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What Are Your Project Management Career Goals?

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People with clear, written goals, accomplish far more in a shorter period of time than people without them could ever imagine.
- Brian Tracy, CEO of Bryan Tracy International, a leadership development firm

What are your career goals? Have you examined them recently? Do they still make sense given that you or your position may have changed since setting them? Do they still make sense given that the world around you has no doubt changed since you set them?

If you're having a hard time deciding what your career goals are, remember this: Every goal you choose should be based on how it will or will not contribute to your career success.

I learned from both my own career, and from having spoken to hundreds of people about theirs, that difficulties in setting career goals are almost invariably tied to not having a clear and internally derived definition of career success.

Some possible goals you might have, though you will certainly have others to add to this list, include:

•    Flexibility in your career
•    Self-employment
•    Employment (if unemployed or self-employed)
•    Greater or lesser responsibility
•    Better clientele
•    More fun projects
•    Promotion
•    Early retirement
•    Better work-life balance
•    Skills improvement
•    A credential or certification

Before you set your career goals, think about what constitutes success for you. Does this definition come from you or is it something you got from someone else? Have you documented this definition? Once you know your own definition of success, choosing goals becomes much easier.

In my opinion, if you want to achieve greater success in your project management career, these steps can help:

1.    Define and understand what success means to you personally
2.    Articulate it in writing
3.    Identify the goals that will move you closer to success
4.    Document your goals so as to activate your Reticular Activating System (RAS)
5.    Share them with your network so as to activate its RAS
6.    Make a plan to implement your goals
7.    Reevaluate your goals periodically
8.    Adjust them accordingly
9.    Go back to step one

In my next post, I'll give some pointers for what to do after you've identified your goals.

In the meantime, I would be interested to know what success means to you personally. Which goals would you add to my list of possibilities? Which goals have you  identified for yourself?


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Good post and i agree that "Define success" is something which should be done first , i would like to take this further .... one should write his personal mission statement first... this is the same concept which is presented as Habit 2 in Best 7 habits of highly effective people.... one you know your mission its easier to identify milestones or success you want to achieve in life.

In New year we should start with mission first and then come down to goals and actions....

This is a very interesting post. I was discussing this with my fiancee, as I have a strong foothold for my Project Management career right now. She was wondering what would be the next step in the career ladder for me and after discussing about my current role and Program Management, I came to the conclusion that my current career goal is to remain in Project Management and work on increasingly complex projects.

Thanks for the very thoughtful post, Jim. We've been thinking a lot about 'project success' lately, and have noticed that the PM Journal even has special issue on the topic.

We know that you're talking about career success. However, what you say applies also to project success as covered in the p.m. Journal last month.

You're absolutely right. Just as in projects, in careers it's important to understand what success looks like to make the journey more clear and to understand the threats and opportunities that face us on the way.

We have blogged about this on our EarthPM blog as well as our projects@work blog recently please feel free to Check them out as the two topics -- career and projects themselves are obviously intertwined.

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