Careers are journeys. They have a starting point, a middle, and an end. Which direction you travel, and how far you go are up to you. But setting your career goals is important because it tells you how quickly you need to paddle and which turns to make.
But if you’ve never been in a canoe, think of your career like an airplane flight. That flight starts with an origination and a destination. The interesting thing about commercial flights is that they are off-course for 95% of the flight. This is because of the air highways that pilots follow, weather, traffic, the fact that the runways are not lined up like Evil Knievel ramps, and occasionally because the pilot didn’t ask for directions and took a wrong turn at Albuquerque.
But knowing where you want to end up paints a vision of your ideal carer path and allows for a constant set of adjustments that allow you to reach your destination. And with that in place, you can use it to make the following 2 valuable career decisions.
1. Opportunity Evaluation
Opportunities of all shapes and sizes will come your way. You need to decide which ones are right for you. But how do you know? The career goals tell you if the next opportunity is aligned or misaligned with your goals. It is like choosing rocks to step on as you try to cross a stream.* Does the rock opportunity take you in the right direction? Your path doesn’t need to be a straight line. It just needs to add to your skills, knowledge or experience in a way that will serve you on your journey to your goal. (*If you are not hunting ghosts it’s okay to cross streams.)
2. Pace Evaluation
Your career won’t last forever. This is true of your work career, athletic career, music career or whatever other career you may have in high school, college, or after graduation. Although if you are sentenced to life in prison, that career will last as long as you do.
Because you have a finite amount of time to reach your goals, you need to keep yourself moving and progressing at a minimum pace. Unless you are a monk you can’t sit in any one position too long, or you won’t be able to make it to your goal before the career buzzer sounds.
Don’t set your goals too small or you won’t challenge yourself enough. Don’t let anyone tell you not to set your goals too big. Because big goals help you grow. And even if you don’t reach them, they will push you to go as far as you can. Which is the goal of an aggressive goal. Which is totally meta.
Establish your goals. They will keep you moving in the right direction. They will force you to think about your pace and progress. They will force you to think about the skill development work, self-education, and training you will need. And goals provide a scorecard and progress indicator that make your career a fun and interesting game to play.
*If you know someone who could benefit from this message, please share it with them.