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How To Find That Key Person That Can Help You Progress in Your Career?

How To Find That Key Person That Can Help You Progress in Your Career?

From the moment we enter this world, we rely on others for guidance. Our parents look after us, teach us how to make decisions, and face challenges. In school, we look to our teachers to help us learn and define our futures. What happens when we leave those formal settings and set out for work in the real world?

We’re so accustomed to having a constant source of feedback, that it can be a shock to step into a professional setting where we’re on our own. Even though we may have graduated to the next step on our career path, we still need guidance.

For the first time in your life, you feel like you’re on your own.

Being new to a career is tough. If you feel like you can hardly keep your head above water, you aren’t alone. One study suggests that one third of new employees quit their jobs within the first six months.[1] Even teachers, the very mentors we crave, have terrible retention rates–somewhere between 17 and 46 percent of them quit within the first five years.[2]

This common thread of job dissatisfaction that runs across many fields is due to a lack of coaching and feedback.[3] For many of us, taking a job is the first time that we don’t have someone guiding us. Suddenly there’s nobody to give us feedback, and the feedback that we do receive is mostly to tell us when we’ve done something incorrectly.

Why you should find a mentor to help your career progress.

Their expertise is invaluable.

Your mentor will have an understanding of the work that you do. They may be a few steps ahead of you on the corporate ladder, or they have worked the job longer. They are usually keenly aware of the internal workings of your place of employment.

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A first year teacher would benefit from partnering with a veteran teacher. The veteran teacher knows how to maximize class time, but they also know the community and the nuances of the school’s culture.

Mentors can offer you guidance about the skills and knowledge you need to be successful.

Many of the struggles that arise for rookies come from differences in education and a lack of understanding about their organization. Mentors can offer guidance about development opportunities that you can take to shore up any weaknesses.

A new educator arrives at their first teaching job with a teaching degree, but they may be teaching in an environment that is different from the places where they learned and student-taught. A mentor might suggest that they take a multi-cultural education class or offer information about customs that are unique to that school’s community.

They can provide constructive feedback.

Your mentor will tell you when you’ve made a mistake, but they’ll also help you come up with strategies for improvement. Nobody likes to fail, but when we are taking risks and trying to move along in our career path, we are bound to make a few blunders. As long as we learn from our mistakes, they can be a valuable part of the learning process.

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Perhaps you just gave your first presentation at work. Your leaders were not impressed with your talk. Your mentor noticed that you were fidgeting, using filler words, and mumbling throughout the talk. They may offer advice on how to exude confidence, and they may agree to go over your next presentation with you so that you don’t make the same mistakes twice.

They can see the big picture.

Since your mentor has been around for a while, they’ll have a broader perspective about the state of your organization or field. They’ve survived the upswings and downturns, and most of them are happy to keep others from making the same mistakes they made.

You’ve noticed that things are tense around the office. Your coworkers seem grumpy, and the stress is beginning to wear on you. Your mentor is the person who tells you what nobody else wants to talk about: a group of senior employees is going through a serious contract renegotiation. People are worried about keeping their jobs. Armed with this knowledge, you may be able to view your colleagues with compassion instead of disdain.

Instead of drowning in insecurities and uncertainties, look to others for guidance. Finding that one person who believes in your abilities can be the difference between moving along on your career path or starting over.

What’s in it for the mentor?

Finding a mentor can seem like a daunting task, but you are probably surrounded by potential coaches. Since mentoring involves time and energy on the part of mentors, they are only going to want to invest these valuable assets in mentees who show promise.[4] A mentor may agree to work with you if they see that you are a driven and capable worker.

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We’re all new to our jobs at some point, and the veterans among us know how that feels. Perhaps they feel a desire to give back to others after someone helped them.

Guiding rookie employees is an excellent way for mentor to advance in their own career. When their guidance contributes to your success, they are able to demonstrate their capacity as a leader. They can also delegate some tasks to you to free them up to work on bigger projects. To the experienced mentor, the tasks they are asking you to do are a real time-sink, but for the new employee, that type of work may be the training that you need to continue on your career path.

Where you can look for guidance

Good guidance can come from almost anyone in your organization or field. A formal mentoring relationship that develops organically over time is ideal, but there are also informal ways that you can find additional help.[5]

1. Speak up and voice your thoughts. The first step to finding a mentor is to show that you are engaged in the success of the organization. Giving voice to your ideas and concerns demonstrates that you take your work seriously.

2. Show your intentions by asking for feedback. Seeking constructive criticism will help you grow. Experienced colleagues will take notice of your desire for self-improvement when you ask for feedback. It is also much easier to mentor someone who clearly wants to improve.

3. Take Initiative. Going above and beyond in your assigned duties is another way to show potential mentors your motivation. No matter how minor your task is, execute it with a high level of care. Possible mentors will see a person who is capable of taking on bigger challenges. They’ll also be more likely to connect you with opportunities to advance your career.

