Do you feel like a cork bobbing in a stream going wherever the current takes you? Instead of relying on luck and hope, take control of your career by defining your aspirations and goals.
If you don’t know where you want to go, how will you determine how to get there? In nearly any company when I ask male employees what they want to be doing in five or ten years, they almost always have a ready answer. Women generally do not.
The women I question answer along the lines of,“Oh, I’m not really sure. I like what I’m doing now, but I definitely want to get promoted,” or “I’m sure if I do my job well, my boss will notice and eventually promote me.” Maybe, but maybe not.
The popular notion that you graduate from college, join a company, go with the flow and hope that someone, some day, recognizes your skills and potential is false. No one is going to pluck you from the masses and help you rise to business stardom unless you make the first move.
One of the keys to achieving career success is to clearly define your aspirations. Begin by taking time to sit in a quiet location and answer these questions:
- What were my original childhood career hopes and dreams?
- What are the things that are important to me in life?
- What am I good at accomplishing at work?
- What are the work things I don’t enjoy?
- Three to five years from now, what would I like to be doing? What could I envision myself doing? What would I like to have achieved?
- How would I describe my perfect job?
It’s OK if you can’t decide on a specific career aspiration right now. If you are new to your position, you could aspire to become a sought-out expert in your new job or simply to determine the position you want in the future.
Once you’ve written down your career aspirations, the next step is to identify your goals. Your goals are the stepping-stones you will use to reach your desired destination. Keep in mind that the quality of the goals you set will determine their effectiveness.
One technique I like to use when creating goals is the age-old S.M.A.R.T. technique, which stands for:
- S = Specific. Goals need to be explicit and detailed
- M = Measurable. Your goals should have a specific outcome against which you can measure your progress
- A = Attainable. Goals must allow you to stretch yourself, but still be reasonable
- R = Relevant. Each goal must have meaning for you
- T = Time-bound. Goals must clearly define a beginning and an ending
Countless businesses and individuals throughout the world use this technique. While over the years many variations have been created, S.M.A.R.T. continues to embody sound principles for the process of creating goals.
Here is an example of a poorly defined goal and then that same goal translated using the S.M.A.R.T. technique:
- Poorly defined goal: I will work to improve myself in business.
- S.M.A.R.T. goal: I will identify one area of weakness and, during the next six months, complete one class and read at least two books to improve my expertise in that business topic.
If you use the above example aspiration of determining which position you’d like to have in the future, your S.M.A.R.T. goal could be defining the steps you will take to determine your specific aspirations, such as researching various career options or completing some personality or work style evaluations.
Like using a roadmap to arrive at a destination, having a clear list of goals will help ensure you’re headed in the right direction and end at the desired location (your aspiration) using the most direct route.
~ Lisa Quast