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5 Killer Ways to Kickstart Your Career

5 Killer Ways to Kickstart Your Career

Building a career isn’t easy, especially for graduates. It’s particularly difficult if you find yourself competing against people with better qualifications than you.

The bright side? Experience and skills carry a lot of weight when it comes to applications. It’s not all about pieces of paper. If you can show a recruiter that you developed your skills through hard work and initiative, you’re not just demonstrating technical talents—you’re highlighting positive character traits.

What are some of the great ways to boost your career prospects and gain a job-hunting edge? Here are five career-building tips to help you kickstart your career.

1. Do an internship or get work experience.

Unpaid internships are controversial, but work experience can be incredibly useful when trying to crack into any industry. Why is that? For a start, it works: this YouGov employment survey of HR professionals revealed that 85% of employers felt relevant work experience was more important that non-vocational degrees.

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Why does it work? In a lot of industries, many candidates may not have studied the areas academically, so experience counts for a lot. Working for free (or for super low wages) also shows a lot of character; if you’re willing to log hundreds hours in return for little more than the chance to learn, it shows a lot of determination and dedication.

Work experience or internships aren’t possible for everyone, but if it’s an option for you, it could give you an edge over other candidates.

2. Sing up for a volunteering placement.

Employers love candidates with volunteering work on their resume. In the same YouGov survey referenced earlier, almost half of HR professionals said they would be more likely to employ an applicant with constructive volunteering experience, and 63% revealed that volunteering makes an application stand out.

Why does this make sense? Because signing-up for a volunteering placement abroad with an ethical, independent organisation like Original Volunteers allows you to develop desirable skills and experience that employers crave. Stepping out of your comfort zone and into a challenging environment means you need to learn to be independent, organised and self-reliant. It builds your confidence, forces you to work on your communication abilities and rewards initiative.

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These skills, often earned through challenging experiences, can put you streets ahead of other job applicants fresh out of university with no “real world” experience.

3. Build a brilliant online portfolio.

If you want to work in any industry that depends on impressions, personality and communication, you need to be effective at promoting your achievements. An old-school printed portfolio is useful, but only for face-to-face interviews. An awesome resume and LinkedIn profile is important, but it might not be enough.

So what’s the answer?

Create your own online portfolio to promote yourself, and demonstrate what you can do. Publish links and references to your best work, and point prospective employers in the direction of where they can find your stellar stuff around the web. Turn yourself into a brand.

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Why does this work? Because the easiest way to become a fan of a band is to work through their greatest hits, so make it simple for recruiters: present them with an accessible “best of” version of yourself online.

4. Network with the right people.

Networking used to be all about face-to-face meetings, robust handshakes and physically moving in the right circles. But thanks to social media, on sites like LinkedIn, you can now research, discover and network with the right people without leaving your bedroom. Yep, from the comfort of your own home you can kickstart your career by finding recruiters and their companies—and making sure you show up on their radar.

What does this entail practically? Following them on social channels, engaging with the posts and content they share, and generally coming across as a switched-on, digitally savvy industry hopeful. So that might mean retweeting and favouriting on Twitter, commenting on LinkedIn and plus-one-ing on Google+ (yes, you should be using it).

The “who-you-know” arena of professional networking can be a dense and frustratingly behind-closed-doors world. But with online social networks, you have a chance to “infiltrate” these worlds and get involved in the conversation.

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5. Have something to say.

All the research, clever networking and smart profile creating won’t count for much if you’ve got nothing to say for yourself. To take your career kickstarting to the next level, you need some views. Some opinions. What are the trends in the industry you want to break into? What are the big changes coming in future?

You don’t need to pretend to be a thought leader with 20 years of experience, but you need to have something interesting to say. Parroting the leading voices you follow on Twitter isn’t going to cut it. When it comes to applications and interviews, recruiters are looking for candidates who have a mind of their own and stand out.

A word of warning: you don’t want to be too controversial. Interesting is good. Original is better. Edgy can work, too. But beware the danger of trying so hard to impress a recruiter that you come across as unprofessional. In fact, there are lots of things you should keep quiet about in interviews.

Featured photo credit: Nana B Agyei via flickr.com

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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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