Career Goals: How Important Are They?


How many people have clearly defined career goals? Unfortunately the answer to that question is not many at all! Do you have clearly defined career goals that you review regularly? If your answers to these questions are no, you should really consider taking the time to clearly define your career goals. Career goals are critical because they act as a destination for our professional lives. Think about it this way, when you get into your car to drive somewhere, do you have a selected destination or do you just start driving nowhere? Of course you have a destination or at least I hope you do! Now if you are familiar with the area you are driving towards, it will be easier to get there, but even if you haven’t been there before, as long as you have an address you’ll find a way to get there (GPS, Google Maps,etc.). How can you get where you’re going if you don’t know where you want to go?????

In order to set clearly defined goals, start by asking yourself a few open ended questions just to get the creative juices flowing:

-Where am I going?
-Why am I going there?
-How can I get there?

When answering these questions, do so in a brainstorming format where you sit down with a blank sheet of paper and write any and all responses to these questions that pop into your head. Whether it is full sentences, phrases, or even just words, write everything down. Use the results of this activity to list your primary long term career goals.

Once you have this list, the next step should be visualizing these goals. Doing what? Yes visualizing them. This is an extremely important step in helping you to achieve your goals. When you visualize a goal you should make the visualization as clear and detailed as possible. For example, let’s say my goal is to become president of the company that I work for. I would visualize what my office will look like, a corner office on the 10th floor with a view of the city. I will have a nice big desk, comfortable chair and a separate meeting table with 4 chairs. I will visualize myself meeting with my Executive team at this conference table in my office.

Do you see what I am doing here? I am painting a picture of the end result of my goal which is only going to increase the chances of me reaching those goals. In essence you are already there in your mind, now you will do what you have to do be there in reality. I know sometimes from a corporate perspective this may sound like a waste of time, but this is such an important step that should not be overlooked. When in doubt, remember thoughts become things!

Now that you have clearly defined long term goals, it’s time to develop your short term goals that will provide you with stepping stones to your long term goals that you have envisioned. Utilize the following process or whichever parts of it are most useful for you in planning out your career goals:

– Define the goal being as specific as possible,
– List the benefits you will enjoy from achieving the goal – really explore this one and describe the benefits in detail as the more benefits, the more motivation for you to achieve the goal,
– List some action steps that you will need to take to achieve the goal (i.e. if your goal was to get your Professional Engineer’s License, one step may be to sign up for a review course or purchase a study guide),
– Attach a time deadline to the goal, is it a one year goal, two year goal, 5 year goal? From time to time check in and see if you are on pace to meet your deadlines, if not you may need to adjust your deadline, but don’t just keep pushing them off. If you find that you are continually pushing this goal off, ask yourself on a scale of 1 to 10, how important is it for you to achieve this goal?
– List the names of anyone that you think you may need assistance from in reaching that specific goal and then contact and utilize these resources in however they might help you.

Now that you have a list of your clearly defined goals it’ a good idea to prioritize them as you see fit. The last thing you should do is once you reached one of your goal deadlines, review your progress. So, one year from now review the progress of your one year goals. If you have achieved some or all of them, celebrate! No seriously, treat yourself to a night out or a weekend away as you have worked hard to set and achieve the goal and you should take the time to appreciate it. If there are goals you have not reached, ask yourself, “What is holding me back from reaching this goal?” Another way to look at it is to review what some of the key steps you took in achieving your other goals and try to apply the same principles to goals that you have yet to achieve.

The above is an excerpt from my full Career-Biz Booster Program E-report.

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Anthony Fasano, PE, LEED AP
The Engineering Career Coach
Author of Engineer Your Own Success
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  • Richard Grow

    Career goals are important since they not only define who we are occupationally, but also how we manage and carry out our career lives. I would admit that I always wanted to be an architect way back when I was a little kid. But during the course of my life, changes came along like college, what went on during those years that caused me to drift away from architecture, then what I did in my first job afterward was totally different than wanted I really wanted to do. But I always had the strong will to step up and change the direction of my career my way. If I had not done that, my career would have been controlled by others who helped me make decisions about my career goals that I would not like. When I joined the work force for the first time, I started out as a systems engineer involved with structures. Then moved over to bridge structures and highway design, then moved over to building design (light construction), then moved over to building design (heavy construction) plus industrial. In spite of a bad economy originating from the housing bust in California, I managed to move to the East Coast for better opportunities because of what I believed in–my current career state turned out quite nice–happier, more creative, and more satisfied.

    The point I’m making is that anyone who wants to meet their career goals needs to take risks, no matter how big or small, resist any criticism given by others along the way, not subscribe much to economic behaviors that adversely affect the industry you work in. Managing a career is just lie running a business or making a long term investment. Just because the economy sucks doesn’t mean that architecture is dead or there’s no more buildings and facilities to be built. I may still not be an architect, but ever since I left caltrans in 2006 going back to private sector, I ended up working with architects as clients and they sure enjoyed my expertise–that virtue that instills the way I carry out my career each working day.

    • Anthony Fasano

      Awesome comment Richard, I agree that you have to some times take risks and while others advice can be good at times, if the advice is against your passion, following your passion will ensure your job is always enjoyable.

      I love this quote by Earl Nightingale, which is in line with may of your thoughts Richard:

      The biggest mistake that you can make is to believe that you are working for somebody else. Job security is gone. The driving force of a career must come from the individual. Remember: Jobs are owned by the company, you own your career!

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  • Anthony Fasano

    Thanks a lot Dean! Comment as you wish, we love getting good discussions started!

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