Before we launch into why career goals are so powerful, I want to tell you a story. It starts with Soichiro. Soichiro was sure that he would be successful. After all, he had experience. He left school at the age of fifteen and had been working ever since. He had been trying to build a part to sell to Toyota, and now, he was pretty sure he had it. Two years he’d worked on his product. Two years of improving, and he had his big idea. A piston ring that he could sell to car companies.
Toyota rejected the idea.
Soichiro’s goal had always been to tinker, to improve cars and simplify things. Toyota rejected the idea and his story could have ended right there. Instead, he got to work. Because of, in spite of, his initial failures, Soichiro went on to build a car company of his own that rivaled Toyota. I’m starting with the story of Soichiro Honda because it’s a great example of how having the right career goals can propel you forward. Because Soichiro’s goal wasn’t just to be sold by Toyota he didn’t give up, because he had other goals. Career goals are powerful. Moving forward even when things don’t go to plan could be the difference between denying your dreams, or building a billion-dollar business like Honda did.
Are your career goals propelling you to the next level?
1. Weekly Reviews
Every week you need to sit down and assess your progress. This will help you constantly push forward, and improve. Even if you don’t have to do weekly performance reviews, you absolutely should. Think about what your strengths and weaknesses were during the week and find out how you’re going to take it to the next level next week.
You can easily review your week in your planner. I like to do two versions of my weekly review, one for work and one for myself. I write a short copy of my weekly review in my Getting Stuff Done planner. This is based on whether I’ve been healthy, had enough regular breaks, been productive enough and given enough time to all my tasks. It’s changed the game as every week seems to build on the week before, helping you see your performance as a series of levels you can climb.
You need to develop the skill of negotiation, knowing what you’re worth and asking for it. Don’t be afraid to develop this, and make it a goal to have it. You might not have to use it right now, but you need to be confident in doing it. Not just for your own career, but for life in general. Negotiate the best price, negotiate your contract, and be specific and fair. Know what you’re worth based on what you do, not just the value you want to attach to your head.
If you need some help developing this skill, start small, negotiate your phone bill or see if you can get a better deal with your amenities, confidence in any skill comes from repetition. The more you negotiate, the better you’ll be. It might also help to pretend you are negotiating on behalf of someone else, often we can be killer negotiators when we are acting on someone else’s behalf, and never ask for what we’re due ourselves.
Self-development comes in many forms. You should want to be the best version of yourself constantly, that means you should work on yourself and it should be a career goal to improve. You should try to learn new things, work on your weaknesses and turn them into strengths and develop yourself to a point where you can overcome failures and have confidence in everything you should do.
In this ever-changing landscape, where digital skills are in high demand and the workplace is changing and evolving faster than before, it’s important to develop yourself and your skills constantly.
4. Honesty and clarity
Being honest isn’t always kind, but it is appreciated. Not at the time, but maybe in the future, people will respect you and admire you for your honesty. Try to remain as honest as you can, and be clear in your communication and your goals. Being vague or deliberately enigmatic is not a respected skill in business or in your career. You’ll need to work on always being honest and communicative.
If you feel a certain way, don’t internalize it. This means if you think something could be improved, bring it to the table in a way that’s clear, honest, and adds value to your work. Everyone will benefit from your honesty, as long as it’s delivered well.
Whether you’re at the bottom or the top of the ladder, leadership skills are invaluable. Because the workplace is constantly changing in the 21st Century, you will need to learn how to be a good leader. Even those at the top of the chain should continually develop their leadership skills if they don’t want to be left behind.
You can develop leadership skills by enrolling in a management class, volunteering at the weekends, and trying new things. A good leader inspires the team as well as motivates them to do their best, become a good leader by being human, honest, and direct, but empathetic and understanding – too.
There’s a story about a famous mathematician who was part of the Intelligence in World War 2. A study had been conducted on planes returning from war, bullet holes were all over the wings and fuselage of the planes. The conclusion was that these were the places that were being shot more often, and these were the places they needed to heavily armor, but they needed to find out how to armor them without weighing the plane down.
Abraham Wald was the mathematician’s name, and he correctly discovered one little problem with that conclusion. The planes they were studying had returned. The planes that hadn’t returned had been the fatally shot ones. He alerted them to an overlooked fact, these planes demonstrated they could be shot in the wings and fuselage and return home safely. The ones that didn’t, had been shot in the cockpit and the tail. These were the areas that needed to be armored, they had been trying to solve the wrong problem. Problem-solving is an invaluable skill for many reasons, this story shows how powerful finding the right problem and solving it can be. Instead of getting stuck finding a solution, a powerful problem-solver will try to look at the problem from a variety of ways until a breakthrough occurs. Problem-solving is one of the most invaluable skills you can have in this day and age.