Brave New World: Setting Career Development Goals

Since the turn of the century, the global workplace has not been especially kind to workers looking to make a career change. The global workplace has been even less kind to educated, young, would-be members of the workforce. This phenomenon has made making career development goals not only more difficult, but also more necessary than ever to implement.

You may have found yourself in the position of being in a position you hate, but frozen in place because it a) took you so long to nail down a job in the first place, or b) you feel that lengthy experience in one position has made you ineligible for others. So how do you break out of your current position and pursue a career that’s richly rewarding and fulfilling? Get ready because we’re about to talk about the importance of healthy, productive career development goals.

Employees are staying in jobs for much less time than they used to. Whereas in decades past people would often stay with a company for 25 years or more, the US Department of Labor reports that as of 2014, employees are spending an average of 4.6 years with a single employer. Over the course of a 30-year career, that’s about 7 job changes! Without solid career development goals in place, employees run the risk of being unable to compete in a job market that is focused on how to land the next big opportunity that comes their way.

Where to Start?

Creating career development goals begins with an understanding of yourself as an employee. How do you work best? What types of work interest you? One way to begin addressing your career development goals is to ask yourself a list of questions or take an assessment that will help you discern what the best fit is for your personality.

Additionally, you should begin making career development goals as early as possible in your career. This is, of course, not always feasible, but if it is, start early and give yourself plenty of time to work on this project. Don’t wait until you are unhappy in a job to start building your goals.

Career development goals are about dreaming big. It can be tempting to start your planning by thinking about the financial aspects of your career development goals, but don’t fall into this trap. Instead, view your career development goals planning session as a vision cast. Don’t think about the practicalities. Focus on what you want and worry about how to make it fit with your lifestyle later. Don’t ask “how can my career choice pay for my kids’ college?” Instead, ask questions like the following:

  • Do I have a particular gift? How can my career development goals utilize this gift in a fulfilling way?
  • What do I hope to be doing 15 years from now?
  • If you had the power to and money were no object, what would you be doing right now?
  • What do you love to do most? If it isn’t part of your career development goals, how can you incorporate it?

From Vision to Mission: Implementing the Career Development Goals

Many employees fantasize about doing something else. They find themselves unhappy with the position they are in, or live with a decent job while wishing they could take their career development goals to the next level. They know exactly what they want to be doing, but struggle with how to get there.

The key is to take the vision and reshape it into a step-by-step plan to achieve the career development goals you’ve set in place. This segment of planning your career development goals also involves asking yourself a list of questions, but this is where the process gets more practical. You’ll ask yourself questions like:

  • Who should you try to network with in order to gain a footing in the career you’re looking for? What can you do to get the conversation going?
  • Do you need more education, training, or experience in order to achieve your career development goals? How will you do this?
  • Do you need to find out more about what is required to achieve your career development goals? When will you start?

You’ll notice each of these questions has a follow-up question associated with it that demands a very specific response. Once you know who to talk to, you can begin to ask yourself what you might do to reach out to that person. Once you know if you need more education, you can start looking at schools. Asking yourself when you will start your career development goals endeavor, however, is probably the single most important question you can ask.

Now is on Your Side

The only time that’s on your side is right now. If you’re in a position that’s not taking you toward your career development goals, or if, after a bit of soul-searching, you discover that there’s something you’d like to be doing more, set yourself a deadline. By putting an expiration date on your foray into achieving your career development goals, you create a safety net that will keep you from delving too far into the unknown before cutting your losses and pulling out. Setting new career development goals is a fun and exciting adventure that could result in a lasting and fulfilling new career, so start your journey now. Tell yourself that you are going to sit down for two hours on Saturday afternoon and plan out your career development goals. Ten-years-from-now you will be glad you did.

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