Advice, Software Engineer

Five Steps To Setting Effective Career Goals

Do you often feel like you are working hard every day but your career does not seem to be going anywhere? If your answer is yes, then it is time to start setting goals. Whether you are working for yourself or for an organisation, it is important to have personal goals for your career so you can access how you are doing and hold yourself accountable for your goals. Because no one else has more interest in your career than yourself.

Setting effective career goals for yourself does not need to be scary or hard. The following steps will help you in the process.

Think about the big picture. The future.
This may be a tricky one. If you asked me a few years ago, I did not know what I wanted to be. Sure, all of us want to be financially free, live comfortably when we are old, and be healthy. But we need to think about things that are going to help us achieve those lifetime goals when the time comes. Ask yourself these questions; what are your passions?, what do you see yourself doing without ever getting bored?, who do you admire and wish you could do what they do for a living? Your answers to these questions will help you see the big picture. For example, if you are passionate about education then your lifetime career goal might be to build and run an institution where everyone has an access to quality education regardless of where they are. Remember that there is no limit to what we can achieve, so don’t be afraid to think big and dream big.

Break it down into smaller and multiple goals.
Once you have a clear understanding of what you would like to achieve, then the next step is coming up with smaller and achievable goals to get to the big picture. For example, to run an institution, you will need an understanding of how to manage staff. You will also need to make good decisions as the entire institution relies on you. By thinking this way, you have now come up with two smaller goals; team management skill and decision making skill. One thing to bear in mind is that not all goals need to be or should be technical or hard skills. Some are behavioural or personal qualities that you would like to have, for example, social skills, and self-awareness.

Pick the ones with maximum impact.
Whatever smaller goals that you have come up with in the previous step, review them and pick the ones which are going to make maximum impact. You don’t want to be picking a goal that are not going to make a difference. For example, one of the goals that you have come up with might be to learn how to use Powerpoint software. However, it is not a goal, it is more like an action item for a bigger goal, say, presentation skill.

Align them back into your current situation.
Now, think about your current situation. Do you see opportunities to achieve those goals as part of your current job? Can you create opportunities for yourself? The answer may not be a straightforward yes immediately. For example, your current job does not give you an opportunity to do presentations as you work remotely. Rather than just putting it in “later” bucket or start looking for a new job, think outside the box. Maybe you could look at giving presentations at local meetups. The important thing is to be creative and to be serious about achieving your goals.

Make them S.M.A.R.T.
We hear this all the time and it is because it is important. Goals need to be S.M.A.R.T. S.M.A.R.T goals are good goals because they are specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-bound. Therefore, at this step, you need to write your goals down and come up with a plan of actions. This step should be quite easy as the previous steps you have completed are going to be very helpful. The following is an example of a S.M.A.R.T goal with a follow-up action.

Presentation skill
- Give at least 3 presentations at work this year on Topic A, Topic B and Topic C
- Collect feedback after each presentation and work on areas for improvement

I hope this article will help you in your goal settings process. Writing this article has also helped me to rethink some of my goals so I think it is a win for me too. Once you have got effective career goals set, stay focused and start working on achieving your goals and you will get to the bigger picture in no time!