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Do you ever find it hard to stick to a desired career goal because unexpected challenges blocked your way? If the answer is yes, you’re not alone. In most cases, career goals need time and effort to nurture, especially if they’re long-term. So how can you overcome those challenges with the least possible cost and eventually meet your career objective?
Before we suggest some key practices to stay present with your goals, let us share a wise note. A purpose-driven goal that aligns with your values, will keep you motivated and committed, no matter the struggle. Once you’ve defined your value-based goals, follow these practical tips to navigate through uncertainty and maximize the potential of fulfilling them. Whether that’s a career goal that requires great effort, for example, a career change or a more tangible short-term objective, such as getting a promotion, these simple practices can be game-changing for you.
1) Write down your career plan
According to research, 43% of people who wrote down their goals finally met them. Structuring your plan on a paper or a virtual document enables you to measure your progress regularly. You can also use it as a “cheat sheet” that reminds you of the individual tactics needed to achieve your goals.
Once you’ve defined your career plan, including the sub-goals and actions that will gradually lead you to your target, write them down in a clear format. For instance, if you want to find a new job, keep a record of the steps required to fulfill this, such as optimizing your resume or boosting your online networking efforts.
2) Keep a journal
Journaling can also help you navigate this experience more mindfully. Let’s imagine that an obstacle occurs that separates you from your initial career target, for example, an unexpected time delay you cannot control. This could cause anger and frustration leading you to think about giving up. How can you let that steam off and continue going after your career goal, despite your discomfort?
When expressing your frustration and negative feelings on paper, you process them more effectively, and you’re more likely to find solutions and bounce back quickly after a setback. The same works with positive feelings, as well. Remember to track your positive emotions and praise yourself for your small wins to boost your self-esteem.
3) Set SMART goals
As aforementioned, measuring the development of your goals will allow you to finally achieve them. To make that more feasible, set them based on the SMART framework. Define specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-bound targets to see them flourish in the long run.
There are additional goal categories you could consider when evaluating your career growth. For instance, you can divide them into short-term and long-term based on the time and effort you need to accomplish them.
4) Prefer mastery to performance goals
Another distinction in the goal-setting theory you could take into account is that of mastery goals versus performance goals. But what is their key difference? To put it simply, mastery goals are intrinsically motivated and growth-oriented, while performance goals are extrinsically motivated and focused more on the competition.
Overall, mastery goals promote more healthy behaviors compared with performance goals, so it’s wise to prioritize them to stay on track with your career plan. If you notice comparing yourself with others regularly, and sometimes even obsessively, tune into a mastery orientation instead, which will enable more functional behaviors to surface.
5) Re-evaluate your plan
No matter how well-defined your career goals are, you’ll always be bound to challenges and setbacks. However, if you’re open to changes and new ideas, you could grab relevant opportunities, sometimes bigger than the ones you had hoped for, even if they were not fully planned. Feel free to explore new ways of reaching your end goal by using resources you currently have, such as your soft skills or network, or by seeking accessible ones.
Before tweaking your plan, remind yourself of the purpose that drives your career goal and figure out new ways to approach it. You can then run a brainstorming session to observe your goals through a different lens. To achieve that, you should temporarily detach from your existing plan and think of new patterns, which match the current circumstances. For example, you can reach out to a new colleague that you trust for feedback, who has more experience in your field. Once you’ve found your alternatives, we encourage you to redefine your goals in writing, to track them more easily in the long run, using the frameworks we’ve previously discussed.
6) Embrace a growth mindset
Facing adversity and challenges on the road to meet your career goals can be stressful. However, adversity is a prerequisite to resilience and without it, you will never learn your true potential. As you become more resilient, you learn to turn negatives into positives and this enables you to succeed in achieving your goals.
According to Carol Dweck’s theory about growth and fixed mindsets in the learning process, adopting a growth mindset can help you sustain your motivation in challenging times and grow through your mistakes. On the other hand, a fixed mindset can build more hurdles in the way, by making you believe that failure is a sign of incompetence.
Therefore, a growth mindset will help you retain your optimism and enthusiasm, even in the hardest times. One way to nurture it is by performing gratitude exercises to celebrate your personal development on a frequent basis.
In a nutshell, to stay on track with your career goals, you should follow those certain techniques and face challenges as they occur. Building healthy habits and attitudes towards goal setting is key to your progress. Be open to feedback and be kind to yourself when mistakes happen.
Plus, if you find it difficult to stick to the plan, we strongly encourage you to seek professional support. For example, a career coach or counselor could help you identify blockers that you may find hard to overcome on your own, such as reduced motivation or self-esteem.