When you run your first marathon the goal is usually just to finish, but as your running career continues this goal changes. Runners begin to set personal accomplishments such as completing a race in a certain time, increasing the distance to become an ultra-marathoner or wanting to finish a challenge like running races in seven continents in seven days. These runners are able to succeed by laying out small feats along the way that help them reach their final objectives.
As a new engineer entering the workforce, it is always recommended that you determine the career goals you want to achieve. When I hire engineers, after about a month I ask what their professional objectives are and which career benchmarks they’d like to reach in this department. Normally, it’s easy to identify the people that have not put thought into their futures. Career goal setting can be the reason why one person loves their work and moves forward, while another finds their job stressful and lacking purpose. After all, you don’t want to work in a position for years only to realize you’re merely spinning your wheels. The key to setting up your career goal is determining what matters to you.
Like runners, you need to setup two types of goals: short term and long term. A long-term goal is usually your overall vision for the future, such as a dream job or how you want to be remembered. For example, my long-term vision is to be a university professor of material science. Once you have established this target, you will be able to determine the short-term goals you need to accomplish along the way.
When setting short-term goals, you want to look at tasks or milestones that can be attained in a reasonable time frame, such as six months or three years. My short-term goals, for instance, revolve around my desire to be a professor so I can use my experience and industry knowledge to educate students. The short-term goals I have completed to move me closer toward my ultimate aspiration include obtaining a bachelor’s degree, acquiring experience as an industrial engineer and a process metallurgist, as well as acquiring quality experience and becoming a department manager. Additional short-term achievements that I have left to accomplish on my path towards my long-term goal include earning my master’s degree and Ph. D.
Now that you have laid out your goals, you want to formulate them properly to make sure you can reach success. Some simple guidelines to follow are:
Be Specific: You might say, “I want to be successful.” But who doesn’t? A better question is “What does ‘success’ mean to me?” In my case, success is being able to educate prospective engineers and help improve our community and environment for future generations. For another person, it could be only working 40 hours a week so they can spend more time with family.
Don’t Be Negative: Make sure your goals are something you want to do rather than avoid. Otherwise, you might end up abandoning your efforts.
Keep it Realistic: Make sure your long-term goal is compatible with your ability and skills. You will never hear me set a goal like, “I’m going to win the PGA tour.” I can barely golf!
Make Sure the Goal is Obtainable in a Reasonable Time-frame: Don’t set yourself up for failure. When setting a goal, make sure you include a reasonable time frame to achieve it. Remember to take the large goal and break it down into shorter goals that are easier to manage.
Link Actions to Each Goal: For instance, I needed to become a department manager. To achieve this, I signed up for my Master’s in Business Administration.
Be Flexible: If you encounter a barrier that impedes your progress, don’t give up. Modify your goal accordingly. For me this means it will take four years to complete a Ph. D since I will need to work full time throughout my program.
What items that have helped you achieve your short- and long-term goals?