Career 101: Why You Need Career Goals & A Mentor

Where do you see yourself in five years?

It’s a question we’re bound to be asked in nearly every interview. Employers like to see that people have a strong outlook on their future. They want to know you have the drive to look ahead and the determination to achieve big things. The strength of that success can be decided by two factors – setting career goals and having a mentor.

I recently found a description of a study about setting goals on Mark McCormack carried out the study and published a book about it, called What They Don’t Teach You At Harvard Business School.

Pretty intriguing title, right? The study was with new graduates from the 1979 Harvard MBA program. The students were asked, “Have you set clear, written goals for your future and made plans to accomplish them?” He found that:

  • 84% had no specific goals
  • 13% had them but hadn’t written them down
  • Only 3% had clear goals and had planned on how to accomplish them

Ten years later, the students were interviewed again. And there were more results:

  • The 13% of people who had goals were earning, on average, twice as much as the people who didn’t have goals at all
  • And the 3% of people who had clear, written goals were making ten times as much as the entire 97%.

Those are some pretty strong statistics.

Goal setting is the first step towards achievement. You come across people who haven’t set goals. They’re stuck in one place. Never moving forward. But we aren’t like those people. We’re goal getters and dream chasers. We want big things for our lives and careers. And we aren’t afraid to say that we want them. But there is a difference in actually achieving our end vision. That comes down to setting goals.

What’s even better is having someone who also knows about these goals. A person who can guide you along your journey, hold you accountable and get you to where you want to be. That person is called a mentor.

We need these two things to have a fulfilled and strong career. So today, I’m sharing with you just why career goals and mentors are so important. 

They give you focus

I believe in order to succeed in your career, you need to have a focus. You can envisage where you see your career heading. But it will only go in the direction you want it to go in if you set goals. Your purpose gives you reason. Your goals give you intention. You can decide exactly what you need to spend your time on. You can decide exactly what you need to do to achieve them. It’s the difference between me, who comes home from her day job to work on her side hustle. To someone I knew briefly in the past, who comes home after work and plays games all evening. What results do they lead to? Is playing games every evening an intentional way to spend time? No. But that’s the difference. It’s the hard work that pays off.

Need help setting goals?

Recently, I wrote a post on “How To Set Realistic Career Goals” which you can read here. 

They help you decide what skills you need

You can plan the steps of your career and determine what skills you need to develop along the way. We can always do things to help ourselves grow. In my job, I always take an hour out of my day to learn new things. Whether this is reading blog posts, listening to podcasts or watching a webinar.

Technologies are always developing and changing. If you can be at the forefront of your field, you are positioning yourself to achieve your goals. My newest job title is “Digital Marketing Executive”. This is a huge step up from my previous job title which was “SEO Content Writer.” It was a goal of mine. I knew what I needed to learn to get to that level and I did it. Now my next goal is to move a step further up the ladder and to continue this pattern. I can research the skills I need for each role and learn them. Once I’ve learnt them and moved up the ladder I’m achieving another goal. The bigger your skill set the better.

You’ll get more opportunities

Would you take a job if it wasn’t going to lead to you achieving a career goal? Probably not. If you did, where would it lead you? In my old company, a girl started who wants to be a writer. But she took a job at an agency because she knew how much experience it would give her. And it’s opening a lot of doors for her. Sometimes, a job might not be exactly what you want to do. But it can act as a huge stepping stone on the ladder. It’s about making the right choices for you. 

So many people go to job interviews hoping that the people at the company will like them. But that’s only 50% of it. The other 50% is being sure that the job is right for you. It's important to remember something here.

You have as much power in your decision as your potentional employers

By setting goals, you can make smart decisions. You will be able to decide what moves are right for you to make.

They give you clarity on what you want

What I don’t understand is how a person can say “I want X”, but not have put any thought into how they are going to achieve it. It’s like when someone says “I want to lose three stone.” That’s great. You’ve got an end vision. But what are your goals going to be for getting to that point? What is your exercise routine going to look like? Are you going to plan your meals? The end vision of “I want to lose three stone” could then become something different. It could be that you want to become a strong, healthy woman by improving your exercising and eating habits. This can alter based on the small goals you create for yourself.

The goals you set can be altered as much as you want along the way. It’s about adjusting them and ensuring that they fit in with you and your life. If your main end vision alters slightly, you can alter some of your goals to suit it.

They push you

By setting goals, you are giving yourself something to work towards. You have reasons for growing and pushing yourself. Your goals are a reflection of what you truly desire. There’s no harm in saying they’re what you want. Especially if by saying it, you’re pushing yourself to get there.

Goals make you accountable

This is accountability for yourself. Not anyone else. It’s the feeling you get when you spend your lunch break working on your side passion. It’s the choice you make when you come home from work to exercise rather than collapse on the sofa. When you keep in line with your goals, you are fulfilling what you want.

You’ll be living your best life

Goals enable you to be the person you want to be and live the life you want to live. It’s as simple as that.

They’re someone you can go to

Whether we’re just starting out in our career or smack bang in the middle of it, we always need someone to go to. That person who’s been there, has the knowledge and is willing to share it with you. A mentor is someone you can go to when you’re stuck, frustrated, happy, proud – anything at all.

They’re someone to share ideas with

If you come up with a great idea for a new project at work, it can be difficult to know who to share it with, if anyone. Sometimes it can be better to trust no one. But that’s where a mentor comes in. They are there to support and guide you. Telling them your idea can only help you out in the long run.

They help with your mistakes

When we’re starting out in our careers, we’re bound to make mistakes. It’s the same with everything. But wouldn’t it be great to have someone to pick you up after you make mistakes? To have someone to help you understand where you went wrong and how you can improve? That’s what a mentor will do. They can probably relate to a lot of the mistakes you make along the way. Advice from them is invaluable.

They can teach you everything

If you’re the type of person who always wants to further yourself and grow, then you want to learn. You can do this by watching videos or reading guides. But a mentor will be your biggest tutor. Not only can they teach you everything about what you need to know in your field. They can also help you deal with tricky situations at work. These could include confrontations, workload and any other obstacles we run into in. In the final two weeks I was at my previous job, a girl started. I ended up teaching her everything I know about the role and the industry. She was really grateful and it’s opened her up to learning a whole new set of skills. It’s also opened my eyes about what I see myself doing in my career.

They can improve your skills

A mentor is there to give you advice and guide you. But they are also there to help you grow. If they know something you don’t, but you want to know it – ask them to teach you. My line manager at my previous job left around the same time as me. But for the two weeks we had left, I asked him to teach me everything he knows. He gave me some valuable lessons and knowledge that I’m now confident I can use in my new job. We should never be afraid to ask for help.

I know how scary the future can be. But it’s also really exciting. By setting yourself career goals and finding a mentor to help you, you’ll only get there sooner.

I’d love to know, do you find it useful to set career goals? Does a mentor help you in your career?

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