Focusing In On Your Career Goals

If you’re in pursuit of your dream job, but not quite sure how to get there, Ella Patenall has put together some great, practical tips you can use to motivate yourself and reach your goals.

There’s a limitless amount of advice out there about how to put your goals into action. And that’s great, if you know what your goals are. For many of us, though, that’s not so clear. As much as lifestyle gurus tell us we should be working at the thing we love, many people are working for the money. Money that pays the bills and gives us the chance to do the things we enjoy.

So, if you haven’t found the thing that you really love to do, yet, how do you start? If the answer to the question, ‘Where do you see yourself in five years?’ is, ‘uh…dunno?’, how can you get some clarity?

Find your goals

There’s a meme with some great advice floating out there on the internet. It’s something along the lines of, ‘Make a list of what you do. Make a list of what you love. Compare. Adjust accordingly.’ While that might be a bit of an over-simplification (are there many well-paid roles as a work-from-home pizza taster?), the idea still has some merit.

What about your job? Do you enjoy it and if not, what do you think you would enjoy? Do you enjoy chatting with customers? Are you happiest when you’ve created a color-coordinated spreadsheet? Do you like getting out of the office, or staying in one place? Now do the same for the things you don’t like.

If you’re not a lists person, then doing something like a vision board can be useful. They’re easy to create, and there are some online versions if you don’t want to do it old-school. You simply find images, quotes or small objects that capture the things you want in your life and put them together in a collage.

Hopefully, by the end of this self-reflection you’ll either know you need to make a career change, or what you need to have happen in your current role to make you happy. Once you know what you want, it’s time to make some plans.


When people talk about goals, they talk about SMART goals. SMART stands for:

  • Specific – not a fluffy, ‘I want to be rich,’ goal but, ‘I want to transfer into HR’.

  • Measurable – how will you know when you’ve achieved it?

  • Achievable – ‘I want to live forever!’ is probably not on this list.

  • Relevant – It will help you on your way to the life you want.

  • Time-bound – There’s an end date. You’re not going to procrastinate.

Goals then get broken down into actions. What do you need to do to make that goal successful? Is there some training you need? Are there relationships that you need to work on? How can you, the person you are now, become the person you want to be?

There are all sorts of planners out there that can help you to stay on track with your goals. Have a look around and find what works for you, whether that be a pre-made journal or using Ryder Carrol’s Bullet Journaling technique.

Live It

This is partly, ‘fake it ‘til you make it,’ and partly walking the talk. This idea is best encapsulated in the advice, ‘Make the decisions the person you want to be would make.’ That’s a deceptively simple idea that can be really transformational. If you want to lose weight, and someone offers you a second slice of cheesecake, think, ‘Would skinny me eat that?’ If you get offered the chance to deliver a big presentation, take it if the you in your ideal role would.

The point is that you commit to your goals. Find a way to help you to keep them clear in your mind all the time. You might want to keep your vision board where you can see it. Or create a play list filled with empowering songs, to get your head in the right pace. Some people find affirmations really useful, that’s looking at yourself in the mirror and saying something assertively, ‘I am ready for the next stage in my career.’

Keep yourself on track by following inspirational people. Are there thought leaders in your field who you’d like to emulate? Is there a company or consultant in the field you’d like to break into? Get them on your Twitter feed, follow their Instagram, watch their YouTube content. Podcasts are another great way to build your knowledge and ideas, and you can do it while commuting.

Climb the Rungs

Your career ladder goes from here to where you want to be (your goals). Every run that you climb (your actions) gets you closer. There may be times when you have to stay where you are for a while, or even take a step back. That’s all fine. Just keep your eyes on the top and commit to getting there.

(Source: Ella Paternall, CareerLadder)

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