This article was written by Ronit Bohrer Hillel, a senior director of engineering at Smartsheet with a passion for developing and leading teams, and for inspiring the next generation of female engineering leaders.
With the new year fast approaching, it’s the perfect time to evaluate your professional goals: the bridge between where you are now and where you aspire to be.
It’s easy to say we have little control over our future, or to become so engrossed in our day-to-day work that we lose sight of the big picture. You can live like that for awhile, but then you aren’t taking advantage of the incredible power that comes from harnessing ownership of your career path. Keep in mind: Any big accomplishment or feat of greatness, from landing on the moon to becoming a world-renowned inventor, didn’t just happen! It was a vision that was intentionally mapped out, then realized.
Having a clear picture of your career objectives gives you a north star that helps you to stay focused on what’s truly important, and to confidently make decisions along the way.
Discover what gives you motivation, inspiration, and personal satisfaction
The best way to find where you want to go is by evaluating what you truly enjoy doing, what motivates you, and what you are passionate about. Imagine where you could take your career if achieving all of those things were possible. That’s your north star.
For example, you may think you want to be a manager because it appears to be more influential, but after some reflection recognize that you really don’t like leading people, and would be more fulfilled staying on a track of an individual contributor. Or, you may be a new parent and would prefer to turn down a “bigger” role to spend this season of life focusing more on family.
Start by asking the following questions:
- What do I enjoy doing? What keeps me excited? And why?
- What am I really good at?
- What are the most important things in my life right now (e.g. professional advancement, family, learning and development, friendships, etc.)?
- What are my inspirations and dreams? How are they aligned with the first two questions?
Remember, there are no right or wrong answers here. Be honest with yourself!
Evaluate where you are now
After some self-reflection you might realize you have a passion for entrepreneurship and would set it as your target. But, do you have the skills (e.g. basic accounting, marketing, etc.), a tested idea, resources, and mentors to make it happen? It’s important to evaluate where you are now, and then address gaps through goal setting.
You can do this by taking an inventory of the following:
- What are my “superpowers” and skills that I bring to the table?
- What skills do I need to refine or obtain?
- What have I accomplished up until this point that can help me move forward?
- What learning resources are available to me?
By now you have a better idea of where you are now, what your career objective is, and what tools you have to support where you want to go. This means you’re ready for the next step...
Create goals and a plan of action to reach your career objective
How many times have you said, “I’m going to start working out,” or “I’m going to be less stressed,” or “I’m going to be more intentional in building relationships”? But you never get around to achieving these things. That’s because you’ve set the target but haven’t created a clear plan on how to get there.
Your plan is composed of a series of goals that build on each other, like bricks in a bridge leading from one side of the river to the other. Each brick needs to be strong and well-defined or it will fall apart, making your journey difficult, or even impossible.
I’m an advocate of a S.M.A.R.T. goal setting approach, which states that goals need to meet the following criteria:
- Specific: Clearly define goals as succinctly as possible.
- Measurable: Identify metrics and checkpoints for measuring progress and success.
- Attainable: Set realistic goals that can be completed within specific parameters.
- Relevant/Meaningful: Ensure that goals are worth pursuing.
- Time-bound: Assign deadlines to goals and related action steps.
Here are two examples of my own career goals, following the S.M.A.R.T. goal setting, each related to a different career objective:
Career objective 1: Grow and scale up as a senior engineering leader.
Goal: By November, provide five of the engineering disciplines with clear definitions of their role and understanding of what it means to grow to the next level within the organization. This will be achieved by creating a set of engineering role leveling guidelines, approved by the engineering leadership team and shared with the entire engineering organization.
Career objective 2: Inspire women to become leaders in the engineering profession.
Goal: By the end of Q1 2020 give an “Empowering Growth and Achievement Through Goal Setting” talk at an established women-in-tech conference.
You can use these goal setting and tracking templates to get started. It’s important to keep these goals in a visible place to maintain focus and track progress.
Achieve, celebrate, and evaluate
I encourage everyone to review and revise their goals every month or every quarter — not only to track progress and set new goals, but to pause and celebrate goals that have been achieved.
It’s also important to constantly evaluate goals, keeping an eye on, “What is my long-term objective, what do I still need to do to get there, and did accomplishing these goal(s) help me get closer to where I want to go?”
Last, but not least, goals are accelerated when they’re supported by others. Surround yourself with colleagues, mentors, advisers and supporters who inspire and push you to achieve more.
Learn more about how you can have meaningful impact and be empowered to achieve more by visiting our careers page.