We’re used to making – and breaking – New Year’s Resolutions. Good intentions and the heady atmosphere that surrounds the turn of the calendar year tempt us to make dramatic promises to ourselves, and when the seasonal euphoria wears off, so does our resolve. It’s a bit of fun and, if we don’t take it too seriously, harmless enough. But when it comes to our careers, games are not enough. We need to make achievable goals; promises to ourselves that we can reasonably expect to keep.
Luckily, there’s another New Year; one with none of the cultural overtones of the 1st of January. It’s called the End of the Financial Year, and before you know it, it will be just round the corner. If you haven’t yet created a career plan, this is a great time to do so. If you do have a plan, the turn of the financial year is a great time to check your progress.
Head in the Clouds – Feet on the Ground
Good goal-setting involves several elements:
Life Purpose – A career doesn’t exist as a distinct entity, separate from your aspirations for friendship, family and community. The most powerful – and achievable – career goals are those that harmonise with your wider life ambitions. They will be congruent with the sort of person you are and want to become, and with the difference you want to make in the world. By contrast, career goals that are at odds with your life’s purpose are not only far harder to achieve, but probably not worth achieving! It’s important that you commit your statement of purpose to writing. If you leave it in your head, that’s probably as far as it will get! If you already have a life purpose statement, now’s a good time to review, and if necessary brush it up.
Self Assessment – Once you have written your life purpose statement, it’s time to review your strengths, your weaknesses and the present state of your career. Again, you should write these down. You can then look at the two, side by side, with your professional life in mind. Where are they congruent, and where not? Is the career path you are presently on fulfilling that purpose, and if not, what needs to change for that to be the case?
Timeline – Time to get serious. You have a life purpose statement, which is about the quality of your life. Your task now is to set a major career goal for the long term – let’s say ten years – and, crucially, to connect it back to the present via a series of practical, achievable steps. Let’s look at an example:
Alison Dutton is a young Sydney lawyer who, after beginning her career in general practice, recently started her own practice in employment law.
Describing her career path, Alison says:
“My interest in social justice really gelled during my final years in High School, with a scholarship placement at Mahindra United World College. After two years I came back to Sydney to do a BA at the University of Sydney. By then I’d done a good deal of thinking about who I was, and what sort of a life I wanted to lead. I formed a clear vision that I wanted to make a difference in the field of human rights – the question was what form that contribution could take.
“A mentor urged me to take a critical look at myself and identify the strengths that could support my vision. Among other things I realised I was a better than average user of the English language – a strength which suggested that legal practice, perhaps in the field of employee rights, might be a good vehicle for my passion. I looked at the legal scene here in Sydney and felt that while plenty of middle- and top-tier firms practiced employment law, there wasn’t really an outfit that offered the kind of personalised service I felt I wanted to be involved in. My mentor urged me to write down, in as much detail as I could, the sort of professional life I wanted to have in ten years’ time. And she told me to make it ambitious – the way she put it, if it wasn’t a bit scary, it wasn’t big enough!
“I wrote that I wanted to be heading up a boutique law firm specialising in employment law, and with an emphasis on employee advocacy. I wrote that I wanted to have attracted around me partners and employees who shared my vision, and to be operating my practice from an inner Sydney suburb.”
There isn’t the space in this blog to give Alison’s career goal in all its glorious detail, but her mentor had urged her to describe every aspect of her professional life, including her remuneration.
Alison continues: “Writing my long term goal was scary, but my mentor reminded me that it was a ‘living’ document that I should go back to regularly and review, being prepared to amend in the light of developments in my life. With the big goal committed to writing, it was time for me to commit to it. At my mentor’s suggestion I started “chunking it down”; bringing it towards the present moment in logical steps.
“Obviously I needed legal qualifications, but I realised I couldn’t just leap from law school into my own legal practice. I needed the experience of working in a major firm with a significant employment law element to its practice. With these considerations in mind, a series of actionable steps began to emerge.
Working backwards in time, it went something like this:
- 10 years – leading a successful boutique employment law practice.
- 5–10 years – starting my own practice.
- 2-5 years – working in general practice to gain experience and reputation
- 0-2 years – gaining a first class law degree.
- Immediate – apply for entry to UNSW to study law.
“This is of course, just an outline. With each step, I’ve added as much detail as possible to each step, and I’ve found that doing this makes the goal easier to achieve. I also review and revise regularly, fine tuning the steps in light of experience, and of my own personal development. In fact about the only step I haven’t tweaked has been the big 10 year goal, and having started my own practice last year, I don’t feel I have to – I’m on track, and it’s a great feeling! “
It’s a new financial year – Is it time to review your career goals?
Burgess Paluch Legal Recruitment Consultants are experienced in assisting in developing a road map to help you achieve your goals. Contact us for an informal chat to discuss your future.