Careers need goals much like how journeys need destinations: If you have an awesome destination in mind for yourself, getting there will need a bit of planning. After all, most Malaysians spend about eight hours a day at work; you might as well put those hours to good use and work your way towards a goal! Also, if you don’t set a destination, your journey might just get derailed, and nobody wants to end up lost in a (career) wasteland. Here’s how to avoid saying phrases like “If only I could start over,” and “Where am I?” in relation to your career, 20 years down the road.
Start with the end
It’s time to start sticking wish pins on your career map: Pinpoint what you want to achieve and/or what you want to be. It could be conceptual like “I want to help people,” or it could be specific like “I want to be the CEO of XYZ Bank,” as long as you have a general direction in which to head. Of course, along the way you need to set smaller, short-term goals that you can achieve on your path to success so you will know you’re on track and not get discouraged halfway. Short-term wins are crucial to long-term success!
Creating long-term and short-term goals
When trying to think up a long-time goal, it helps to really ask yourself a few questions, like “What do I want out of my career?” and “What do I love doing?”
The answers that result, like “I want to have a career where I get to travel to exotic places” and “I love meeting new people and trying new things” could help you conceptualise a goal, or destination. In this case, one possible career path could lie in the travel industry. From there, you can add details (“I want to make at least RM100,000 per annum!”) and specific jobs, and your career goal would be complete. Dream big, but be realistic. Dreams of being the CEO of your own public-listed company are great; dreams of being a world-class gymnast next year when you can’t even touch your toes now will just set you up for disappointment.
When figuring out some short-term goals, ask yourself questions like “How do I become a CEO? What do I need to learn?” What you need to learn will tell you where you need to go and what you need to do, be it getting that Master’s Degree you have been putting off or getting to a managerial position in another two years to learn some leadership skills
Speaking of two years, setting a time frame for your career goals will go a long way in helping you keep on track. Not only should you set a time frame for your long-term goal but for your short-term goals as well! Be specific and disciplined (we all know it’s all too easy to lose focus when the initial gung-ho fire dies down a little) and you should stay on track with minimal difficulty. It helps to keep your goals and their accompanying due dates somewhere in plain sight so you don’t forget. Some people suggest sticking them to the bathroom mirror to get you fired up and motivated first thing in the morning, but it’s really up to you where you want to stick them. Just make sure you can see them everyday!
Keep it real
As earlier mentioned, keep your goals realistic! There’s a fine line between a grand dream and an impossible one. While it’s admirable and inspiring to read about people who do crazy things and succeed beyond their wildest dreams, their successes are usually proportionate to their efforts. If you aren’t planning to spend hours of each day struggling against the odds, don’t stick “Ironman” on that bathroom mirror! Make sure your goals are consistent with your abilities. Of course, stretching yourself a little to meet goals helps you grow as a person, but try to keep it within reason so you can enjoy a fulfilling life while reaping the rewards of your success.
Some inward reflection on your own abilities, likes and dislikes, as well as personality will do you a world of good when you’re about to embark on your career. Be as honest with yourself as possible; there’s no point sugar-coating yourself when real life will soon strip the coat off. If you’re a bad actor, you’re a bad actor. However, you could also be a financial whizz! In that case your path could deviate from auditioning rooms to the inner sanctums of the biggest financial institutions in the world. Work with what you have and expand on it.
There’s no wrong time to start mapping out your career and planning your goals: You could be already halfway up the career ladder and feeling slightly lost, and you could still be in secondary school wondering what stream to take in Form Four. In matters like your career, it helps to consult other people but not to take their comments too much to heart. At the end of the day, it’s YOUR career and you should know what you want better than anybody else!
Lim May Lee wants everybody to grab their dreams and hit the ground running! You can email her at email@example.com