Defining and Reaching your Career and Financial Goals

The idea of defining and reaching career and financial goals is a very broad one. Really, one could argue that these efforts more or less define the lives of young adults. Unfortunately though, there is no convenient, step-by-step list that will reveal exactly how to go about planning and reaching these goals. We can, however, suggest some ideas, and basic strategies that will help you along the way.

Defining Your Goals

Think About People You Admire

We hear a lot about what we’re supposed to expect based on when we grew up. For example, “Baby Boomers” and “Gen X” are often cited as having grown to have better jobs and more financial security than their parents before them; millennials are said to lean on their parents due to the poor financial conditions they grew up in, but want financial independence. It’s easy to accept and embrace designations like these. But instead, if you truly want to set your own financial and career goals, think about people you admire — not just what generation you’re in or your parents’ status. Find a few people who seem to you to have it all figured out, look at the decisions they made and the education they pursued that’s put them in that position, and you may move closer to defining your own goals.

Ask If You Like What You Do

There’s a great moment in the show Parks & Recreation that fellow fans might remember. April, a character played by Aubrey Plaza, is a Parks & Rec intern at the start of the show, but gradually moves into an employed position over the course of several years. At one point though, she turns to the camera and asks, “Do I even like what I do?” In a show in which basically every character achieves meaningful career progress over time, this is an extremely relatable moment. And just as it leads April to start exploring other careers she might value more, asking this question in real life might get you surprisingly far. As simple as it seems, it’s something a lot of us fail to ask ourselves while we’re busy seeking out financial security.

Here’s a simple exercise you can do along with that. Keep two 3x5 cards at your desk. When you find yourself doing something that you’re really enjoying, that is making you come alive, write it down on your “life giving” 3x5 card. When you find yourself frustrated, write down whatever task you’re doing (or whatever it is) on your “life draining” 3x5 card. Over time you will see more clearly the kinds of things you should be pursuing to have a more satisfying work life. The other 3x5 can show you tasks you should avoid or delegate, or perhaps areas where you need to grow, either emotionally or skills wise (is that a word?).

Determine How These Goals Improve Your Life

Society teaches us to want more money and “better” jobs — but in defining your own goals, it’s important to really consider how these things might actually improve your life. If you can think about how to spend money on happiness, then by all means consider chasing a higher salary; if you can explain why a certain career will improve your quality of life, then make it your goal. But do consider these specifics as you go about making your plans. Aiming more vaguely for what’s defined as “better” is likely to leave you in a state in which you’re always in pursuit of more, without actually reaping benefits.

Reaching Your Goals

Prioritize Debt Payments

Debt is a burdensome anchor when you're chasing career and financial goals, as many of today's young professionals know all too well. So, while it's not exactly the most fun thing to focus on, it's important to prioritize paying it off. This can be done in one of a few ways. If you want to tackle it all by yourself, you can try the famous (with good reason) "debt snowball method." This basically entails paying off your smallest debt first (while making minimum payments on the rest) so as to knock out interest. Then you can work your way up one by one. Or, if you want a little help, a debt consolidation loan can be similarly effective. Granted, taking on a fresh loan doesn't at first seem like an appealing way to tackle debt. But this method can be explained as a way of combining multiple debts into a single debt, so that instead of having to pay off several of them, you just have one recurring monthly payment. In a way, it serves a similar purpose to the debt snowball method, in that it helps you to knock out accruing interest, so that your debt isn't mounting. Whichever route you ultimately choose though, prioritizing debt payments will ultimately free you up to focus on your financial future.

Practice Good Habits Generally

In a blog post about how to build strong habits, we wrote that “your habits are running most of your life,” and really nothing could be truer. Granted, most people hear “habits” and think mostly about brushing their teeth, checking social media, or going for morning jogs. And these activities don’t really seem to tie into the pursuit of career or financial goals. We’d argue differently though. While it’s certainly possible to have some good habits and some bad ones, people who really get into practicing good habits — like making your bed — tend to program themselves to be more productive in general. So focus on the little things. Building up small, good habits will only make you more likely to be diligent about the things you need to do in pursuit of those bigger career and financial goals.

Never Stop Learning

It's never been easier to learn than it is today. Universities and institutions release courses that can be accessed online; apps help people to speed-read books they might not otherwise get to; and endless podcasts, YouTube series, and similar tutorials provide education on an unlimited range of subjects. So really, you have no excuse not to keep learning! Finding ways to continually educate yourself on personal finance, investment, and any and all skills that might relate to your fields of interests tends to pay off over time. Whether it’s by listing an important certification or skill on your résumé, impressing the right person in an interview, or simply knowing what to make of a given financial situation, you’ll eventually be glad if you make a determination to learning something new every day. And any of those outcomes may help you toward those career and financial goals.


By Rashell Junie

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