Tips on Setting Goals for Your Career

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These tips on setting goals will get you on your way to building a career that meets your needs and interests.

The most effective goals are stated in a positive manner. Unfortunately, many people don't know exactly what they want from their careers, but they do know what they don't want. As a result, most people state their goals in negative terms. Negative goals are difficult to achieve, so it's important to learn to recognize them and turn them around into positive goals.

Positive Goals

Positive goals are observable and measurable. An example is, "I want to increase my income." You can observe and measure whether you are moving toward that target or not. 

The only thing that is missing are the specific actions you'll need to take to achieve your goal. To determine the actions you'll take, ask yourself what you would be doing if you were moving in the right direction toward that goal. Get as specific as you can when you answer this question, so you'll know exactly what you need to do to move forward. 

Negative Goals 

A negative goal is a goal to avoid something or to stop something from happening. An example is, "I don't want to be late for work anymore." 

The problem with setting career goals that are negative is that they are difficult and sometimes even impossible to attain. Negative goals are very common; people know what they don't want, but they often don't know what they do want. 

To make your negative goal positive, consider this; in order for something not to happen, something else must take its place. Identify the thing that will take its place, and you'll be able to phrase your goal in a positive way. 

So the example above, "I don't want to be late for work anymore." simply becomes, "I want to get to work on time." It may seem like a simple shift, but the shift from a negative to a positive goal is quite important. 

Once you've made your negative goal positive, your next step is to determine the actions you'd take to achieve that goal. So, as noted above, simply ask yourself what you would be doing if you were moving in the right direction towards getting to work on time. Those actions are the steps you'll need to take to achieve your goal. 

Harmful Goals 

A third type of goal that people sometimes set are harmful goals. While it may seem counterintuitive (why would anyone set a goal that was not in his or her best interest?), harmful goals, or self-sabotage are quite common. Typically when you recognize a harmful goal and take some time to think it through, you'll find that at the root of a harmful goal there is some other need that you want to meet. 

An example of a harmful goal would be, "I don't want to job search anymore." If you must find work and need the income, the stoping your job search is not in your best interest. 

Take some time to ask yourself about the reason behind your goal. There may be any number of reasons. If you determine that the reason why you want to stop job searching is because you're not having any success, and you're feeling frustrated, you'll see that the root of your motivation is not that you don't want to find a job, but rather you want to avoid the feeling of frustration with your lack of job search success. 

So, in order to make your harmful goal positive, deal with the issue that is at the root of your motivation. In this case your goal may become, "I want to learn and implement more effective strategies for job searching so I'll have more success." and/or "I want to find a positive, effective way to deal with my feelings of frustration about my job search." 

Again, once you have your goal phrased in a positive way, ask yourself what you would be doing if you were moving toward that goal, be very specific, and use your answer to that question to determine the steps you need to take to move toward your positive goal.

Goal setting can be crucial in helping you move toward career success. Often people fail to achieve their dreams, not for lack of hard work and motivation, but simply because they failed to define their dreams in a manner that allowed them to effectively move toward their goals. Setting career goals that are positive, observable and measurable is the first step toward achieving them

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