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3. Take your peers as your mentors.[6] Coworkers doing the same job that you do may have a different approach. You could benefit from troubleshooting with them and emulating practices that make them effective. Even if you don’t adopt their methods, learning how to approach work in different ways can help you progress.

4. Observe people in higher-level positions. Whether or not you have a formal mentoring relationship with someone at a later stage in your career path, you can still pay attention to the way they work. The manner in which they organize their time, speak, dress, and interact with others can offer you clues about what you need to do to reach their level.

5. Take advantage of networking opportunities. When you go to conferences and professional development events, don’t be afraid to talk to people.[7] You might find your mentor, or at the very least, gain some insights into the industry.

6. Don’t underestimate the power of attending office social functions. You might strike up a conversation that helps you find someone to give you guidance.

Look for guidance to take control of your situation.

Richard Bransons and Elon Musks of the world didn’t become the successful people they are today without help. Even visionaries have moments when they aren’t sure what they are doing, and they have all been new to their jobs at some point. Finding a mentor (or several) can help you move from a position of uncertainty to a position of strength and confidence.

Featured photo credit: Original image by Gonzalo Martin. Modified by A. Phebus. via flickr.com

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Angelina Phebus

Writer, Yoga Instructor (RYT 200)

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Last Updated on March 25, 2020

How to Set Ambitious Career Goals (With Examples)

How to Set Ambitious Career Goals (With Examples)

Taking your work to the next level means setting and keeping career goals. A career goal is a targeted objective that explains what you want your ultimate profession to be.

Defining career goals is a critical step to achieving success. You need to know where you’re going in order to get there. Knowing what your career goals are isn’t just important for you–it’s important for potential employers too. The relationship between an employer and an employee works best when your goals for the future and their goals align. Saying, “Oh, I don’t know. I’ll do anything,” makes you seem indecisive, and opens you up to taking on ill-fitting tasks that won’t lead you to your dream life.

Career goal templates’ one-size-fits-all approach won’t consider your unique goals and experiences. They won’t help you stand out, and they may not reflect your full potential.

In this article, I’ll help you to define your career goals with SMART goal framework, and will provide you with a list of examples goals for work and career.

How to Define Your Career Goal with SMART

Instead of relying on a generalized framework to explain your vision, use a tried-and-true goal-setting model. SMART is an acronym for “Specific, Measurable, Action-oriented, Realistic with Timelines.”[1] The SMART framework demystifies goals by breaking them into smaller steps.

Helpful hints when setting SMART career goals:

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  • Start with short-term goals first. Work on your short-term goals, and then progress the long-term interests.[2] Short-term goals are those things which take 1-3 years to complete. Long-term goals take 3-5 years to do. As you succeed in your short-term goals, that success should feed into accomplishing your long-term goals.
  • Be specific, but don’t overdo it. You need to define your career goals, but if you make them too specific, then they become unattainable. Instead of saying, “I want to be the next CEO of Apple, where I’ll create a billion-dollar product,” try something like, “My goal is to be the CEO of a successful company.”
  • Get clear on how you’re going to reach your goals. You should be able to explain the actions you’ll take to advance your career. If you can’t explain the steps, then you need to break your goal down into more manageable chunks.
  • Don’t be self-centered. Your work should not only help you advance, but it should also support the goals of your employer. If your goals differ too much, then it might be a sign that the job you’ve taken isn’t a good fit.

If you want to learn more about setting SMART Goals, watch the video below to learn how you can set SMART career goals.

After you’re clear on how to set SMART goals, you can use this framework to tackle other aspects of your work. For instance, you might set SMART goals to improve your performance review, look for a new job, or shift your focus to a different career.

We’ll cover examples of ways to use SMART goals to meet short-term career goals in the next section.

Why You Need an Individual Development Plan

Setting goals is one part of the larger formula for success. You may know what you want to do, but you also have to figure out what skills you have, what you lack, and where your greatest strengths and weaknesses are.

One of the best ways to understand your capabilities is by using the Science Careers Individual Development Plan skills assessment. It’s free, and all you need to do is register an account and take a few assessments.

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These assessments will help you determine if your career goals are realistic. You’ll come away with a better understanding of your unique talents and skill-sets. You may decide to change some of your career goals or alter your timeline based on what you learn.

40 Examples of Goals for Work & Career

All this talk of goal-setting and self-assessment may sound great in theory, but perhaps you need some inspiration to figure out what your goals should be.

For Changing a Job

  1. Attend more networking events and make new contacts.
  2. Achieve a promotion to __________ position.
  3. Get a raise.
  4. Plan and take a vacation this year.
  5. Agree to take on new responsibilities.
  6. Develop meaningful relationships with your coworkers and clients.
  7. Ask for feedback on a regular basis.
  8. Learn how to say, “No,” when you are asked to take on too much.
  9. Delegate tasks that you no longer need to be responsible for.
  10. Strive to be in a leadership role in __ number of years.

