Do you need career goals or are they a waste of time?

track-mistI saw this article  saying career goals are a waste of time, while it was written from the point of view of someone with a job, I think it does hold some truths.

First it really depends on the type of person you are whether you are motivated by goals at all.

If you regularly set yourself targets and deadlines and never stick to them, (diets and exam revision spring to mind at this time of year) then perhaps this is not what your mind needs to motivate it. For some people having a goal is too rigid they need to keep options open.

Is your goal possible to achieve?

Giving yourself an impossible or improbable goal just makes it easy to give up on or fail.   We have all seen celebrities achieve ridiculous bikini bodies in 3 weeks – but just ask their personal trainers what they had to do to achieve it. Most of us mere mortals don’t have the time and money!

If you are a current student maybe your goal is to get some experience this summer or find a job when you graduate?  When you put it this way it doesn’t seem too unreasonable but add in other people’s expectations and misinformation about what you need to do and when and it starts looking much harder.

Students often come to us saying I must get an internship, or I need to find a job in the next 3 weeks. After a little unpacking of the issues it’s usually not quite so black and white. There are plenty of great opportunities for work experience that are not called internships and they tend to be advertised all year round.

Why not ask people with more experience what is reasonable to achieve with what level of effort.

Do you need a career goal?

As ever it depends; on what you want to achieve and if you have a clear idea of what that will take.  If you are on a vocational career path – law, engineering, teaching, etc then there are some clear milestones to achieve your goal. BUT sometimes even then the how and the when can differ for individuals.

If you are making your own goals… I want to be a XXX or earning £££ by the time I’m 25. Ask yourself a few questions:  What exactly are you basing this on?
How firmly held is this goal?  Have you researched it?
What have you done so far to achieve it?
Have you set milestones and decision points where you can reassess and change direction if needed? 

It’s perfectly fine not to know what you want to do in some dim and distant future, indeed it allows for a great deal of flexibility which can be a very useful thing.  Many people take opportunities as they come along, follow a path for a while and then change direction. The reasons for taking those decisions at those points may be due to personal circumstances or simply taking advantage of an opportunity. Serendipity!

Make the most of now

To make sure you are ready to make a plan or seize an opportunity:

  • Know yourself – what are you good at and what motivates you
  • Know your skills and where the gaps are.
  • Get out and try new activities to challenge yourself
  • Take opportunities to meet new people and build relationships
  • Explore ideas and options

You don’t have to commit to anything right now, just be ready to try things out if they come up.

For more about career planning or not planning read our guide

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