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Setting career goals

Ananya Neogi
Frontend dev amongst other things.
・3 min read

When I ask people about their career goals, I mostly get answers like “I just go with the flow”. While this might work fine for some people but it generally doesn’t bode well in the long run. If you talk to successful people, you would quickly realize that most of them had been intentional with all their career-oriented decisions and those deliberate decisions have led to the place they are now.

Intentionally crafting your career is essential. It is, however, easier said than done as we have myriad of options to choose from at our disposal. Also, it doesn’t help that we have so many distractions especially when every other day people are creating hype around some new technology or some new trend on Twitter. So that makes it more important to be intentional about the things we want to do in our career and not let ourselves fall into the trap of trends. Though I agree, sometimes, it pays off to jump on that hype train but make sure you are doing it for the right reasons and that you have done your research.

An aside thought: I like to think of my career goals as an engineering problem for which I would carefully craft a solution that would help me achieve a particular outcome, similar to how I would do if it were an actual engineering problem. It might seem like an oversimplification because life doesn’t work that way, and there will be unknown bumps on the road, and we might even change course in the middle. But at its core, I think this analogy holds well. Thinking about my career goals in this sense allows me to be more analytical about my decisions!

Coming back to the topic of setting intentional career goals – I have some questions you can ask yourself which will guide you to be intentional when setting your career goals for this year and beyond.

1. Do my values and work align with each other?

Not a lot of people think about their values. But investing time and effort to think about what values matter the most to you and then aligning your career decisions to that will ensure you are on your best path forward. It will also ensure that the work you’re doing will truly make you feel fulfilled at the end of the day.

2. How do you want to spend most of your workdays?

I think this is the most important thing to consider because each day’s work will eventually make up your whole career. Intentionally selecting the kind of work to focus on each day means you are ultimately creating an intentional career path for yourself.

3. A few years from now, how would you like to be introduced to someone else?

Would you like to be called an author of a book or a paper? Maybe the creator of x? The first person to live on Mars? I’m joking about the last one, but the point is this can be a fun exercise and will help you dig deep into your dreams and aspirations.

Now every time you have to make a career decision, you will have your answers as guiding principles. It is worth mentioning that the answers to these questions might change in a few years, but that’s OK because our goals can evolve as we evolve in our lives. Being true to yourself and what you want – however clichéd that might sound – will serve you well in the long run. Remember, we’re here for the marathon, not a sprint.

Discussion (5)

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Ben Halpern

I think this is an important topic.

One does not have to be tremendously precise about the details of the path, as you need to be available when opportunity strikes, but having a sense of the path is important because it will impact how you spend your work days.

We recently promoted @molly_struve to head of engineering at Forem, and there was a lot of alignment in terms of Molly being up for the challenge of such a role— But while it is a clear promotion, it's not the kind of job some would want to strive for. We have very senior folks doing great individual contributor work, and it really is a great type of job.

I love your three questions for helping determine one's own path.

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Karthikeyan Dhanapal

Just like an abstract class. Having an abstract of what we really want to do with our lives makes it easy for us to achieve the things that we really want in life even though there are unknowns in the path. If the base is clear enough it will take us to places that we once perceived as dreams :)

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Ananya Neogi Author

You're right that this post has a lot of assumptions and biases because this is based on my lived experiences which might or might not be similar to a lot of people here. And I'm aware that these approaches are not universal and will only work for a subset of people 🙂

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Frank Rager

I think only clear identification of the career goals can lead to success in any profession, especially when it comes to programming and coding. On this website, I have found more information on this matter and realized when you see the identified aims, there are more chances to achieve them.