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Is Technology the Key to Success in the 21st Century?

Is Technology the Key to Success in the 21st Century?

Technology advances by leaps and bounds. It seems like we’re always fighting to stay current on tech trends. Consumers aren’t alone in this race for the hottest products and services on the market. Many businesses are also eager to jump on the tech bandwagon.

Sometimes companies don’t do well on the cutting edge. The Daily, a digital newspaper that sought to ride the wave of success caused by the iPad, is a classic example. This e-newspaper showed promise, but wound up being a colossal flop.[1]

Today, reading a newspaper on a tablet requires no stretch of the imagination. The Washington Post, The New York Times, and other major papers offer e-subscriptions. If The Daily had the right idea, why did it fail?

    It wasn’t that the idea of an e-paper was bad. The combination of a clunky interface, a bad business model, an unclear mission, and high overhead made the paper unsustainable.[2]

    The Daily led with technology. They didn’t put as much focus on developing a user-friendly paper as they should have. They were trying to operate in a digital age with an analog mindset. They saw the importance of using tech to publish their stories, but they didn’t understand how to do that.

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    What We Think Technology Can Do

    Using technology doesn’t guarantee that we’ll be successful, but many feel that tech holds the key to success. Technology has always defined our culture. From the invention of the wheel to the 21st century marvels of information technology, our way of life is tied to innovation.

    We see success stories from wealthy public figures such as Mark Zuckerberg, Steve Jobs, and Jeff Bezos. All eyes are on Silicon Valley, and we’re all waiting to see what’s going to change our world next.

    Upload a viral YouTube video, make a Facebook page that people like, become famous on Instagram, or build your own app, and you, too, can have the power and influence of someone like Steve Jobs. This flawed thinking gives people the idea that technology is the way to be successful.

      Since so many people believe that anyone can achieve success through technology, tech has become step one in solving problems–whether or not it’s appropriate.

      What Technology Can Actually Do

      Using technology for the sake of using technology doesn’t work.

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      When people grapple with technology without a plan, they fail miserably. Tech doesn’t guarantee greatness. Good ideas stick around, and poorly executed ideas die. Thoughtlessly relying on technology is a liability, not an asset.

        Maybe it’s because so much of what makes technology work is unknown to the average person. Perhaps we’ve seen the successes of greats like Mark Zuckerberg without recognizing their struggles. Whatever the case, many of us believe that using technology is the easy answer.

        Without having a deep understanding of technology and how it can address a clearly-defined question, the idea will fail every time. Look at The Daily. They knew they wanted to created a newspaper available on the iPad, but they didn’t understand the technology. They created a substandard product that didn’t solve any problems.

        Ideas First, Technology Second

        Reaching for technology without a clear purpose isn’t going to get you anywhere. Come up with an idea first. Then, if technology is the best way to solve the problem or answer the question, use it.

        Technology makes it possible for us to do much more than we could do without it, but it can’t help us decide what to do. It can’t teach us how to ask great research questions. Technology is the tool that you use to solve the problem, but it isn’t the thing that creates the solution.

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        As long as you get the order right—idea first and tech second— you can achieve success. When you have a clearly-defined issue or concept, then you can adapt technology to accelerate progress.

          As you’re coming up with ideas, stay away from using technology just because it’s there. Remember, lead with a great idea, and then follow with technology. Think about the following questions to stay true to your purpose:

          What do you want to achieve?

          You should have a clear question or goal in mind before you even think about how an app or piece of tech could solve it. For example, imagine you are tired of paying high rates for taxis or chasing down inconvenient public transportation. You need to come up with a better way to get around.

          How do you think you can solve the problem without technology?

          Does the problem exist because non-tech solutions aren’t helping? In many cases, it’s logical to jump to technology because non-tech solutions haven’t solved the problem. You won’t know unless you do some thinking and research.

          When you consider your transportation problem, think about possible solutions. Shuttles, public transportation, and bothering your friends for rides are either inconvenient or expensive. Besides building a more efficient public transportation system, which would require billions in infrastructure, you can’t imagine a solution to this transportation issue without technology.

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          Focus on the why and how of the problem.

          The problem exists because there’s a gap in the service that’s currently available. You have to think about why the gap exists and how you might be able to navigate around it.

          Thinking about the transportation issue, you realize that cab companies are subject to lots of regulations. State and local governments may not be able to fund better public transportation. Your friends have better things to do than pick you up all the time. You have to get around the issue somehow.

          In this case technology has the power to close the gap. It connects people willing to drive with those who needed rides for a fraction of the cost of a cab. This is how Uber and Lyft came to be.

          Technology Is Not the Answer to All

          Technology can’t come into play until you’ve thought about your problem from every angle. If you’ve tried other approaches, and they don’t seem to work, then you can think about how to accelerate the process.

          Only then is it appropriate to turn to technology. By defining your purpose first, you ensure that you aren’t just reaching for technology because it seems sleek and shiny. It’s actually going to make it easier for you to solve the problem. The tech isn’t the solution. Your ideas bring about the solution. Technology just makes it easier.

          Tech is reshaping our world every day. It makes our lives easier and opens possibilities for us. Just because you can use technology doesn’t mean you should turn to it first. Start with your ideas and use technology to support your efforts.

          Featured photo credit: Photo by Alex Knight on Unsplash via unsplash.com

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          More by this author

          Leon Ho

          Founder & CEO of Lifehack

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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

          Reference

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