The Morning Call “Lehigh Valley Workplaces” column: Setting better career goals with a dose of self-awareness
I find goals critical as a business owner. But as an entrepreneur, I have also struggled with them because goals can feel constraining. I bet many non-entrepreneurs can relate to this as well.
Considering that Inc. Magazine reported a staggering 92 percent of people surveyed by the University of Scranton said that they never actually achieved their New Year’s goals, I think it’s time to re-examine how we set goals and what we really want out of them in the first place.
So, when goal-setting seems limiting, what do you do?
Let’s face it: It helps to know where you are going in order to get there. You need a purpose; you need a direction. But what if your goals aren’t motivating you? What if they are simply reminders that you are not achieving what you desire, perhaps setting you up for dissatisfaction or discontentment? And what if you want to change your goals somewhere along the way? Does this mean you failed or can’t stay focused?
And shouldn’t we be remembering to enjoy the journey along the way? How do we reconcile all these things when setting goals and still have a successful end result?
To get some deeper insights into workplace goal setting, I met with Barbara Berger, founder of Career Wellness Partners, a career coaching and wellness organization located in Upper Macungie Township. Berger works with folks from all walks of life who are looking to figure out what comes next. They are often professionals who are either looking to make significant career pivots, make a career change within their companies, or are out of work. Their goals are an important element of this journey.
Berger says that career management is a blend of SMART goal setting and serendipity. SMART goals are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-based. When you are too married to the final outcome of your goal, you can miss unexpected opportunities that come up along the way, Berger says. That’s where serendipity, in the form of unexpected life events or developments that lead to a beneficial outcome, can come in.
“Keep your eyes open and learn throughout the process. The process itself is part of the goal,” says Berger. “Rather than focusing on a completely circumscribed goal, focus on the process by being an active participant in your career discovery. Let yourself discover who you are and where you belong.”
Berger uses her own life as an example. Her degree is in marketing and communications. She worked for several years performing this type of work in Lancaster and the Lehigh Valley. While at one company, she became interested in learning about its recruiting and hiring process. She expressed her interest to her employer and began to learn about this field. Berger turned out to be very talented at interviewing applicants. Fast forward to today, she has successfully started her own business by applying elements of her marketing knowledge and her interviewing background. This she describes as her own professional serendipity. Here’s the checklist of how she capitalized on it:
- She was self-aware.
- She paid attention to what types of work she found meaningful.
- She took action – capitalizing on learning experiences made available by both planned and unplanned situations.
Serendipity aside, Berger recommends that you check on your goal progress with personal performance reviews on a regular basis. “This way, you can make sure that you are on track with your goals, and you can document what you have picked up or learned along the way.”
For those in the market for a job, it is critical to be aware of your own abilities and inabilities. As a Lehigh Valley employer, I can tell you that it can be crystal clear to a hiring manager that an applicant applying for a job is not the right match for the position, possibly not even for the industry. Unfortunately, too many job-seekers are oblivious to this and keep pushing along without needed self-awareness, and they are not adjusting their goals to improve their situation either.
The Lehigh Valley has a vast array of jobs available. Just take a look any day at The Morning Call, CareerBuilder, Indeed and others. The lists of jobs are endless. And yet there are still people unemployed or underemployed. Perhaps a solid goal for employers and employees is to take a deep dive into understanding the purpose of both career and workplace goals. Are companies putting employees in the right jobs? Are individuals taking the time to learn what career matches make the most sense for them? Do workplace goals align with personal core values?
Berger says that all personal goals should operate from a place that allows you to grow and learn. She explains that if the goal contains no meaningful stretch, then it’s a limited and safe objective – increasing the chances that you won’t purposefully pursue it. Employees and employers both deserve better than that.
This article first appeared in the Lehigh Valley Business Cycle section of The Morning Call on January 3, 2019. The original article can be found here.