Many years ago, while attending High School in the city of Lagos, a junior student asked me a pertinent question. “Senior Segun, when you are through with high school, what next?” I paused for a while then answered. “I plan to study engineering at the university and become a chemical engineer.”
In that moment, I had unconsciously set an educational goal for myself. The big dream I had in mind was that one day, I too would be dressed in my safety overall and boots, standing on an oil rig and enjoying my dream job. Little did I know; it was just a dream. There was something else wired into my personality, awaiting expression.
With the benefit of hindsight, I can smile knowing that I achieved the first part of the goal with a Bachelor’s degree in Chemical Engineering while the other part, which was to become an engineer (on the oil rig and all), has been replaced! Now I am in the ‘human-rig’ of human resources. Why the personal tale you might ask? Stay with me…
I believe the above scenario is something many can relate to. How many times have you dreamed of doing something when you get to a certain stage in your life only to wind up with a completely different story? The stage is set for a repeat as a New Year approaches. In few days, 2016 will be replete with resolutions from all and sundry.
But as we know it, every endeavour in life starts with an intention or fragment of thoughts. Once nurtured, they form ideas which become dreams, and goals are then set for actualization. This implies the importance of goal setting in life – it gives us a glimpse of the future. One can also safely say that you cannot feature in a future you do not picture. As simple as this illustration is in human living, so is it in the career management process.
As we anticipate the New Year, permit me to ask a few questions – do you have a current career plan? Is your career plan broken into short, medium and long term? If you do have a career plan, is it just a mental picture or is it written? If you are like most people, your answer to at least one of the above questions is “No”. When you do not have a clear career plan, broken into goal stages of actualization, there is no way you can identify when you get to your ‘dream’ career destination. Thus, the onus is on you to take charge and manage your career.
Many pay lip-service to the goal setting process and they go about it the wrong way. This is the very reason, many people feel as if they’re adrift in the world. They work hard, but they don’t seem to get anywhere worthwhile. A key reason that they feel this way is that they haven’t spent enough time thinking about what they want from life, and haven’t set themselves formal goals. After all, would you set out on a major journey with no real idea of your destination? Probably not!
As you make career plans for the New Year, in order for you to get the goal setting process right and to at best increase your chances of success, please take to heart the following useful tips below:
- The place to start your career planning is from the point of defining your ‘life goal’ – what you want to achieve in your lifetime (or at least, by a significant and distant age in the future). Setting lifetime goals gives you the overall perspective, the big picture, which shapes all other aspects of your decision making in life including your career, family, financial, spiritual, social etc. Your career goal should not be set in isolation of your ‘life goal’, if you do otherwise, you are planning to fail!
- Once you have set your ‘life goals’, go ahead to break them into progressively smaller goals, as your ‘life goals’ serve as the long-term goal (say 10-15 years). The other dimensions of the goal are medium-term (say 5-10 years) and short-term (say 1-5 years). These are usually set to make the achievement of your lifetime plan feasible. In setting these goals, make them SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-bound).
- Next create an operational goal plan which should state immediate wins – which covers a one-year milestone plan, six-month milestone plan, and a one-month milestone plan, each of these should be based on the previous plan.
Many start their goal setting from the operational plan and feel that they can achieve a big picture goal they have failed to define. As Benjamin Franklin aptly said, “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail!” Start you planning today, and work towards implementing your goals. I wish you great success!
*This article was first featured in The Start-Up Digest column of The Businessday Newspaper.