Goal-Setting: The Most Important Step in Building Your Career

When people ask about your New Year’s resolutions, tell them, "I don’t make resolutions. I set goals."

And do it.

And make sure your No. 1 goal is this: To build your career as a freelancer. To get your first (or second … or tenth) job.

But what if you’ve just started one of the AWAI programs? Wouldn’t it be better to make it your No. 1 goal to finish the program and get a good evaluation on your work?

No. That’s not a primary goal. That’s what Michael Masterson calls a "Category B" objective that will help you achieve your main "Category A" goal of building your career.

Let’s say you’re a graphic-design member who has just started the AWAI program. A good career-building Category A goal for you might be:

"By December 31, 2005, I will have been paid $1,500 for my first DM graphic-design job."

Your next step is to list all the things you’ll have to do to accomplish that. For example:

  • Finish the AWAI Graphic Design program by August 15, 2005.
  • Send out solicitation letters to 500 prospects.
  • Make 100 follow-up phone calls.
  • Design 5 packages on spec.

Those are your Category B objectives. Each one will have something to do with developing the skills, contacts, and experience that you need to get to the finish line (achieve your Category A goal of getting your first paid assignment by December 31st). And each one will be attached to a specific deadline – and a strategy to make it happen. You might also need to set some Category C objectives to get you to Category B.

The point is to break down a seemingly overwhelming long-term goal into smaller, easy-to-achieve mid-term and short-term objectives.

Let’s look at some specifics to see how this works.

CATEGORY "A" GOAL: By December 31, 2005, I will have been paid $1,500 for my first DM graphic-design job.

CATEGORY "B" OBJECTIVE: Finish the AWAI Graphic Design program by August 15, 2005.

* Strategy: Work on the program from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. every night except Sunday.

CATEGORY "C" OBJECTIVE: Finish chapters 1-5 in the program by February 15, 2005.

CATEGORY "C" OBJECTIVE: Finish chapters 6-10 in the program by April 30, 2005.

CATEGORY "C" OBJECTIVE: Finish and submit final assignment by June 15, 2005.

CATEGORY "C" OBJECTIVE: Revise final assignment by July 31, 2005.

You get the idea.

Give yourself a New Year’s gift by coming up with your goals for 2005 today. When you do, keep the following goal-setting "rules" in mind:

  1. WRITE down your goals, objectives, and strategies. Unwritten goals are as good as the paper they’re written on.
  2. Make each goal and objective as specific as possible. Give each one a time limit. Specify how many chapters need to be read each day, how many people need to be contacted each week, etc.
  3. Check your short-term (Category C) objectives daily and your medium-term (Category B) objectives monthly. This should take no more than 10 minutes.
  4. Make changes to your deadlines if you have to … but BE HONEST. Don’t use this as an excuse for not sticking to your plan.
  5. If you are not accomplishing your short-term and medium-term objectives, it may be that you were too optimistic when you set them – so make realistic revisions. If that’s not the problem, perhaps reaching your goals is NOT an important priority in your life. (More on that in a future issue.)

Set aside 30 minutes right now. Sit at your desk or table and WRITE your goals and objectives. Be specific. Be positive. Be concise. Be realistic. Be successful!

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Published: January 3, 2005

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