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How to Find Career Mentors More Easily

How to Find Career Mentors More Easily

In movies like Coach Carter and Remember the Titans, when the team is out of their depth and in need of direction, the coach comes in to pick up the team and set them right. Career mentors do the same thing. When you feel lost in your career, a mentor will be there to remind you what you’re fighting for and suggest how to get it. The greatest mentors will open doors to help you succeed.

Having great mentors is the best way for you to get your career moving and reach your goals as fast as possible. But, for many, finding a mentor seems like an awkward endeavor.

If you think finding a career mentor feels awkward, there’s a good chance you aren’t doing it right. Developing mentor/mentee relationships should feel as easy and fun as developing a friendship. Approaching possible mentors with this mentality makes all the difference.

Seek Out Friends, Not Mentors

Stop seeking out a mentor altogether. The entire idea of molding another person’s career, of being a mentor, sounds exhausting. Go ahead and imagine taking time from your busy day to develop someone else’s career.

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People are too busy developing their own career to respond to your plea that they take time help develop yours.

Rather than seeking out a mentor, it’s better to focus on simply touching base with others in the career you want to pursue. Then, after touching base, focus on creating friendships. Offer praise and seek advice, but never say “Will you mentor me?” Instead, become people’s friend and let those friendships grow into relationships that will grant you insight and education. These friends will mentor you without the title that makes the interaction feel like work.

Focus on Giving, Not Getting

Most people won’t want to stop what they’re doing to help you get a career underway. Doing so is difficult and takes a lot of time. On top of this, a lot of people asking for mentors aren’t worth the time. They’ll turn out to be lazy or incompetent, and only serve to add frustration to their mentor’s life. Harsh, but true.

This is why, rather than asking for something, it’s better to give something instead. What you have to offer will be unique to you. You may give insight, praise, or you may be able to offer an expertise you already have.

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When I started reaching out for my career as a writer, I gave the only thing I felt I could offer. A lot of praise. It was all genuine, but offering honest praise meant that I had to contact writers I truly admired. The risk of that rejection was scary, and I was lucky that all the writers I contacted for advice were responsive and eager to help a loyal reader get started.

Instead of contacting someone with the request for help, offer them something. Make your request secondary and they’ll appreciate that you’re putting them first.

Build Slowly, Don’t Rush It

Mentorship. It just sounds formal, doesn’t it? Like something you pay $20 an hour for. But by now, you know that effective mentoring shouldn’t be like that! You know that mentorships should be friendships, and friendships don’t develop from a single email or a 10 minute introduction. Instead, they develop slowly through continued interaction. Building a strong relationship is about offering praise, asking for advice, and discussing your ideas over time.

It’s slow, it requires restraint (especially when you’re approaching your role models), and it requires tact. But slowly-built relationships, made from occasional monthly emails or phone calls, are more versatile and reliable than relationships made from a collection of questions asked via cold call. So go slow: you have your whole life to succeed; don’t sabotage that success by rushing an important relationship.

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Remember There Are Other Ways

Taking it slow can drive you insane. I know because I’ve been there. You want a mentor so you can get coffee and spend hours picking their brains. But rushing a friendship with a mentor, and relying too heavily on them in the beginning, is a surefire way to push a mentor away. Instead of relying solely on someone to mentor you, it helps to use other resources to learn as you let your relationship incubate.

Books – Books are amazing tools when it comes to learning, and I already touched on the importance of reading in How to Remember More of What You Read. But it can’t be overstated.

Forums – These give you the opportunity to learn from others. You gain a sort of proto-mentorship, and you can see what problems others in your desired field are having. It’s always easier to learn from the mistakes of others, and this is a great mentor substitute.

Courses – Courses are a double whammy because you develop important knowledge while bolstering your resume and/or portfolio by gaining a new credential in the form of that course. Also, there are courses for everything! A quick Google search may blow your mind in terms of the number of possible courses there are out there.

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Return the Favor

Finally, after you’ve gotten a mentor and your relationship is solidified, make sure to remember these times when you’re down the road. Someday someone will be asking for your help. Remember when you felt lost and don’t let your success and busy schedule keep you from offering the helping hand you needed at one point in your life.

Mentoring not only grows the mentee, but it grows the mentor as well.

Do you have a mentor? How did the two of you develop your relationship? What tips do you have for other people looking for a mentor in their desired field?

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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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