Whether or not you strategically set goals could be the difference between career fulfillment (not to mention advancement), and just running on a hamster wheel. That’s not to say that you won’t accomplish some good things along the way. But without goals, you don’t know where you’re going or why you’re headed there in the first place. How can you know if you’re making any progress?
Strategy and goals matter because they give you structure and something to work toward plus a meaning for it all. That sounds awfully simplistic, but sometimes the simplest answers are the right ones.
Action versus Reaction
Action is taking the lead and making something happen. Reaction is responding to something else. Your career is filled with both of these situations. But with a bigger plateful of reaction, your focus is on chasing problems instead of moving ahead. Reaction shouldn’t be your default setting, says engineer Christian Knutson for Engineering.com.
Setting goals, and the strategy that goes into it, designs your work life and that of the people you lead. It’s about creating challenges, and then moving in and conquering them. It’s shaping your career instead of letting your field shape you. You’ll still react to situations that arise. But that won’t be how you go through life.
The Work / Life Balance
Engineering might not be who and what you are, but it definitely affects it. You’ve heard about the work / life balance, and how everyone needs to spend quality time away from work to have a more fulfilling life. But no matter what you do, you’re always an engineer and that filters over into your home life. The way that you approach strategy and goals can affect that, too.
You career isn’t just a 9-5. It has meaning – why you do what you do. You should always have career goals, but you need personal goals, too. They complement each other. Engineer Anthony Fasano writes at The Engineering Career Coach that stopping to determine your career and life strategy and then setting those goals can improve your stress level, reduce feelings of being overwhelmed and help you feel more engaged at work and at home.
Setting those Strategies and Goals
Your strategy is an outline of what you want to achieve. Where do you want to be in 5 or 10 years? And your goals are what get you there. You probably have a rough idea of both of those, for your job and your personal life. Now it’s time to map it all out instead of going through every tomorrow reacting to whatever lands on your plate right then.
Knutson says every engineer must answer three questions: What you do, how you do it, and why you do it. The answers to these questions help you form your strategy, but the “why” of it all might be the most important answer. Without a meaning, you’re just going through the motions every day. But with meaning, you’re not just working, but working with purpose in whatever you do. That’s a well-rounded strategy.
You’ll find your own answers, and they might change with every set of goals. Knutson also stresses that money and esteem aren’t very good “whys.” It goes a lot deeper than that. They’re side-effects. Your “why” is what’s inspiring to you. That’s what’s worth getting out of bed for every day, and what can make you work and home life a lot more fulfilling.
PDH Academy can help with part of that. We might not know your “whys,” but we can definitely help you stay on tack with your goals. Check out our PE approved courses when your next professional development hours are due.