Defining Career Goals and Making Choices

Having a goal is critical to your career.  Not just the short termism of getting through today’s to-do list or the default goal of not getting fired.  But the longer term vision of where you would like to find yourself in five years or so. Would you like to be working for yourself?  Would you like to be traveling the world?  Would you like to own the company you work for?  Would you like to have your boss’s job?
If you have a long list of dreams and are confused, I recommend using the prioritizer: http://tinyurl.com/rx2o7 to help you see which ones rise to the top.
Once you have settled on something, then every day think about what you can do in the next 24 hours to advance towards your chosen goal. If travel is your dream, be investigating which overseas offices or clients.  If promotion is your goal then figure out who is in charge of that decision and what you think they might be looking for in their next upgrade.  If a career change is on your mind, then do the research, learn about the new business, build your network, polish your chops, get the qualification to get you moving in the right direction.
Clarity about your goal will make many things easier for you.  When you are faced with more than one option, you have a basis for deciding: by considering which one moves you further in the direction you want to go.  Having a goal will help you from the moment you get up in the morning to decide what is important and which choice to make.
If you have a job that isn’t challenging you, challenge yourself.  Even if your client or boss is not demanding, you can surely come up with some spin on your work that will make it more relevant to where your interests lie and move you closer to your goal.  Pick challenges that will make you smarter, more marketable, more relevantly experienced.  All with an eye on where you want to get to.
So here is the actionable part of this column where I ask you to write down your goal.  Your  “What-do-I-want-to-be-doing-in-five-years” goal.  Yes, write it down.  Interesting how it changes and focuses itself when you aren’t just holding it somewhere in the back of your mind, where it never quite formed into anything beyond “I want to be happy and in charge of my destiny”. And don’t panic, it can change  – don’t feel you are going to be trapped by it.
If you are always working towards your goal, then you will find satisfaction and maintain your drive. If you are just trying to stay afloat each day, then that is the best you can hope for.  Get yourself a goal and work yourself towards it.  It is fun, productive and so very much more satisfying than drifting.