5 tips for developing your career goals

Discover your unique strengths and learn to set meaningful career development goals

There were 3.9 billion internet users in 2018, according to Statista. That’s over half the world’s population.

And with social media connecting us all on a daily basis, it can be tempting to promote a falsely exaggerated version of yourself online, one that ticks all the boxes of what you see as your ideal personal brand.

But here’s why you should seek to be your own authentic self when you’re developing your career goals.

Forget the brand and the spin, understanding your unique strengths – and weaknesses –means knowing how to set purposeful goals and meaningful professional ambitions.

Look at Greta Thunberg, the 16-year-old Swedish climate change activist, who took her School Strikes 4 Climate Action to Davos in January 2019 for the World Economic Forum, and confronted global business leaders with her message.

Her solo protest outside Sweden’s parliament initially lacked support from her peers and even her parents, according to Thunberg’s Facebook. But her single-minded conviction and strong purpose have made her a global figure.

How diluted might her message have become if she’d opted for a carefully contrived social media persona, or lacked authenticity in her goals?

Here are five tips from Nexford University to help you uncover your personal purpose and empower yourself to set meaningful development goals. The greater your purpose, the greater the impact you’ll have. Who knows, you might even change the world!

Prioritize your goals

Ask yourself questions: what am I good at? What motivates me? What do I care about? Identify areas for development that complement this revealing of your authentic self. When you understand your unique purpose more clearly, it’s easier to keep your focus on personal aims that are a good fit. Don’t waste energy and get frustrated by completing tasks that have nothing to do with your core purpose. When you have a clearer sense of how your strengths map onto your own sense of purpose, you can be focused on your goals and prioritize the ones that add value to your development.

Involve others in goal setting

Understanding how others see you can be invaluable. Find people you know will be honest, and ask them to list your strengths and weaknesses. You might be surprised by the results. Ask a boss, a colleague or a mentor, or perhaps a friend, family member or partner. If you’re on one of our degree programs, you’ll be assigned a Success Advisor who can provide this feedback. Ask them to be specific in their insights, and make sure you’re asking people you know will be candid–and not just say what you want to hear!

This can work two ways; look at someone you admire and list what you see as their personal strengths and weaknesses. Watch how they manage their development, and learn from their approach. Be careful not to copy. The way someone else manages their development is unique to their own purpose. It could be ineffective to think that you can achieve the same thing by merely copying their approach. Make sure the lessons you take are relevant to your purpose.

Make sure you’re setting SMART goals. It’s easy to set ambitions that sound good but aren’t actually meaningful. Evaluate each goal you set and ask yourself whether it’s:

S=Specific

M=Measurable

A=Action oriented

R=Realistic

T=Timebound

Be realistic about your personal barriers

We all have weaknesses along with challenges in our lives that together can create barriers to our goals. Don’t ignore them, or pretend they’re not there. Address them head-on, accept them, and decide how you’re going to work with them. If something is keeping you from a development priority, address it. Look at Jeff Bezos, Founder of Amazon, whose extramarital affair was recently exposed in lurid detail by tabloid newspaper The National Enquirer. Rather than quietly enduring the humiliating coverage, Bezos hired a team to uncover how the tabloid had obtained its material. The Enquirer made him an offer not to publish any further pictures if Bezos made a statement confirming that the coverage was not politically motivated. Bezos promptly published a blog on Medium, refusing to be intimidated. He writes:

“Of course I don’t want personal photos published, but I also won’t participate in their well-known practice of blackmail, political favors, political attacks, and corruption. I prefer to stand up, roll this log over, and see what crawls out.”

Start small

It can be tempting to sketch yourself a new life plan when you feel that you’re not reaching your goals. But start small. Implement something every day. Spending even five minutes a day focused on your goals will make your personal development part of your daily routine.

Take time to reflect and learn lessons

Setting a goal isn’t just about looking forward. Take time to look back on what worked, as well as what didn’t, and crucially, ask yourself why.

“People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it,” says Simon Sinek, author and ethnographer –whose innovative research forms part of our Roadmap to Success course. Examining the why, as well as understanding the what and the how is crucial to communicating your authentic purpose.

Continue your focus on developing within a specific area and incorporate these lessons into your process. Share your knowledge by teaching it to friends or colleagues, regroup, and set yourself new goals that take into account what you’ve learned.

Developing your career goals forms part of our Roadmap to Success course. Why not check out our online degree programs?

About the Author

Anna Johnston

Anna is brand content lead at Nexford University. She’s fascinated by people, technology and the way we live our lives.

Anna has more than a decade’s experience. She’s a content strategist and creative who understands where ideas worth spreading fit in the digital world. She has written for the Financial Times, Forbes, Huffington Post, HR Magazine and Reuters, and some of the world’s greatest think tanks and consulting firms such as Accenture and McKinsey & Company.

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