Whether your end goal is starting your own business, getting a promotion, pivoting into a new industry, to make into the C-suite, or anywhere in between, it is incredibly valuable to reflect on your starting point. Particularly, I suggest doing some self-reflection on what your own personal core values are. What are the three to five values that you most closely align with? Consider what you are willing to (or not willing to) tolerate. Write them down to memorialize and reference. As you work toward your goals and need to make key decisions, commitments, or recalibrate, your core values will serve as a guide. If you are able to gain clarity on who you are and what is most valuable to you, you will also be able to make solid decisions that are best aligned to your core values.
Just as important as identifying a starting point, it is also crucial to identify an end goal. If we don’t have an end goal (or even an incremental goal), it’s much more difficult to ever feel like we’re progressing or succeeding. And identifying our goals should be simple, right? Well, it could be simple but more often than not, there are contributing factors that can mucky the waters. In an ideal world, we would identify our strengths and what we enjoy doing and then find roles and tasks that best align with those things. The reality is, though, society and organizations can often paint a picture of what success looks like, which can influence our own perception of what success may look like for us. Or we may find (after many years) that our education and/or work experience is not aligned with the type of work that we enjoy; leading to an internal struggle of whether or not to pivot and potentially have to “start over.” And sadly enough, in some cases, it may not even occur to us that we each deserve to feel joy in our work.
Whether or not you have current goals in mind for your career, I encourage you to reflect on the what and why behind your goals. Rather than only focus on a particular title or salary, what are some other (perhaps non-monetary) things you’d like to accomplish? Better work/life balance? More decision-making power? More flexibility? An opportunity to leverage your creativity? Leading a team? After you have some potential goals identified, flush out what is truly needed to get to that goal. Speak to people in similar roles to what you aspire to and ask them questions: what are things they find most challenging? Most rewarding? What do they wish they may have been able to tell a younger version of themselves?
Once you have clarity around your core values and goals, work with a coach to build out a plan and timeline to accomplish your goals. Build out a network of allies, mentors and ideally a sponsor to help you work towards your goals.
Even with a solid plan in place, one thing that is always certain is change. Organizations change ownership, they may go through down-sizing. Work relationships can go thru ups and downs. Mentors may leave an organization; internal politics may cause for allies to prioritize their best interest over yours. So, if the end goal is joy, what can help us find joy even in the face of all this potential adversity? When we are clear about who we are, where we are going, and build our own personal brand on that foundation, we maintain a greater level of control over our career and our happiness. We put ourselves in a position to take ownership of our career, develop a solid plan, and seek self-validation vs external validation. In turn, we are much more likely to be able to find happiness.