For Switching Career Path

  1. Pick up and learn a new skill.
  2. Find a mentor.
  3. Become a volunteer in the field that interests you.
  4. Commit to getting training or going back to school.
  5. Read the most recent books related to your field.
  6. Decide whether you are happy with your work-life balance and make changes if necessary. [3]
  7. Plan what steps you need to take to change careers.[4]
  8. Compile a list of people who could be character references or submit recommendations.
  9. Commit to making __ number of new contacts in the field this year.
  10. Create a financial plan.

For Getting a Promotion

  1. Reduce business expenses by a certain percentage.
  2. Stop micromanaging your team members.
  3. Become a mentor.
  4. Brainstorm ways that you could improve your productivity and efficiency at work
  5. Seek a new training opportunity to address a weakness.[5]
  6. Find a way to organize your work space.[6]
  7. Seek feedback from a boss or trusted coworker every week/ month/ quarter.
  8. Become a better communicator.
  9. Find new ways to be a team player.
  10. Learn how to reduce work hours without compromising productivity.

For Acing a Job Interview

  1. Identify personal boundaries at work and know what you should do to make your day more productive and manageable.
  2. Identify steps to create a professional image for yourself.
  3. Go after the career of your dreams to find work that does not feel like a job.
  4. Look for a place to pursue your interest and apply your knowledge and skills.
  5. Find a new way to collaborate with experts in your field.
  6. Identify opportunities to observe others working in the career you want.
  7. Become more creative and break out of your comfort zone.
  8. Ask to be trained more relevant skills for your work.
  9. Ask for opportunities to explore the field and widen your horizon
  10. Set your eye on a specific award at work and go for it.

Career Goal Setting FAQs

I’m sure you still have some questions about setting your own career goals, so here I’m listing out the most commonly asked questions about career goals.

1. What if I’m not sure what I want my career to be?

If you’re uncertain, be honest about it. Let the employer know as much as you know about what you want to do. Express your willingness to use your strengths to contribute to the company. When you take this approach, back up your claim with some examples.

If you’re not even sure where to begin with your career, check out this guide:

How to Find Your Ideal Career Path Without Wasting Time on Jobs Not Suitable for You

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2. Is it okay to lie about my career goals?

Lying to potential employers is bound to end in disaster. In the interview, a lie can make you look foolish because you won’t know how to answer follow up questions.

Even if you think your career goal may not precisely align with the employer’s expectations for a long-term hire, be open and honest. There’s probably more common ground than they realize, and it’s up to you to bridge any gaps in expectations.

Being honest and explaining these connections shows your employer that you’ve put a lot of thought into this application. You aren’t just telling them what they want to hear.

3. Is it better to have an ambitious goal, or should I play it safe?

You should have a goal that challenges you, but SMART goals are always reasonable. If you put forth a goal that is way beyond your capabilities, you will seem naive. Making your goals too easy shows a lack of motivation.

Employers want new hires who are able to self-reflect and are willing to take on challenges.

4. Can I have several career goals?

It’s best to have one clearly-defined career goal and stick with it. (Of course, you can still have goals in other areas of your life.) Having a single career goal shows that you’re capable of focusing, and it shows that you like to accomplish what you set out to do.

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On the other hand, you might have multiple related career goals. This could mean that you have short-term goals that dovetail into your ultimate long-term career goal. You might also have several smaller goals that feed into a single purpose.

For example, if you want to become a lawyer, you might become a paralegal and attend law school at the same time. If you want to be a school administrator, you might have initial goals of being a classroom teacher and studying education policy. In both cases, these temporary jobs and the extra education help you reach your ultimate goal.

Summary

You’ll have to devote some time to setting career goals, but you’ll be so much more successful with some direction. Remember to:

  • Set SMART goals. SMART goals are Specific, Measurable, Action-oriented, and Realistic with Timelines. When you set goals with these things in mind, you are likely to achieve the outcomes you want.
  • Have short-term and long-term goals. Short-term career goals can be completed in 1-3 years, while long-term goals will take 3-5 years to finish. Your short-term goals should set you up to accomplish your long-term goals.
  • Assess your capabilities by coming up with an Individual Development Plan. Knowing how to set goals won’t help you if you don’t know yourself. Understand what your strengths and weaknesses are by taking some self-assessments.
  • Choose goals that are appropriate to your ultimate aims. Your career goals should be relevant to one another. If they aren’t, then you may need to narrow your focus. Your goals should match the type of job that you want and the quality of life that you want to lead.
  • Be clear about your goals with potential employers. Always be honest with potential employers about what you want to do with your life. If your goals differ from the company’s objectives, find a way bridge the gap between what you want for yourself and what your employer expects.

By doing goal-setting work now, you’ll be able to make conscious choices on your career path. You can always adjust your plan if things change for you, but the key is to give yourself a road map for success.

More Tips About Setting Work Goals

Featured photo credit: Tyler Franta via unsplash.com

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