Setting Career Goals

It’s been said that age is just a number. But it’s certainly not “just” a number, as those of us with a few years on the old frame can attest. We do change with age. How we change has a thing or two to do with the choices we've made and the goals we've set. Take Robert Marchand: in 2012, this tenacious French cyclist set the world record of riding 100km/62miles in 4 hours, 17 minutes and 27 seconds. That’s 23.305kph, or 14.481mph for over 4 hours on a bicycle. Let that sink in … over 4 hours pedaling a bike over 14 miles per hour for 62 miles. Robert, by the way, was 100 years old at the time! Robert didn't simply show up at 100 years old and pedal his way into the record books. He began seriously cycling at 67 and he had to make choices about any number of things to help put him in the position to not only show up and ride but to set a world record. 


Good advice at any age: make choices to support your goals.

When we have a goal in mind we need to make choices that support our goals. This simple axiom is true for all ages: goal = choice, choice = goal. How does this work? The first thing is to decide where it is you want to be or what it is you want. Then determine what's needed to reach the goal. Once those items are determined, the choice is yours as to whether the goal is worth the choices (and sacrifices) you’ll need to make to reach the goal. 

As a career advisor working with people of all ages and life stages, I see this same axiom time and again. My clients – especially those with 10+ years of experience in the workforce – often find that although they love their choice of career, they’re frustrated because they feel they lack the kinds of new challenges that lead to growth and advancement. My recommendation for these folks is that they need to set goals that will lead to growth or leadership opportunities. Another thing I ask them to consider is that opportunities that bring new challenges, growth, and advancement may be available where they’re currently employed and/or through community activities, volunteering, or professional associations. So this might mean investing in professional development by taking a class to advance their credentials, participating in a leadership or management seminar to increase their knowledge and skills, or joining a group like Toastmasters to hone their public speaking abilities.


As our life situation changes, so do our goals.

What we see is that as our life situation changes from our teens through 20’s, 30’s, 40’s, 50’s, and beyond, our goals change. It’s a best practice to review where you are and where you want to be on a regular basis and alter your goals as needed. When my wife and I had our first child our goals changed. We were no longer living in New York and enjoying the life of a young couple without kids. Suddenly the paying college debt conversation changed to saving for education. Our goal to help our child pay for college became part of our plan. Choices had to be made.

Dr. Donald Super identified sequential life stages and developmental tasks that are relevant to career development. As we move from life stage to life stage, our needs and desires change and as such so do our goals. Recognizing this as our reality as we move from stage to stage helps us to remain flexible in setting our goals and making the necessary choices to move toward our goals.

Some of my middle-aged clients are seeking guidance because their careers don’t align well with their interests, skills, or values. There is nothing wrong with wanting to change careers, but I encourage clients – especially those who have invested a good number of years in a given career – to be smart about making a career change by implementing strategic planning tactics to set goals and objectives for a successful transition. If a client is in a place where they’ve determined after much consideration that it’s not practical to make a career change – even though they would like to in order to be more satisfied – I encourage them to explore ways in which these interests, skills, and values can be incorporated into their leisure time. 


Where are you at?

Are you looking for something more in your life or career? Pinpoint your interests, skills, and values, and then set a goal to get involved doing something before or after your workday that aligns closely with those items. In doing so, you may find your work life will become more fulfilling. What’s the worst that can happen to you by setting a goal and making the choices to seek greater fulfillment? I dare you to try it!

And if you’re wondering what happened to our world record holder Robert Marchand, at the age of 102, he set his personal best of traversing 26.927km/16.731miles in one hour. And he wasn’t finished; on the first Wednesday of 2017, after training for 6 months for the challenge, Robert straddled his bike for another 1-hour distance challenge. At 105, Robert made history yet again!

What choices do you need to make to reach your goals?  

  1. goal setting

About The Author

J. Clayton Kennedy

J. Clayton Kennedy is an international professional development instructor for Kuder. Prior to joining the company in 2015, Clayton spent over 10 years as a global business leader coach, sharing his leadership, management, client services, sales, finance, and business processes insight and e ... read more