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Avoid Stagnation

Author: Michael Scaletti

Stagnation is a danger to our general happiness in many aspects of our lives, but nowhere is it more dangerous than in our careers. Feeling like you're stuck in a rut, performing the same tasks over and over, for no gain and no advancement, can lead to frustration and burnout. One of the keys to staving off those feeling is creating and then developing career goals.

Figure Out Your Goals

The first step is to figure out what your career goals are. Take the initiative here and brainstorm what it is you want to accomplish in your career without waiting for someone else (such as a mentor or manager) to set them for you. This can be especially important for people just entering the workforce who may be used to parents, teachers, and other authority figures setting they goals for them. Taking the initiative not only makes you look good, it also allows you to steer your career development.

Know Your Worth

One of the best ways to develop your career goals is to know what you already do well. What are you bringing to the table that makes you a valuable asset? If you can develop that further, especially if there are measurable metrics involved, you have the makings of a great career goal.

For example, if you are in sales and have had several great sales periods in a row, you know that you are bringing a valuable skill to your team. You can use that to set a realistic sales target for yourself that exceeds what you have done to this point. By having that target to strive for you will further develop an already valuable skill and make yourself even more valuable for your company.

Shore Up Weaknesses

Alternatively, knowing where you struggle can be just as valuable for your goal setting. if there is an aspect of your career where you have not been able to achieve or accomplish as much as you would like, that can be a great place to look for a career goal. Figure out what being competent looks like at that aspect, and then lay out the steps it will take to get there.

It's okay if you're unsure how to achieve this right away. There is a reason your struggling after all! One great tool to use for improving your own weaknesses is your coworkers. Set up a time to discuss this aspect of your job with coworkers who excel at it. Pick their brain to figure out how they have developed their own excellence. You'd be surprised how happy people often are to share their expertise.

Be Ambitious and Realistic

One of the most important aspects of career goals is figuring out exactly where to set your sights. You want to be ambitious enough to push yourself, but realistic enough that your goals are actively achievable. If you set your sights to high to fast you will be setting yourself up for failure, and while failure in and of itself is not the end of the world, repeated failures can lead to frustration and self-anger.

Alternatively, if you set your sights too low, you will find yourself not pushed hard enough to get out of the rut we're trying to avoid. The key is finding a target somewhere in the middle. Take a look at your target goal, and then map it backwards. Is each individual step achievable within the time limit you have set for yourself? Will each step require you to push yourself to achieve them, or do you think you can coast through it? These questions will help you establish a road map to a goal that is both achievable AND ambitious.

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