Simon Terry

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Career goals: A target or a compass

Do you have a medium term career goal?

Many people I meet proudly declare that they don’t have medium term career goals. In some cases, they haven’t thought ahead. Others like to take their chances on the opportunities that come. Often the reluctance to set a goal because life is unpredictable and they are anxious that a five year goal might become irrelevant, a constraint or worse a measure of failure.

I believe in setting goals. Goals motivate. Goals can sustain you on the bumpy journey. Goals help you build a plan for the future. I know I am lost without a goal.

A Career is not Archery

My goals are not a target that I aim to hit exactly.  My goals are specific enough to guide action and ensure I can be satisfied of achievement but open ended, like a John Hagel’s concept of a narrative.

Over a five year timeframe too much changes. Great opportunities arise in related areas. Digital disruption can easily wipe away a specific target.

Careers are hard enough to manage without feeling like a failure for missing some specific three to five-year away point.

A Career is Way Finding 

However, a goal can still set a direction and sustain motivation for the journey. A medium term career goal acts as a compass you carry around to shape what you do now. The goal can describe a broad type of role you want to reach years ahead. The sense of direction helps you plan development and make career choices. This goal also helps you align your purpose and your work today.

No career path is a straight as an arrow’s flight.  Careers ramble.  There are setbacks.  Opportunities arise quickly.  Skills need to be built in a diverse range of roles and some times your needs and ambitions change.

A Career needs a Direction

My medium term career goals act as a compass that help me work out what skills, experiences and relationships that I need to build to get to my destination.  The compass keeps me on course and shows how to return to the course when the path leads elsewhere.

The same compass also helps me decide what jobs to chase and which offers to decline. If something is not heading in the right general direction or contributing to the right development, I say no, no matter how much status or money is on offer.

If you don’t have career goals or they feel like a burden, swap the distant target for a compass that you use today.

You need something to help you get where you want to go.


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