Ever decide you were going to start exercising or write a novel, only to find a whole year went by and it didn’t happen? Lots of people go through this same process with their careers. They decide they want to be a plant manager or change careers but never make any progress. The real key to steady advancement or even a career change is setting long-term goals. So, how do you go about doing that?
Ask Yourself Some Hard Question
Setting long-term goals can’t be based on some vague notion about getting ahead. You must know what kind of job you want and what position you want to hold. That means asking questions like:
- What are my real interests?
- Do I want to keep working in my current field?
- Do I think I’d be happier doing something else and, if so, what?
- Can I commit the time, effort or money involved in changing careers?
Only after you answer these kinds of questions can you begin the process of setting those long-term goals.
Takeaway: Be brutally honest with yourself as you think about these questions.
Get Serious About the Details
Getting ahead almost always means expanding on your current skills and knowledge. This may mean self-directed learning online or going back to school. Talk with people in the field and ask what qualifications and skills you need to move into the job or position you want. Do some research and write down each qualification and skill, as well as how long it’ll take to get them.
Takeaway: Take your time and make sure you find out everything you can. While you might get a pass on one or two small skills, you don’t want to skip a big one.
Write It All Down in a Formal Plan
Once you decide what job you want and find out what you need to do get the job, it’s time to set those long-term goals. As a rule, assume you’ll need 3-5 years to meet them. Start by listing the necessary education you need and include realistic times to get that education. Don’t hedge on the time, be precise. The upside of putting everything down on paper is it helps add a sense of priority to the process. After that, you must act on each step, in order. Review your plan every few months and mark down your progress.
Takeaway: The formal plan adds structure and accountability.
Setting long-term goals is all about defining what you want in clear terms. Once you know what you want, you can find out what it takes to make that happen in terms of skills and qualifications. With that information in hand, you create a plan for learning each skill and getting each qualification. After that, it’s on you to take action.
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