Put your goals in writing, counselor says

Reviewing your progress eases choosing next step

September 07, 2005|By Carol Kleiman | Carol Kleiman,CHICAGO TRIBUNE

Having a goal - a serious career plan - is an important tool in professional satisfaction and advancement.

"Setting and achieving goals help create a focus for your direction for your next career step," said Cynthia Kivland, founder and president of Career Performance Strategies, a consulting firm based in Prairie Grove, Ill.

"Having a plan helps you to keep moving forward, to keep your eye on the prize and to minimize the distractions that could pull you off track."

Kivland, who is a licensed counselor and has a master's degree in counseling education, emphasizes that "when you set a goal and write it down - which is really important - you're intentionally making a commitment to yourself that you're going to do something positive about your career."

5-year plan passe

For decades, many people talked about having a five-year plan. But that idea has been superceded by a better one, according to Kivland.

"It doesn't have to be a five-year plan because in today's career climate there is a lot of uncertainty and change," she said. "What is better to do is to have a one-year plan, an annual career checkup, whether or not you are employed and similar to your annual physical checkup."

Some people prefer an even shorter timetable for their goals and do six-month plans.

In any case, monthly evaluations should be done to see if you need to take any "new action," whatever the length of your plan.

"You have to create not only a plan but a support network to help you get there," Kivland said. "Show or tell your plan to three other people who will be advocates for you, people who will help keep you focused."

One of the people in your network should be "a kind soul; another, a stern taskmaster; and the third, a professional colleague."

Kivland relates the case of a stockbroker who had made a lot of money but wanted a career that "provides more meaningful work to society at large."

In the former stockbroker's career plan, her first goal in getting the job she wanted was to research the type of nonprofit she might want to work for and to contact three of them. That took five weeks.

More education

Her one-year plan to find meaningful employment also included finding out if she needed further education. She found that she did and is enrolled in a certification course.

Her support network includes her husband, a former business partner and a lawyer.

"She is focused, beginning her job search - and putting her career plan into action," Kivland said.

The Chicago Tribune is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.

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