Career Development Goals

Do you have clear goals written down?  If not, start by identifying key insights and lessons by looking backwards.   How can you build more opportunity for “flow” (aka your mojo workplace zone) in your work life?

If you are unsatisfied in your career, you likely need a new career plan. It happens. As we age and grow professionally, our ideal job criteria can change dramatically. The same position or industry that excited us 10 years ago may look very different today. Our needs change, as do the skills required to be successful in the marketplace.

It’s important to get clear about what’s important to you in a dream job — consider your own skills, strengths, interests and needs, as well as things such as company or team size, growth opportunities, geographic location, job function and lifestyle considerations.

Though it’s easy to imagine, many people get stuck taking their dream past this point, as it often requires sacrifice, discipline, work and commitment. Reality can be sobering, but identifying the gap between where you are today and where you want to be is vital for developing a successful plan.

A career self-assessment is important, and many people will want to invest in outside expertise for this important step. Consider your experience, strengths and challenges. How do these match with those required to be successful in your dream job?

Your plan to address any identified deficiencies is frequently the difference (and key) between a dream and true professional achievement.

This year create goals that can help you prioritize your time and efforts. Research shows that goal setting can lead to improved performance. (In a famous Ivy League study of students, the 3 percent of those with written goals earned 10 times as much as the other 97 percent of classmates put together!) Choose carefully. A long list of goals can overwhelm, and having 10 priorities is like having none.

The “SMART” acronym can be useful for effective goal setting. Though there are many variations of the SMART goal setting process, these cover the basics:

  • Specific — What does success look like with this goal?
  • Measurable — How will I track my performance?
  • Achievable — Is this goal reasonable and realistic vs. “pie in the sky”?
  • Relevant — Would achieving this goal make a true difference? The goal should matter to you.
  • Time bound — What is your “by when” or time in the future by which you want to accomplish this goal?

I would add a “C” to the end of the “SMART” acronym to provide motivation and leverage; it can be powerful to imagine what it will be like to achieve your goal (or not!).

  • Consequence — What does achieving (or not achieving) your goal look like? Is it building your dream home, sending your kids to college or using your creative talents to better others’ lives? Whatever yours are — you need to get clear about them.

Consider, for example, the difference between a goal of “to be successful” and one of, “I will be in a director role of our company by June 2009, which will increase my salary by 25 percent and allow me to build our retirement home on Orcas Island.” The second goal is much more powerful, compelling and focused.

The difference between “pie in the sky” and achievement of goals is coming up with the specific action plan. Your action plan is your personal road map to success. What are the daily or weekly steps you need to take this year to meet your goal? For some it will include new job tasks to gain experience. For others it may be taking the necessary steps to achieve an advanced degree or conducting informational interviews with professionals in the targeted field. Be honest with yourself about what you can realistically accomplish in the coming year. Identify the “must dos” vs. the “would like to do” to achieve your goal. Remember to anticipate obstacles to success and build in your plan how you will overcome them!

The hard part comes next — actually doing the action steps required and staying on your path. To help, write down your goals, share them with others and use visual triggers that represent attainment of your goals that you can see every day (some use vision boards or screen-saver reminders). Remember to celebrate small successes as you go along, and to use temporary setbacks as learning opportunities vs. reasons to give up.

CNN’s Anderson Cooper was quoted (while covering the aftermath of hurricane Katrina) saying, “Hope is not a plan.” Successful plans require considerable thought process, commitment and effort — as well as having champions, coaches and allies that will help keep you on path and accountable.

Invest in yourself by hiring me as your career coach! I can help you learn, develop and grow your leadership and emotional intelligence abilities.  I coach professionals all over the world via Skype.  Call me:  360 682 5807 or email:

Goal Setting

Goal setting is a smart practice for all workplace professionals. Setting goals can help provide focus, order, direction and inspiration to your work life.

Start by reviewing the past. Take a look in the rearview mirror during the past year. What are you most proud of accomplishing? What did you learn? Identify any workplace disappointments: What didn’t you accomplish? How did you get in your own way? This is an important exercise because what we are unconscious about can rule us.

As an executive and leadership development coach, I have suggested (and gleaned from clients) many workplace resolutions designed to increase leadership and the health and performance of teams and organizations. Here are a few to consider:

  1. Become an extraordinary listener. Listen more than you speak. Everyone has heard the old saying, we have two ears and one mouth, so use them proportionately, but few heed this advice. I have never heard a leader criticized for listening too much — only too little. It’s difficult to get input (and therefore buy-in and commitment) when you are in “tell” mode.
  2. Put time aside each day for reflection, planning and prioritization. Franklin Covey suggests starting each day with a 15-minute check-in identifying your priority tasks vs. items that would be nice to get done today. Knock out your priority tasks first. This will help you stay focused rather than frantic and in “firefighting” mode each day.
  3. Establish a procedure to capture ongoing learnings, such as a debrief or postmortem following projects, meetings or presentations. Keep asking two questions: What can I (we) learn from this experience? How can I (we) improve this next time?
  4. Keep adding to your skills and workplace tool bag. Learning something new will keep you engaged and interested. Being a lifetime learner will be essential to thriving in this new world economy. Read books, take courses, trainings, etc., that help you further develop your workplace skills. Wise organizations will invest in further training and development of their most valuable asset — their people.
  5. Find a mentor or coach. This should be someone you can confide in, learn from and who will model best practice for you (someone with the necessary time and energy to partner with you). Professional coaches provide a confidential third-party, nonbiased perspective; they can help guide, challenge and support you in becoming the best you can be this year.
  6. Don’t try to do it all. Delegate more. Help those under you grow by giving them opportunity (and lighten your own load for your work/life balance). When delegating, do so with clear parameters of freedom (like budget, time, etc.), specify what success looks like and provide necessary resources. Consider outsourcing if necessary instead of asking you or your people to give up personal lives.
  7. Do a reality check. Find out how you are perceived by others. Inquire and be curious (not defensive) about how your actions and words affect your co-workers. Take a 360-degree feedback survey (a multirater review that gives you feedback from all around you: boss, clients, co-workers and direct reports).
  8. Increase your self-awareness. Not knowing what we don’t know can be a killer. (How many times have we heard, “I never saw that coming!”) Identifying your behavior patterns under conflict, stress or when challenged can be enlightening. Do you point fingers at others or take personal responsibility? Do you give away your personal authority or approach challenges collaboratively, calmly and openly? Dysfunctional emotional intelligence patterns can stall a career. I equate leadership development ultimately to self-development. It’s a worthwhile journey.
  9. Get in touch with your inner authentic voice. Sometimes it’s hard to even hear our own voices due to the “noise” of others, the “shoulds” or outside pressures. Find some quiet time to reflect on what matters to you. Think about the big life questions: what are your values, your purpose, why are you here and what do you want to accomplish?
  10. What is your career vision for the next 5 and ten years? What do you want to create? Write it down, along with your plan. Research demonstrates that the act of writing down goals is powerful.

The challenge for most people, of course, is sticking to their goals. Whatever your goals, keep them to a manageable and a realistic number of goals. To increase the likelihood you will keep yours, find a coach or support person to help you keep focus and accountable for what you want to achieve.

Invest in yourself by hiring me as your career coach! I can help you learn, develop and grow your leadership and emotional intelligence abilities.  I coach professionals all over the world via Skype.  Call me:  360 682 5807 or email: