Tips Setting Career Goals and Objectives for Success

Following on from our article on understanding the importance of setting career objectives for executives, we highlight some useful tips on setting career objectives for success. This covers aspects relating to career progression, measuring success, defining SMART objectives, selling oneself to line management and presenting objectives within a CV. Underpinning this, is the requirement for executives to plan ahead, have an idea of what they are looking to achieve (vision) and are focused on delivering the career development plan.

Planning for career progression

Executive career progression often involves some form of career planning, whether done on own initiative, with a company (executive leadership programme) or using an external executive mentoring service. Achieving career objectives (whatever they are) should be the desired outcome of an any effective career development plan.

Career plans should be forward-thinking, relate to a changing business environment and consider the wider job market for skills, expertise and potential opportunities. Knowing what is going on within an industry sectors can give a good feel for opportunities inside and outside of companies.

One of the most important elements is to conduct a gap analysis to identify strengths, weaknesses and key actions for reaching intended objectives. This may involve additional training, completing an MBA, going on an executive leadership programme, delivering key projects  or just improving skills effectiveness. Sometimes, it can be a matter of luck by being in the right place at the right time to take advantage of opportunities, but there still needs to be some preparation involved to ensure executives can proactively respond to any emerging situations.

Measuring Success for executives

Achieving career objectives, executing plans and even exceeding own career expectations are an important measure of success. This may mean greater responsibilities, progression on to the executive board, working for a bigger company, driving corporate strategy and demonstrating clear leadership credentials. A consequence of this, is usually reaping rewards through executive remuneration, additional benefits and an substantially increased profile within an organisation. With increased profile, executive headhunters may take notice and decide to engage with a view to securing candidates for roles they may have as assignments requiring specific skills, expertise and industry knowledge.

SMART Career Objectives

Researching information, speaking to contacts and discussing objectives can be encouraged because career objectives need some form of consultation, especially as decisions should never be taken in isolation. Never be too open about career aspirations, unless the person you are speaking to is trustworthy and impartial. Objectives need to be documented, verified and aligned to career development plans, plus need to be SMART (Specific; Measurable; Achievable; Relevant and Time-Focused)useful tips for setting SMART career objectives. Get someone to check over what has been documented by getting a second opinion to help refine plans or make adjustments.

Engaging with ‘key stakeholders’

It is important to engage with ‘career stakeholders’ through engaging with direct line management, fellow executives, executive mentor or someone else you can trust and confidence in. Different people are able to express different opinions, perspectives and ideas that may have otherwise been overlooked. Having a career mentor (inside or external to the company), will have more than likely gone through similar thought processes and critical evaluation, so it is important to benefit from their insights and experience.

Selling Executive Credentials

Direct line management (even for executives) are in a place to influence decisions, recruitment plans and talent acquisition. Getting on the front foot, conveying career objectives and selling credentials to the right people can open up opportunities. Choose your moment and trusted fellow executives to chat openly about what you can offer. Alternatively, this may help position you towards future opportunities as fellow executives will now be better aware of your capabilities, drive and ambition. The most successful executives remain proactive and always put themselves to the fore. Building relationships and engaging with line managers is massively important, so it is vital to get an engaging and supportive manager.

Career Objectives and Interviews

Showing ambition, motivation and focus at executive interviews can make a difference. Again, being convincing, selling credentials and having a clear strategy at executive interview often helps demonstrate compelling motivations for wanting a particular role. Equally, showing how a role fits within your wider career development plan can give a compelling argument for employing someone as well as highlighting a better ‘strategic fit’ for the candidate.

Objectives and Writing Resumes

When writing an executive CV, deciding on whether to include an objective or target role can be very subjective. Including a brief objective can help focus the resume towards a specific target role. It also sets the agenda on the CV by stating what the candidate wants (specific role) and further targets the CV towards the opportunity in question. Be careful, as objectives may need to be adjusted on the CV according to the role being targeted. Alternatively, include a more generic objective to cover different scenarios, whilst still stating your intention (i.e. a more generic objective could be an executive leadership role as it covers a number of scenarios and executive positions).

Achieving Success and Career Objectives: Conclusion

The relative importance of defining career objectives must not be under-estimated, especially as they help executives to focus on what is important to them and prioritise key actions to achieve better results. Objectives must be SMART, reviewed periodically and adapted as circumstances evolve, so even if they have not being rigorously defined, objective setting is still integral to the overall career planning process. Without them, executives may lose focus, direction and a sense of purpose or it could take longer to achieve what they set out to achieve. Knowing what to achieve is half the battle and then a plan can be constructed around this.


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