"Work and career goals" sounds like a Tony Robbins thing, but rest assured that setting and achieving career development goals can help you flourish in your chosen profession. Success is not a given, however, even if you are driven and committed. It's important to set and define work and career goals that can and will be followed up on.
Why set goals?
To set the table for this discussion, it's worth discussing why goals matter. There have been countless books and articles expounding on this subject, and most of them can be boiled down to a single key point: You can't get somewhere if you don't know where you are going, and where you have been. To sum it up in a single word, goals are about accountability.
Setting and adhering to goals helps you stay focused. When you set goals or targets, you give direction to your efforts. You exactly know where you need to focus your energy to bring about the intended result. Moreover, your chances of missing the target and wasting your efforts are minimized when you know exactly what you are aiming for.
Goals make measuring your progress simple and straightforward. It's quite crucial to measure your progress regularly, because taking stock in this way will help to ensure that you are on the right track. Moreover, if you find that your progress is lower than anticipated, you can make changes to your strategy (or devise a new one) accordingly. Your level of accountability rises.
Another positive aspect of setting goals for yourself is that you take responsibility for your actions. If you're in charge of the outcome, then you will value the rewards of your efforts that much more. Each success will motivate you to keep going.
Success, of course, is just the one side of the coin — you will often have to cope with failures, too. If you are accountable for your work, then you can always take the criticism brought on by failure in a positive way and make improvements to your approach and methods.
One of the biggest factors in personal happiness and career satisfaction is a sense of achievement. You always feel good about yourself and your efforts when they hit your targets. Short-term goals allow you to get that sense of achievement more often. Every time you accomplish a goal, you have reason to celebrate and feel proud. Goals give direction to life.
Setting good goals
Working without any goals is like launching a rocket that is not carrying a payload or headed toward a destination. There's a famous quotation about goals attributed to American poet Bill Copeland: "The trouble with not having a goal is that you can spend your life running up and down the field and never score."
When it comes to setting goals where you currently work, you can get in the habit by taking a look at your responsibilities. How could your execution of those responsibilities be improved? Make a goal, track it, and report on it. Nothing builds self-esteem better than meeting a goal, and nothing demonstrates value to your employer better than tracking that goal.
One of the bigger factors that can help with goal achievement is a reward system. Whether a reward come from you or from your employer, affirmation for achieving your goal is always a good thing.
(Note to employers: It's critical to recognize employees who achieve or exceed set goals. Not only does such recognition — whether a cash incentive, prize, certificate, or public acknowledgment at a staff meeting — honor that employee's efforts, but it also demonstrates that the company values this type of commitment and hard work. It may even further incentivize the rest of the workforce to work hard on their own goals.)
Like your life goals, your workplace goals should be easy to define. Here are some tips to help you set good goals:
Set goals that align with your employer's goals. Your employer will be impressed if you match what they are looking for with your personal goals. Each employee's goals should be tied to the company's overall growth strategy. When you understand clearly how your individual role and responsibilities contribute to the bigger picture, you will be more focused and motivated to achieve goals that result in success for both your employer and yourself.
Set SMART goals: I have never been one to embrace run-of-the-mill gimmicks. SMART goals, however, are a run-of-the-mill gimmick that works. Your workplace goals should be:
If you have all of these criteria, there isn't a goal in the world that will be off-limits to you.
Don't overdo it: Goal setting can fail when the objective is overly ambitious or unrealistic, given your skill set and available resources. Burdening yourself with an out-of-reach goal can lead to frustration with the process and a resulting lack of motivation for further improvement. It's much more helpful to set small, realistic goals and achieve them consistently than to short for the start, fall behind right away, and ultimately bail in frustration.
Peer guidance: Talk to others in similar roles, or at a similar career stage. Where have they had success with setting and achieving goals. A good way to measure how attainable a goal may be is to consider whether someone else with equal experience and training has achieved a similar goal.
Stick to it
As I said previously, the biggest key to achieving goals is accountability and consistency. Showing up, day after day, and holding yourself to the plan, is as important to achieving workplace and career goals as anything else. Start small and dream big. There is no limit to what you can achieve if you consistently follow through on measurable, attainable goals.