Four Simple "Ingredients" To Successfully Meet Your Career Goals

Stella Mantechou

A lot is being said about how to be successful with your job search during uncertain times. However, I don’t see job search as some mystical creature that needs demystification. It’s a matter of common sense with a good dose of being clear about your career goals, being realistic, being committed and being in the right mindset.

Being clear about your career goals.

In times of vast ambiguity , there is an opportunity to re-invent yourself and apply creative problem-solving principles to your career design. Stretch beyond managing the probable to “leading the possible” by addressing career challenges in a different way. Ask questions in a way that could widen your available possibilities. For example: 1) What are the three top experiences in your life, and do you identify a common “theme”  and what does that say about you? 2) What would you do if money, shame or failure were NOT a concern? 3) What times do you feel most alive?

Looking at the problem from a different perspective may reveal other options that you had not considered before.

Secondly, seek for multiple perspectives by listening to what others have to say about your skills and strengths. Listen with the intention to learn and not with the intention to change their views. These two simple techniques of looking differently at solving your career “problem” may generate some quite interesting options.

At this point, you should not waste much time arguing about the best solution, but pick a couple different options and experiment with them in a small way. Many narrow down the path to possible avenues but can’t decide where to go next because of FOMO. We often hear the answer “I am open to any location or to any industry”, when asked “what are you looking for?”. This does not communicate that you have decided on your target or that you know where you can bring value. Becoming “clear-er” about your career goal is going to determine massively the success of your efforts.  

Being realistic about your goals.

Dave Evans and Bill Burnett with their work in Design Your Life had introduced a name to conditions that may create obstacles to your career paths that you can’t solve – they called these conditions “gravity” problems. For example, you can't fight gravity, you should accept it and design a solution around it.

If we translate this into designing your career, then sometimes the solution you may be thinking is not worth the time and effort relative to your goal. Or thinking that one specific job title or “that specific role” is the only solution to getting from where you are now to where you want to be, may not be the only solution to getting there! 

That is exactly the whole point of being a designer of your life: you should be  brainstorming several possible solutions to your career problem, creating several possible paths – some of which may be longer, constantly iterate and break down ideas into manageable steps.

The current economic slowdown post-COVID19 is a gravity problem. Be clear about what you can control and what not, and focus on what will bring you the biggest return on your effort.

What is under your control that you can change to design your career around this gravity problem? And how willing are you to get “there”, following a different path?

Being committed to your goals.

Finding employment in today’s job market won’t be easy. However, crafting meaningful career paths is in your hands; the degree of your success is directly related to the degree of your commitment. It is very natural to be uncomfortable making one choice and sticking to it.

It is important though to remind yourself that there’s no such thing as taking the “perfect path”. You can always start where you are, ideate on options, prototype, iterate your way into something better.

As Ivy Exec explains in this article, the most important aspect of applying resilience theory to your job search is to never give up hope. “The resilient job seeker will find or create opportunities where others see a dead-end”.

What makes them different from others is their commitment to their goals but also their attitude to job search – they don’t blame external factors for their shortcomings. They learn to adapt, instead, and stick with it.

Of course, it is human to go through various emotional stages in a sensitive time like this. 

But staying committed to a goal that speaks true to you is a critical ingredient to fire up your resilience engine. If you haven’t heard about the concept of “Your True North”, perhaps this is a good time to dig deeper. How you respond to challenges when faced with adversity, will determine your mental and professional outcomes. Have you done your absolute best to achieve your career goals?

Being in the “right” mindset.

Mindset is everything! “If you are shackled to who you are now, you can’t recognise – or reach for – who you might become next” (Jennifer Garvey Berger). The unconscious fixed projection of your identity can point you to the wrong direction when faced with uncertainty.

Many tend to focus their energy on projecting and protecting the person they have become, not on growing into the person they might become next. The authors of this McKinsey article describe this as “being caught in the identity mindtrap”. It can easily blind you to valuable personal growth opportunities, while a more expansive view can help you recognise your true potential and improve the possibilities of materializing it. 

The conclusion is easier said than done: avoid drawing a line between the person you were and the evolved person that you are now or could be tomorrow.  Ask yourself who do I want to be next? 

In the same article, we are given a powerful statistic: fewer than 10 percent of adults believe that they aren’t the sole authors of their lives but think that life’s circumstances shape them as much as they shape it. This form of mind is called self-transforming.

When you give in deeper to your self-transforming mindset, you are eventually searching for the next thing that will challenge your belief system.

And this is where magic happens.

By opening up your own form of mind, what new possibilities are you creating? Are you the one who is looking to pick up the pen and write your own stories, not to be written by external circumstances?