When I was a junior writer, my editor asked me this question during my performance review: “Where do you see yourself in three years time?”
Being ever idealistic, I answered: “Sitting right where you are!”
She gave me A+ for ambition but being realistic? I didn’t score high in that department. Her reply to my answer was this: “You gotta learn how to walk before you can run.”
That advice says it all when it comes to career goals. Not saying that you shouldn’t have grand ambitions; it’s great to set a high benchmark for what success means to you but it is even better if you are realistic about what you can and cannot achieve within the stipulated timeframe. To be CIO in four years after just working for a month? Not realistic. To be promoted to the next level in two years after having just started working? Much better.
See the difference?
But don’t let reality discourage you from making ambitious goals; after all, that’s one of the ways you’ll work hard to improve yourself. Instead, what you should be doing is making “mini realistic goals” that will eventually lead you to that one big goal in your career. Besides, there’s a higher chance of you being super demotivated when you realise that you won’t be achieving that super ambitious goal (it’s not going to happen anyway!) that you give up even trying to achieve the realistic ones.
Which is why it is important to set realistic goals – when you achieve them, your job satisfaction and self esteem increase which in turn lead to better quality of work – all setting you up for that one big ambitious goal that you will achieve.
So what are the rules to setting realistic goals? Here are four to think about:
#1 Think tangible goals with real action
Don’t set goals like “I want to be smarter and richer.” These are extremely vague (how smart, how rich?). Instead, it is important to be specific about your goals so that there is something real you can work towards. Like wanting to improve a certain skill in which you can sign up for a course or build a larger network where you can then join more networking events. In short, your goals should be achievable.
#2 Start with small but effective goals
You don’t have to give yourself an uphill challenge in meeting your goal; start small so that you feel more confident and encouraged to take on the bigger goals. But make sure these goals are just as effective for your career, like updating your online job profile or keeping an organised desk so that you can concentrate better at work. Remember, every little bit counts towards your career success.
#3 Set goals that matter now
What is the immediate result you want for your career and not something you hope to gain five years down the road? The answer to that will help you set your realistic goal. Want your boss to notice you more? Then put in action the goals that will make that happen now like being more proactive in meetings and volunteering for projects.
#4 Be committed
Another plus point for realistic goals – you can actually be committed to it quite easily. That’s because it is something that is achievable and you’re likely to know exactly what needs to be done to attain it. But no matter how realistic and easy your goal is, without some level of commitment on your end, there’s no way you’ll achieve anything.
So set that goal, work out the action to achieve it, and be committed!
Need some realistic goals to get started with? Here are some examples:
- Earn a professional certificate. Your job may require some upskilling or further education to be better at it. You can easily sign up for courses to achieve this.
- Improve your communication skills. Don’t like speaking in public but want to do something about it? Sign up for courses, join Toastmasters, volunteer to present more.
- Be on time for everything. Easy – set your watch 10 to 15 minutes early! Also, make it commitment to respect deadlines.
- Do things that challenge you. Time to talk to the boss for bigger roles or projects to take on.
Photo by S O C I A L . C U T on Unsplash