’t built in a day. It will most likely take years of work for you to achieve your goals, but when you do achieve them it will be such a fulfilling and satisfying thing.

About the author

“Zuhair Sharif is a digital marketer, writer, blogger and entrepreneur. he likes to write and develop educational and inspirational material to help bring value to others lives. if this interests you check his ultimate guides to goal setting here.”

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