Former GB cyclist Victoria Pendleton is all too familiar with trying to manage life after cycling, even after a stint on Strictly Come Dancing! Reflecting on life after retirement, she said,
'It's hard without goals..…... I couldn't see what the point was, where was the purpose in my life.'
Is life really hard without goals? If I'm honest, it can be liberating to not be chasing targets all the time and then setting new ones as soon as a goal is reached. In my opinion we all need a period of time in that comfort zone of relaxation, reflection and enjoying the achievement of reaching a goal. However there comes a time where in order to be effective, we need a target to aim for - something that will challenge and stretch us. This definitely applies to our career. Without career goals we drift, going through the motions, never knowing if we are truly bring out the best in ourselves.
If you look at anyone you know who is successful in their career (and I'll leave it to you to define success) you can guarantee that they have had goals on their journey.
If you're in a job you hate, you've been forced out of a job you love, or even if you're happy with your job but things have gone a bit stale recently, goals are vital to rejuvenate your career.
But how do you set effective goals?
Your may already be familiar with the acronym 'SMART', but I like to add a vital 'I' to the end. Let's take a look at SMARTI goals from the beginning:
Specific - It's not enough to say that you want a new, fulfilling job. Doesn't everyone? What would this new job look like to you? You may not know of a specific job title at this stage, but you can start by identifying the skills you want to use, the values you want to express and possibly the sector, the hours, the maximum distance from home etc.
You may not get all of your personal criteria but it's important to have a target rather than using the scattergun approach of applying for anything and everything. In addition, the more specific you are the more recruiters can help you.
Measurable – for all goals you need to know how you would answer the question 'how will you know when you have achieved it?' If you simply want to be happy in a good job, how would you measure your happiness? Perhaps you can have your own scale of career satisfaction, where 10/10 is the perfect career you need to know what that 10/10 look like to you. Then what would a 9, 8 or 7 look like? If you're currently on, say a 4, you could have a target of 7 or 8. If that seems to complex, you could even measure it in terms of how well you sleep on a Sunday night!
Achieveable – your goal needs to be within your control and influence. There may be other factors to consider such as family commitments and resources such as time and money, some of which may not be within your control. However, the term achievable does not mean you should not dream big. You will hear voices, even from loved ones, who will say 'it can't be done', 'stick to what you know' or 'be realistic'. I'm sure that Victoria Pendleton heard these words on her way to Olympic Gold. Such comments need to be challenged. That's why it's also important to look for examples of people who have achieved despite adversity.
Relevant – your goals need to be in line with your own personal values. For your goal, ask yourself 'why is this goal important to me?' Firstly, the goal must be your goal. It sounds silly, but it must be something you want for yourself, and not a goal to please others such as parents, teachers or a partner. If the goal isn't really about you, you won't be motivated to achieve it when things get tough.
Time bound – Napoleon Hill said that a goal is a dream with a date. So when do you want to achieve it by? Again, you may not be in control of the exact time you walk into a dream job, but it's vital to have a target date in mind (better still, written down). Otherwise there will be the temptation to procrastinate.
Athletes will have a target of what they want to achieve at the next World Championships or Olympics. They'll know the exact dates of their events and will be working towards it. You can do the same. Yes, things may get in the way which mean that dates or even the goal itself need to change, but the beauty of goals is that they're not set in stone.
Inspiring – Finally, great goals are inspiring goals. When you look at your goal it needs to excite and motivate you. You won't be driven to achieve a goal that's boring. You need to be excited about the potential for the next stage in your career, even if you loved what you used to do. When you imagine yourself living out your goal, it needs to get you energised. During the tough times, the relevance and excitement of your goal will get you through.
For me, life is hard without goals. However, it's all very well having a goal, but what if you don't know what goal to set in the first place? If you need help with identifying an exciting pathway for your career, please contact me so we can discuss your needs and see how I can help.