Job Goals That Are Destined to Fail

Reevaluate your job goals to ensure career success.

Goal-setting is an essential component to long-term success, whether you want to improve your public speaking skills, ask for a raise or promotion at work, or find a new job. However, many people struggle to set the right objectives and see them through to the end. If you find yourself struggling to achieve a job goal, the goal may need to be reevaluated. Here are several types of goals the will work against your job search – and what you can do to get back on track.

1. The vague goal

A clear set of job goals is the foundation of a solid job-search strategy. All your job-search efforts – from how you position your resume and online presence to how you find job leads – will depend on the goals you choose. A big obstacle to your career aspirations is a goal that’s too vague or unclear. For example, if someone asks you, “so what’s your career objective?” and your reply is simply, “I want a job” or the now familiar refrain, “I’ll take anything I can get”, you’re setting yourself up for lifelong job disappointment. Would you take a tour to somewhere without a trip itinerary? Probably not.

Solution: Evaluate your work history to identify underlying skills, core values and working environment that are best for you. The more targeted your goals, the easier it will be to develop the right plan.

2. The overly ambitious or unrealistic goal

It’s unrealistic to assume you can advance from a marketing associate to chief marketing officer in 12 months’ time. Similarly, it’s naïve to think you can transition from a product manager to an HR generalist overnight. While there’s nothing wrong with wanting to accelerate your career or make a functional change, it’s impractical to think you’ll accomplish either of these objectives in the short-term.

Solution: Create a job-search strategy targeting roles that will help you acquire the skills and experience necessary to achieve these more ambitious, long-term goals.

3. The undocumented goal

Did you know that just by writing down your goal you’re more likely to follow through with it? Once you’ve decided on your job goal, document it. If you successfully complete your goal, what would that look like? What would be the outcome? When you define success, you’re creating parameters that will help you stay on track.

Solution: Post your goal near your home computer so you don’t lose focus.

4. The imposed goal

Many times, your career goals aren’t even your own. How often do well-meaning parents, teachers, good friends, and family members aspire for you to become this or that (sometimes, with more than just encouragement)? Regardless of their good intentions, if you find you are living out someone else’s life (e.g., being what your father had hoped to be but was prevented from becoming), then you are guaranteed to never be happy with your circumstances.

Solution: Don’t let “others” derail your aspirations just to fulfill their whims and fancies. Remember that while others have a role to play in motivating you, guiding you, and helping you to succeed, their desires and aspirations should not be the sole force in determining the direction of your life, including your career.

5. The goal without a plan

As Napoleon Hill once said, “a goal is a dream with a deadline.” Your job goals are only as effective as the plan you create to accomplish them.

Solution: Break your goal into smaller, more digestible milestones. Make a list of the activities, tasks, and deadlines associated with each milestone. By dividing your goal into more manageable chunks of work, you’re less likely to get overwhelmed and discouraged. This can be the difference between giving up and remaining committed to your goal.

6. The “baby” goal

Just as some professionals set their dreams too big and unrealistic that they will suffer continual disappointment in not achieving them, there are others who set goals that are so small that even success is a failure. If you make it your life’s ambition, with MBA in hand and $100,000 in school debt, to become a librarian, even if you succeed, the accomplishment will itself be a disappointment.

Solution: Hopefully early in your career (or even while still in school), evaluate your long-term goals and ensure that you not only have realistic goals but also goals that best suit your background, that will support your desired and/or needed lifestyle, and that point forward rather than keeping you standing in place. It’s all right to dream big; don’t let mediocrity become your most frequently achieved career goal.

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