Career goals are like a compass. They help you focus on where you want to go in your career and make positive progress on the road to get there. On the other hand, vague or unclear goals make achieving your career goals exponentially more challenging.
Gaining clarity on your career goals and writing them out with milestones and timelines increase your chances of successfully achieving them many times over just pursuing some vague dream. With clarity about your career dreams and goals and a plan to achieve them, not only do you know exactly what you need to do to reach them, but such plans have the added benefit of invigorating your enthusiasm and maintaining your motivation, even when the going gets tough.
Follow these tips to clarify your career goals:
Clarity isn’t something that is granted or given to you. Instead, clarity is something you create yourself, and you must decide to achieve clarity.
The level of clarity you possess now is the level of clarity you decided to create. Not making a decision… that’s still a decision. In this case, if you lack clarity you’ve simply decided not to search for clarity and not to assume responsibility.
Making a decision and gaining clarity about your career goals does mean that you need to close the door to other possible opportunities. This can be hard for you if you are a person who likes to keep all your options open. But closing a door today doesn’t mean it is closed forever. It just means that it is closed for now while you commit to following the road that is the best choice at the moment. Clarity results from the commitment to one direction. Clarity is your responsibility, and you must accept that before you can move forward.
2. Let Go of the Confusion
Consciously make a commitment to disengage and steer away from the confusion. Confusion muddies what otherwise might have been crystal clear clarity. What creates confusion? Some common culprits are negative and self-defeating self-talk, getting stalled by procrastination and other time-wasters, and complaining about lack of clarity instead of pursuing clarity.
You can clear up any confusion you might feel in various ways, including spending time with focused people who are filled with purpose, choosing to consume motivational and personal development content in your spare time, and eliminating procrastination and taking action.
3. Learn From Your Past Successes
When you have struggled to gain clarity in the past, what has helped? First, look at the factors that contribute to greater clarity and those that confuse it. Then, do more of the things that help you gain clarity. It’s simple, but it’s effective.
Do you find clarity after journaling? Do you struggle to gain clarity after spending time with a particular person? Then, you know what you need to do.
4. Try Visualization
When you have clarity your mind is clear, your emotions are centered, and your whole self is in concert. There is no uncertainty present anywhere within you. It’s a powerful feeling.
Conjure up that feeling within you and visualize how it feels to possess total clarity about your career goals. Imagine your work setting. Where is it? Who is with you? What circumstances do you find yourself in? How are you dressed? What are you doing? Who are you working with? How are you communicating? Use broad brush strokes to paint the most vivid picture that you can. Spend time visualizing your career goals daily. The more you practice visualization, the more clarity you will gain from the exercise.
5. Write SMART Goals
When you initially start the process of clarifying your career goals, you may find it hard not to be vague. For example, you may say that your goal is “to work in a job that I enjoy.” It’s a good starting point, but it lacks impact because it’s imprecise.
How can you put that career goal into action? Simple. Be more specific with your intent. For example, “I want to earn money by programming computer games.” Good, but can you be even more precise? “My goal is to, before next January 1, be in a position in which I earn a minimum of $125,000 annually as a programmer in the computer games industry and in a company that will allow me to work remotely.” This is an example of a SMART goal: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-based.
You will be more successful in achieving your career goals if you write them down and review them regularly. And besides just making them seem real and giving you a roadmap to follow, the benefit of writing out your career goals will be increased feelings of clarity.
6. Explore and Experiment
It can be difficult to set clear career goals, especially when those include a major career change, simply because you aren’t sure what you’re about to get yourself into. In situations such as this, you can gain clarity through exploration and experimentation.
Sometimes it must happen in stages, and that’s okay!
For example, you are unfulfilled in your current job. Despite knowing this, what you don’t know is what you’d enjoy. Try taking some classes in an area of interest to you. Volunteer. Complete an internship. Do something different. Explore what you might like. It might not be perfect, but you’re moving and making changes.
Remember, clarity doesn’t magically come to you. It’s up to you to create it yourself.
Making excuses is the enemy of clarity. What if you were a billionaire and money was no object? You no longer have the excuse of money (or time) standing in your way. You can do absolutely anything you want to. What is it?
Okay, you didn’t win the lottery. That’s okay. You don’t need to wait for that. There is no such thing as a perfect moment. So stop the excuses now, and the best time to get started is now. It’s always now.
Distractions will keep you from gaining clarity. What you read, whom you spend time with, what you watch, eat… all of this will determine how successful you are in your life and career.
But that doesn’t mean you can blame those things for your lack of success. Ultimately, you decide what to consume. If you choose to populate your day with distractions, you won’t accomplish anything.
That doesn’t mean that you should let your career goals dominate everything in your life. It’s all about finding the right balance. The point is that clarity is difficult to obtain if you don’t strike the right balance in life.
Everything just feels easier when you gain clarity. When you hone in on what you want in your career, the excuses disappear. Having a clear view of what you really want helps drive action. There is no time for excuses when you’re busy accomplishing. You stop overthinking, you stop focusing on your fears… you’re busy, too busy pursuing and achieving your career goals for all that nonsense.