Career Objectives – Overlook Them at Your Peril!

Importance of Career Objectives
Companies adapt operating models to achieve pre-defined targets and objectives. It is also crucial for companies to plan for the future by benchmarking employee performance, developing skills, managing talent and succession planning.

Good employers usually provide the necessary infrastructure for encouraging individuals to train, develop and progress in their careers, but much of the emphasis and hard work has to come from employees themselves. This facilitates the need for individuals to plan their careers by establishing a clear career path and an effective strategy. A fundamental part of creating a career plan is having a strategic vision or target role. A career objective is essentially a clear statement of intent for reaching the vision or target job role.

‘SMART’ components…
Specific: A clearly defined target role. Candidates need to be focused on achieving a specific job role or attaining a level of progression. Maintaining a clear focus on the overall objective is important, though career objectives may change slightly over time.

Measurable: Candidates must be able to monitor progress effectively by benchmarking performance against pre-defined criteria. For many, this is often done through performance reviews with line management. More senior career-minded professionals may use career mentors to outline stages of progression and evaluate performance against set objectives.

Achievable: They must be realistically achievable with clearly defined stages of progression. Objectives and action plans can be set at each stage of progression. Unrealistic objectives can be de-motivating, unhelpful and will ultimately lead to a sense of failure. More important objectives maybe harder to achieve and will generally take longer.

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Relevant: Career objectives must have a clear context by being relevant to current situations, intended career path and aligned to a planned strategy. A relevant objective gives clear sense of direction and additional focus.

Time Focused: Specifying timescales and deadlines are important otherwise career objectives may never be met. Effective career plans should have clearly defined time periods. A well-structured plan with realistic timescales ensures a sense of urgency and purpose.

Objectives and Career Progression
Successful career progression is often based around an effective and well-structured career plan. Achieving the overall career objective should be the final outcome of any career plan.

Career plans should be flexible enough to take into account the need to improve skills, take on board additional training, projects and development as well as fitting in the necessary time and commitment to drive forward and meet desired objectives. A skills and gap analysis is often required to identify areas of weakness to work on ready for achieving progression. Career progression should be the deserved outcome of any personal and professional improvement activities.

Measurement of Success
Reaching or exceeding career objectives should give an important sense of achievement. The stakes get higher as people progress through organisations with increased management, budgetary and staffing responsibilities. Rewards can also be reaped through a higher salary, additional benefits and a higher professional profile within the company. At higher levels, further professional recognition can be gained through companies looking to headhunt for particular skills and experience.

Setting Objectives
Career objectives never be determined in isolation. They should always be openly discussed and periodically reviewed to ensure they remain ‘SMART’ and ultimately successful. Objectives should be written down, clarified and clearly aligned to any career plan.

Getting a second opinion through a line manager, career mentor or another career-minded professional always helps to gain a different perspective, resolve any oversights and allows for career plans to be structured effectively. Very often career mentors and line management will have established processes and resources to help people set career objectives and determine viable career plans.

Selling Objectives
Getting across career objectives is important. Conveying career objectives to line management will help in the creation of future development plans and a career path may result. Selling career objectives to prospective employers is also important, as this can show ambition, drive and focus when selecting candidates for job interview. Objectives should therefore be clearly mentioned in a CV or marketing document.

CV Writing and Career Objectives
A career objective in a CV is crucial because it tells recruiters exactly what the candidate is after. It focuses the CV towards a specific job role. Many candidates fail to state what they want and so come across as rather vague. A clear, specific and carefully targeted career goal shows a statement of clear intent. This often reassures the recruiter that the candidate really wants the job, is focused on a particular career path and makes for a stronger application.