Setting Goals to Set a Career Path
I was coaching a young man recently considering his career options. He works in finance, has an MBA, and is trying to figure out whether he should wait for the next leadership promotion at his current job, or pursue the certifications he’s had on his mind for sometime.
We went back and forth, weighing the benefits and setbacks of each decision, when it became clear that pursuing his certifications while he waited for the next leadership position would be ideal in his case. This decision came about because he was already serving in a supervisory role, and it’s been two years since he graduated school. It was determined by this information that it was time for him to prepare for whatever certifications that would help his career in the long term.
I thought all was said and done until this young man started debating the struggle of going back to school to qualify for the certifications and how hard he worked to pursue his MBA and whether he was up to another round of coursework, testing, and writing papers. In other words, we ended up at square one where he was still unsure which path to choose.
So I advised him to take some time out of his schedule this week to sit down and come up with a plan. He was tasked with the job of examining where he was right now and where he would like to see himself in five years. He replied exactly as I expected him to – with a groan.
I get that a lot from my clients when we discuss goal setting. It’s not because the task is a bad idea, but because most people find the process a burden. What they don’t know is that they’re just afraid to look into the future, most likely because they may not like what they see or because they don’t want to accept the work that must be done to arrive at where they want to be.
So I tell them this story: when I applied to pursue my undergraduate degree, I wasn’t sure what to major in. First, I considered nursing, but I’m a bit squeamish about cleaning other people, so that wasn’t an option. Then I considered forensic science since I enjoyed all the crime mysteries that one was exposed to on television (at the time). Neither career felt right for me. I finally visited the career services department at my university and was advised to sit down at my desk, and with a pen and paper, to randomly jot down whatever skills and experiences I had obtained to that point. There was no need to write sentences, or think for too long, or consider anything but what I’ve done with my career up to that point. I took a day off, sat at my kitchen table and did just that. After reviewing my list, I realized that accounting and business degrees was the way to go. Fast forward a few years down the line, I am now working as a workforce and economic development specialist where I help clients become financially secure and plan the course of their careers.
Did I ever think I’d get to this point? Absolutely not. Had I been told in the past to pursue economics or workforce development at any time in my life, I would have probably laughed. But I took things one step at a time after completing that activity. After realizing that accounting would be the best career direction to take, I completed a BS in accounting, then immediately pursued an MBA, then decided to launch my own consultation job to teach women to own their financial futures, which eventually led to working with job creation and getting people out of poverty. Turns out this is where I was meant to be all along.
Granted, creating goals is not fun. There’s always the fear of not meeting those goals, or having your chosen path randomly hit with a curve ball that sets all your hard work and planning off course. But nothing is written in stone. As these challenges arise, it’s okay to readjust your goals so that eventually you, too, end up where you’re meant to be.