Setting Career Objectives That Get You to Where You Want to Be

I’ve always thought it was ridiculous that people are expected to pick lifelong professions before the age of 22. But when you go to college, at some point before you graduate you’re expected to choose a major. And hopefully that major will put you on the path to a long-term career that you find fulfilling and sustainable for many years to come.

But what if it doesn’t? Too often students focus on securing specific jobs after college rather than cultivating careers, which is backward thinking. To put it into perspective jobs are merely stepping-stones that ultimately define your career. And your career is what you hope to accomplish (in terms of happiness) through employment. In other words, a job is not the prize, but reaching your career goals is.

So how do you know what your career goals are? Granted, it might be hard to nail those down when you’re still trying to figure out what to do with the rest of your life. However, your goals suddenly become clear if you concentrate on your career objectives. This takes a bit of self-assessment, but it’s really not all that hard to do. Just ask yourself these three questions:

  1. What Would I Do for Free?
  2. In other words, is there anything you love doing SO MUCH that you would seriously consider doing it eight hours a day even if you didn’t get paid? Now think about the careers that support your passion. For example, if you love shopping, maybe you should consider a career in fashion design. But don’t pigeonhole yourself into thinking you have to be a fashion designer. A career in fashion design could lead to becoming a clothing buyer, a magazine photo stylist, a personal shopper, or even a costume designer in film and TV. As you can see, the specific job is not as important as working building a career in an industry that you love.

    For example, see how college student Mike Trowbridge combined his love of graphic art and design with his passion for snowboarding and skateboarding to create his company Hyperactive Longboards.
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  3. If Education Weren’t an Issue…
  4. Quite often we don’t allow ourselves to dream big because we think the obstacles are too great. For example, overcoming the cost and logistics of going to college stops a lot of people from creating career objectives that would truly make them happy. The best way to overcome that annoying, nagging naysayer in all of us is to simply take it out of the equation. Ask yourself, what career would I pursue if education weren’t an issue? It could be anything, no matter how grand; a doctor, a teacher, a novelist, a marine biologist, whatever! Then work backwards from there, by asking yourself, if I were to go down this path, what would be my first step—and then take it. For example, if money stands in your way, start looking into financial aid, whether it be loans, grants, scholarships, etc. If your job is an issue, look at options that allow you to go to school AND keep your job (i.e. cut back your hours, change jobs, enroll in online education, etc.). Once you set a goal, and create a clear path, then it’s up to you to decide if how hard you’re willing to work to achieve that goal.

  5. What Kind of Events Do I Look Forward To?
  6. Do you thrive on big parties with lots of people, or do you prefer small gatherings? Are you great in front of crowds, or do cringe at the thought of public speaking? Do you prefer consensus or are you a lone decider? You need to consider your comfort zone when setting your career objectives. For example, if you love the law and you’ve always dreamed of becoming an attorney, but you can’t stand to speak in front of people, then you definitely DO NOT want to become a litigator. However, there are several types of law you can practice where you do legal research and advise your clients. Or better yet, you could form partnerships. Part of your career objective could be to find attorneys who complement each other’s skills in order to form the perfect law firm.

Deciding “what you want to be when you grow up” can be an overwhelming task. But it’s not as scary as it seems if you just give your career goals and objectives some serious thought BEFORE you jump into the deep end of your career. Then even if you do change course later in life, you still have a road map that can help guide you to happiness (which, when you get right down to it, is WAY more important than money).

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