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Setting Your Mid-Life Career Goal

By Dr. Jan Cannon

We all set goals, like New Year's resolutions. When it comes to mid-life and careers, however, it might not be something you've thought about. But without goals, and a plan to achieve them, life and career just bumble along.

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When I Grow Up...

It was easy in our twenties to make statements like: "I'm going to be a lawyer." or "I'm going to make lots of money." or "There needs to be a better ___________ (fill in the blank) and I'm going to make it."

There was time to do or be anything. Now, as 40 has passed, or even 50 or 60, there may not seem like there's time to complete huge undertakings. But you may be surprised.

Determining Your Goals Now

The first step to determine what's possible is to think about and write down a goal or two. Writing them down is extremely important. Research has shown that people with written goals are more likely to achieve them. Don't make a whole list of goals, either. Just focus on one or two right now.

The important thing to remember about goals is that they are more than just a to-do list. Goals which are SMART usually have more oomph to them: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Time-bound. For instance, instead of "get a promotion" a more powerful goal is "Be promoted to marketing director by July of next year" (this assumes you're already working in the marketing department). For this to happen, you'll need a plan of action, which is also a part of goal-setting.

Here are a few things to think about when you're deciding on a career goal.

Do you like your current job?

Great if you do. If not, what is it about the job that you've lost interest in?

Based on your answer, think about what you can do to either change the content of the job or how you perform it that will make it more to your liking. Change some duties? Mentor a younger employee? Travel less or more? You can set goals around these issues.

Are you ready to move up to a job with more responsibility?

Think about all the details such a move would entail. Longer hours? More travel? Supervising co-workers? Potential relocation? Factor in training and personal adjustments if necessary to achieve your goal and add them to your action plan.

Is it time to change career directions?

What will you do? Where will you do it? What skills do you need to acquire? Set your goals relevant to your answers to these and other questions you ask yourself about a career change. You get the idea.

Just remember goals are set at different levels:

  • First, there's the "big picture" level where you state what you want to happen ("Be promoted to marketing director by July of next year.").
  • Then set intermediary goals and timetables.

    There might be a 1-year plan, a 6-month plan, a 3-month plan and a 1-month plan, with each based on the earlier plan.
  • Finally a daily to-do list that sets out in detail what you'll do each day.

    Review your to-do lists and update them daily. Each week review your longer term plans and modify them as you learn more.

In the first stage you may be information gathering and doing research on your specific long-term goal. In later stages you may be making changes in your daily job responsibilities or lifestyle to accommodate the move to your long-term goal.

Throughout the process it's important to prioritize your daily activities to keep from being overwhelmed. Focus on those actions which give the most reward first. Keep realistic expectations throughout the process. Don't let others make goals for you.

Bottom Line:

Once you've achieved a goal, take time to enjoy your achievement. A little self-congratulation goes a long way to building self-confidence and making it easier to set and reach the next goal. Also, take time to review your other plans. How have they changed? What are the new priorities? What did you learn?You'll achieve any goal sooner if you create and plan and follow the plan.

Mid-life is the perfect time to reconsider where you are and where you want to go.


About the author...

Dr. Jan Cannon, Job-Hunt's Mid-Life Career Expert, is author of Now What Do I Do? The Woman's Guide to a New Career, Find a Job: 7 Steps to Success, Finding a Job in a Slow Economy, co-author of Exceptional Accomplishment, and a career professional for 20 years. Visit her website, JobSearchDoctor.com, and circle Jan on Google+ for more career advice and help.