Turning Your Career Expectations into Long-Term Reality

“Where do you see yourself in five years from now?” Most job seekers and HR representatives disdain this question because anything can happen in that time to change your career trajectory. Instead, focus on short-term goals that are well within your power to achieve.

Network Constantly

Networking is an easy one to pull off, but most people forget all about it. Make a point of meeting new clients, consultants, co-workers, and team leaders. You never know who will give you your next opportunity. Set weekly and monthly connection quotas. Even adding one connection per week will add 52 new connections in a year-and how many people do you see on LinkedIn with that many connections?

But why do so many so-called networkers fail? Most of them only pursue connections that appear to provide an immediate value, but that’s not the effective way to do it. Make networking about what you can do for the other person rather than what they can do for you. Don’t worry about getting an immediate return from that executive recruiter in New York-that removes the “working” from “networking.” Exchanging immediate value for services rendered is a transaction, not a favor.

The point of the process is to build a good reputation for yourself that others won’t think twice about passing on to people who can help you. Don’t be timid about it-just start doing favors for people, whether they are IT recruiters or legal counsel staff. Give some résumé pointers, edit a cover letter, and introduce contacts to people who might be helpful. Within your workplace, offer to give someone a fresh set of eyes on his or her risk assessment document, or refer them to a placement firm if needed. The point is to provide a valuable service within a reasonable amount of effort. They’ll remember that.

Get Exposure and Trust

If you already have goals in place, you don’t need to throw them out the window-just reframe them to help you advance your career in the short term. It’s all about gaining exposure for your activities and making other people feel good when they talk about those activities with you. Tweak your immediate goals to also include empowering those you work with.

Approach co-workers and ask how they would approach certain problems or assignments that you need to solve. Asking for help makes the person being asked feel valued, which they will associate with you. Additionally, you may be pleasantly surprised with the new ideas and approaches shared when simply ask. It’s a two-way street, but your side has two lanes: exposure and goodwill.

This also works for meetings and other group activities. Ask for people’s opinions on specific issues whenever you get the chance-it sets you up for future promotions as a listener and a collaborator. That’s how you become a trusted leader: treat people like the experts that they are.

Apply SMART Goals

SMART goals are: Specific, Measureable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time-bound. The idea is to set goals that you can break down into straightforward tasks. Apply these to your workplace or career trajectory-sometimes both at once. Broader goals for your short-term career development might look like “receive a promotion to a Risk Management Executive position,” but you need to identify the clear-cut tasks that will take you there.

The tasks you need to perform to become a candidate might include: meeting with your supervisor every week for project feedback, meeting every deadline a day early, and opening a new client account every two months. Sometimes it’s as simple as taking on an extra project when the opportunity presents itself, but set measureable and time-bound tasks for you to meet every week or month.

You will look back and wonder why you never set goals for yourself before.

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