Are You Setting Olympic-Like Career Goals?!

With the Summer Olympics around the corner, it occurred to me that time flew really fast since the Beijing Opening Ceremonies on that sideways infinity night of 8/8/08. Four years used to seem like a long time, whether one is a world-class athlete training for the ultimate competition or pursuing the pinnacle of academic degree such as a Ph.D.

As young elite athletes training and set criteria for times, strength, agility and team chemistry, those of us immersed in daily non-athletic livelihoods must find ways to remain motivated, driven to fulfill their roles and responsibilities and set milestones and objectives to attain within desired time frames.

I made some cosmetic career goals in terms of jobs and types of organizations I desired working for at the time in my 20s, but after achieving them, I became a bit disoriented on my journey. I wondered what else can I do? What other skills do I need to develop to change careers or advance in the business world?

Over the last four years, I developed new academic and professional goals, and now after knocking those down, I am pondering what that next plateau could and should be. In due time, I aim to figure it out, but it is interesting who some people with a certain degree can remain on a progressing career track within their field or specialty of service, while others end up switching course several times, discovering something they enjoy more after growing out of particular job situations or starting their own business. I really admire entrepreneurs and independents who figured it out, are happy with their business model and mission and are making it work them.

Do you make concrete career objectives with a set finish date? How do you stay challenged and motivated in a particular career or position level after a significant amount of time has elapsed? Significant personal professional development goals probably don’t require a four-year window to attain. Perhaps with the right focus, time allocation and resources, a year or two is all one may need to reach the coveted threshold, milestone, degree or certification in their particular industry or organization.

A CEO at an organization I once worked for used to ruminate on how he always felt a “seven-year itch” to change his occupation or organizational pursuit. The new generation workforce embarking or encroaching on its surge to “being in their prime” seems to operate at a median tenure clip of around three years at a particular peg or post in their company or agency, before eyes veer toward the door; if the mindset wasn’t already past it long ago. In some sectors the attrition or exodus average of journey-level personnel often seems to be only about 18 months.

Extensive writing and debate abounds about the merits, meaning and purpose of annual performance reviews, regardless of one’s stature in an organization. In most situations, it can be very beneficial to formulate a set of specific goals for the coming year. There may be satisfaction for the employee and supervisor upon reviewing the successful completion of said objectives at the next review, but can an employee or supervisor remain hungry enough to commit to an organization for an additional multi-year run when they feel everything has been crossed off their performance review check list of achievements?

In addition to assessing completed objectives on an annual basis, it is also important for one to take stock in their career status, place in the organization and most importantly, state of happiness in their overall personal life. It can be a productive exercise to reflect on what one may have accomplished during a four-year period, much like an Olympian might benchmark their medal haul compared to their previous performance four years earlier.

Most people I meet seem ambitious, thorough and creative and exude a dedicated approach to their daily work roles and responsibilities, but many of these “assistant coaches” also aspire to one day hand off the clipboard to someone else so they can have a shot at sitting on the “head coach’s perch”.

So the questions that may remain at anyone’s given career intersection:

  1. Where was I four years ago?
  2. Where can I go or be four years from today?
  3. If I am at a crossroads of a major career decision, what other new challenges can I set for myself regardless of what my organization wants for me?

After measuring the answers to these questions, a person could arrive at a new starting line for training for his or her next personal or career “Olympic moment;” whether that means staying in the current position or departing for a new opportunity. It won’t matter what “organizational jersey” you sport when you accomplish that next milestone, only that you will stand proudly with your achievement on your own personal or career development platform.

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