I’ve been very lucky in my career to have worked with some amazing people, people who built their careers on the back of hard work, passion, and focus. But the most successful of these people had something else. Hard work, passion, and focus were there, but to get to the very top you need more than just these things; you also need solid, long-term career goals.
In this article, I will give you seven tips that you can use when goal setting to build a successful career.
1. Know What You Want
This one might seem obvious, but many people never take the time to think carefully about what they want to do in their career. They accept jobs in industries or departments they have no interest in and soon find themselves settled into a career of misery and complaining.
It always amazes me how people spend more time planning their annual summer holiday than they do their career.
If you want to build success in your work, you need to have a clear idea of what you want to do and where you want to go. You need that North Star to guide you in your decisions and to keep you focused on where you are going with each stepping stone.
Without that clarity, you will drift from one role to another, never building any momentum towards your ultimate career goal.
2. Ask Yourself: What Skills Am I Lacking?
When we begin our working lives, we have the academic skills but lack many practical skills.
When you know what you want to do with your career, you can identify the skills you will need. Soft skills such as relationship building, the ability to collaborate with others, and your productivity all form part of these skills, and you need to make sure you are developing them.
Invest in yourself, and for those skills that do not develop naturally, find courses online or some books to study. Once you have studied these skills, make sure you put them into practice through your long-term career goals. This one tip will put you ahead of 98% of your colleagues who treat their work as just a job that pays them money to live.
3. Know That Success Leaves a Path
I teach this one to all of my clients. In every industry, there are examples of people who started at the bottom and worked their way up to become industry leaders. Examples include Satya Nadella at Microsoft and Jony Ive at Apple. These people were not founders or entrepreneurs; they worked their way up to the top from the bottom, and left clues along the way
Whatever company you are in, there will be people who began at the bottom and worked their way up to become leaders. What kind of role models did they have? What books did they read? What skills did they develop?
I remember when I worked in the hotel industry. One of my mentors began as a receptionist. She rose to become the General Manager of my home city’s top hotel through having a clear goal, diligence, and always putting the guest first. She was tough but fair.
I learnt from her that every time you come into work, the guest was always the top priority and to always be respectful of your colleagues.
Find that one person in your industry that rose from the bottom and work out the path they took to get to where you want to be in the future. Then, map out your own path that reflects the path already taken to the top.
4. Watercooler Gossip Will Not Help Your Career
I know it is always tempting to be the popular one in your office, to be the one everyone wants to hang out with and the one to go to when there’s some gossip to share. However, if you want to achieve your long-term career goals, don’t get involved.
Being the “office gossip” will sink your career faster than anything else. If you are serious about building a successful career, you do not have time to get involved in all this gossiping, complaining, and time wasting.
You don’t have to ignore your colleagues, but never indulge them by listening to the gossip. Make your excuses and get back to work. This one tip will safeguard your career more than any other.
5. Do Work When at Work
Your workplace is not a social club. It is a place to do the work you were employed to do.
Of course, being polite and friendly towards your colleagues is important, but never forget you are there to do work. Avoid getting yourself drawn into long conversations about that episode of Vikings or your local football team’s performance.
There is a time and place for these conversations, but it is not on company time. When at work, do your work, or you’ll never be able to make progress on your long-term career goals.
Here are some tips on how to focus on work: 15 Quick Ways To Focus on Work Easily
6. Focus on How You Can Be Better
One of the qualities I have seen in all successful career builders is they have a “How can I do it better?” mindset. They are always asking themselves how they can do their work better, or how could they have solved that problem better.
It is a mindset of continuous self-improvement, and it is a practice that can catapult you to the top faster than anything else.
Look for parts of your work that are taking too much time and figure out how to streamline. Or, identify ways you could better serve your team and begin to implement them. Any of these can serve you when you’re creating long-term career goals.
Often, new working practices are welded on to old ones, and this leads to inefficiencies and duplication, especially if you’re in a leadership position. Find those inefficiencies and develop better ways of doing that work. This habit is always appreciated by your bosses and tells them you are serious about your work.
7. Model Successful Behaviors
Find the person at the top and work out how they got there. This does not necessarily mean the person at the top of your company; it means the person at the top of your industry.
If you are an architect, find out how Sir Frank Foster built his career. If you are a writer, find out how Stephen King or Maya Angelou gained experience and built their careers.
These people have shown you how to do it, and they left clues. Read everything you can about them, learn from them, and model their work habits.
Modeling does not mean copying. It means taking the traits they used and adapting them to work best for you.
My legal hero was a British lawyer, George Carmen QC. When I began my legal career, I read everything I could about George Carmen QC. I learned that the key skill that led to his success was his ability to communicate with juries. He was a brilliant communicator, and I realized the one skill I could learn that would have a huge impact on my career was the ability to communicate with people.
While I did not ultimately follow a legal career, that skill of being good at communicating has served me well in all the industries I have worked in.
The Bottom Line
Whatever career path you are following, these tips will serve you well as you aim to create long-term career goals that will point you in the right direction. Creating clear short and long-term goals around the above tips will give you the advantages you need to build a wildly successful career. They are tested, they work, and all you need to do is to adapt them so they work for you.
More Tips on Setting Career Goals
- How to Set Ambitious Career Goals (With Examples)
- 15 Ways to Set Professional Goals (Examples Included)
- 15 Personal Goals for Work to Help You Succeed in Your Career
Featured photo credit: Smart via unsplash.com