Estimated reading time: 6 mins
Two years ago, this question may have seemed ridiculous to you. In a growing economy, opportunity is in abundance and the challenge we had back then didn’t concern make-or-break, but which of the golden opportunities were the shiniest. Now the whole economic environment has changed. The economy is turbulent and unpredictable. So is it worth setting ourselves career goals?
This is a question I am asked a lot by the people I coach. It seems that confidence in the economy has hit such depths that some folks are wondering if there is any point in planning their future, but rather leave it to chance and take what comes.
Pretty grim, huh?
I can understand the lack of faith in the future, especially when folks work their butt off by developing skills for the IT industry which are deeply technical and specialized. People plough a lot of their time and money into preparing for, and starting, an IT career, and it takes just as much effort in maintaining it. Only for the economy to create downward pressure on business to lay these people off, or put their career progression on hold. Total bummer, when you look at it like that.
Chris Jones is a 23 year-old infrastructure engineer and a friend of mine. He went to University in Reading, England, and aced his degree in Computer Science. That’s four years and over $15,000 out of his pocket. He then spent another 12 months on technical courses learning advanced subjects about server and network infrastructure – another $25,000 out of his pocket (actually, his parents). He landed his first job in a Financial Services organization and set himself the goal of becoming a guru in VMWare as a specialism to lead to being a key influencer of virtualization architecture, design and buying decisions. He had totally committed to this goal. Then the recession took hold and his company began to shed jobs – Chris was one of the first to go because many infrastructure projects were put on the shelf.
Is Chris pissed off? Yes. Did he doubt that he can realize his goals? Yes.
After three months he remains in the line for jobs that don’t seem to come. But after a month following Chris’s lay off, he realized he had a choice: give up on his goals, or reframe them. Sure, Chris didn’t have a job that would implicitly support his personal growth plans and the acquisition of skills and experience, but is it really then end of the line for them? At that point, Chris gave me a call and we looked at how he could still achieve his goals under new circumstances. And this is what he has to say about it:
Immediately after being laid off, I was in shock. The time, effort and money I had spent getting to that point in my early career was all gone, or so I thought at the time. Once the initial shock passed, I questioned whether having career goals was worth it. It was a sad time, I can tell you.
I am not naturally an optimist, but I am determined. A couple of week’s after getting the elbow I decided that I would find out if I can still achieve my goals without being in a steady job, as quite frankly, I don’t expect to be in one for a while.
This decision means I had to reconsider what my goals mean to me. Not being in a permanent job means I won’t be able to measure how much of a ‘guru’ I am by being the sole technical and acquisition lead on virtualization projects. I won’t be the ‘main man’. Instead, I am going to take a much more external view and measure that. In other words, I’ll achieve the same goal I committed by becoming a virtualization guru as recognized by the IT community and the authority I build using social networking and media. I’ll get there by taking on independent consulting work, hopefully gained by attracting buyers using a blog and writing articles that I will publish through Web2.0 based media outlets. The recognition I want will be for everyone to award and see!
I feel really excited about this now – I am still aiming to achieve what I desire but in a different way than I thought I would.
Chris used an interesting word towards the end of his quote – DESIRE. It is desire that I want to highlight as being the source of career goals – not money or a job title, or anything like that. We can all give ourselves a job title. Heck, we might even win the lottery. But if our goal is to achieve what we truly desire, then it doesn’t matter if we have to rethink how we get there. Our desire will maintain our motivation and create energy to achieve our goals that we didn’t think we had.
Steve Pavlina says it best. Here’s what he had to say about this when interviewed on the Zen Habits blog :
The way I see it, success isn’t about money or reputation or possessions or anything like that. Success is a decision. That’s all. Success is deciding what you really, truly want and committing yourself to getting it. If you’re making progress toward your desires, you’re successful.
Most people never get clear about what they want. Even if they set goals, the goals are often socially conditioned, not consciously chosen. Obviously you’re not going to succeed if you don’t listen to and accept your own desires, especially the desires that run afoul of social conventions. So not connecting with your true desires is mistake #1
That connection with desire is most important, and perhaps may explain if you’ve recently doubted yourself when facing your career goals. If you’ve been laid off, or if you’re worried about your job or how the economy effects it, then take a look at the career goals you’re aiming for and ask yourself if they connect with your desires. If you find yourself doubtful about your goals, or if you’re procrastinating instead of taking action, then it’s very likely that your goals don’t connect with your desires.
How Do You Connect Your Goals To Your Desires?
Doing this is as simple as your ability to listen to your inner voices allows. Creating goals that connect to desire stems from listening to the conversations inside your head, and then visualizing the outcome that solves the problems and opportunities. Career goals are no different from any other goals in this sense. You might find that visualizing your retirement day helps – what would you want to say about your career and its achievements as you receive your gold watch? You may even want to write your obituary, and describe what achievements you made there! These might sound goofy, but believe me they work when you want to focus your mind.
Career goals are as important as ever. A turbulent economy can mean well-laid plans are shot to pieces, but new plans can be made. The goals can remain the same, albeit achieved differently! If you can adapt and be flexible then goal-achievement is a journey without a map but instead a strong sense of direction. Connect your goals to your desires and you’ll find that your sense of direction is extremely strong and your motivation gets a boost!