Mark McCormack wrote the wonderful book What They Don’t Teach You at Harvard Business School. In the book, Mark talks about a study that was conducted using the 1979 graduates of Harvard’s business school program. The graduates were all asked if they had set clear, written goals for their future and made plans to accomplish those goals.
84% of the class responded that they had no specific goals. 13% said that they had career goals, but that they hadn’t written them down. The final 3% had clear, written goals.
Ten years later, the class of ’79 was interviewed again. On average, the 13% who said they had unwritten goals were making twice as much as the 84% without goals. But this is the real shocker: the 3% who had clear, written goals were, as a group, making ten times more than the other 97% combined.
Clearly, it pays to be in the 3%.
So you know you should have goals for your career, but what should those goals be? Goal planning alone isn’t going to make you successful if the goals you set don’t push your limits or if they don’t make your life better. In our experience, these are the three career goals that have led to the most successful lives.
Goal 1: Find out what makes you happy.
Success isn’t simply measured in pay. It’s measured in your feeling of personal worth, accomplishment, and fulfillment. Perhaps you’re the kind of person who takes more satisfaction in your job than anything else. Great. You should find a job that pushes you to your limits, that requires you to be innovative, bold, and committed. Perhaps you’re happiest when you know the work you do benefits the world. Wonderful. Determine whether or not your current job gives that you satisfaction, and if it doesn’t, look for ways to move into a role more suited to your passions.
Goal 2: Build a larger network.
More people self-identify as shy today than ever before. We’re so connected through machines that having real live conversations makes us nervous. Well, it’s time to get over it. Practice makes perfect. Take the time to have lunch with your coworkers. Go to conferences and introduce yourself to the strangers sitting around you. Go out on a limb. You’ll end up with more friendships, more mentors, and more people in your life who can help you advance your career.
Goal 3: Set aside time for yourself.
If you make your career your one and only goal in life, you’re going to miss out on a lot of the best things this world has to offer. Use your vacation days. All of them. You’ll have a more fulfilled life, your family will like you better, and you’ll do better work when you ultimately go back to the office. Take personal days when you need them. If your kid is turning 12, take the day off and take them to a baseball game. It will be a memory that will stay with both of you a lot longer than that financial report you were working on.