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How to Set Meaningful Career Goals

This guest post is from one of my favorite workplace advice authors, Alexandra Levit. Here she provides tips on how to develop goals for your career--and how to set yourself up to ace the performance review.

Types of career goals vary, depending on the specific job and company, but every new college grad should aim to build a wide range of transferable skills(such as public speaking, client relations, project management, and budgeting) that are useful in many different types of careers and are not likely to become obsolete.

You can develop goals that focus on these skills and also pertain to your current position through a collaborative process with your supervisor.

Start by drafting your ideas for career goals and noting the obstacles you’re likely toencounter, knowledge you may need to acquire, and people who can support you.
Next, sit down with your supervisor and ask for feedback. In this meeting, you should make sure that your career goals are aligned with your supervisor’s goals for you and that the expectations set are reasonable and practical. For instance, if you’re in sales, your supervisor may or may not agree that you will be ready to make cold calls on your own by the end of your first year of employment. Before you leave, work with your supervisor to prioritize two or three career goals so you aren’t spreading yourself too thin, and create an immediate to-do list so that important goals don’t fall off your radar in the daily work/life grind.
If you arrange to meet with your supervisor every other month or so to revisit your career goals, you will be in great shape when it’s time for your performance review.

A few weeks before the review is slated to occur, gather facts to support how you’ve progressed on each goal. Identify concrete examples that illustrate outstanding performance and contribution, and practice communicating them so they’re on the tip of your tongue.

Your primary goal in the performance review process should be to demonstrate how you have made measurable contributions to the organization. If you are able to succinctly answer the question, "Why is the organization better off because you work there?," you will be well positioned for a productive discussion about your career potential as well as rewards and recognition. 

There's more where this came from.  Are you a student or young professional who wants to learn how to be successful TODAY?

Check out JobSTART 101 (, a free online course Alexandra developed!

The Six Reasons You'll Get the Job (Learn 'Em in NYC 10/14)

My friend and former colleague Elisabeth Harney Sanders-Park has just co-written her second book, the 6 Reasons Why You'll Get the Job (Penguin). I am pleased to announce that the NYC Job Seekers 6 ReasonsGroup, the grassroots job search group that I host in Manhattan, will be offering a special four hour workshop with Elisabeth and her co-author, Debra Angel MacDougall, the morning of October 14, 2010.

There is no cost to sign up. For additional details--including hours and location of the event--please sign up for the MeetUp group and RSVP.

Hope to see you there!

On the Job Hunt & The Listening Effect

I am pleased to announce that I've joined Susan Joyce and a host of other career management professionals on

I'm serving as the New Grads Job Search Expert on Job-Hunt, and will be writing a monthly column for the site. If you haven't checked out before, I encourage you to do so. The site is very easy to navigate and includes comprehensive information to help you throughout your job search process--from getting started with your first job search to how to work with recruiters and deal with a tough career transition.

In my first piece for Job-Hunt, I shared stories from my own first job, work in career management, and lessons learned from rocket scientists as well as the proverbial "water under the bridge."

This month, I focus on the importance of listening. It's not a skill that you find frequently in aListening-ear position description, but your ability to be a strong active listener can make all the difference in the interview process--and once you get hired.

For the past year, I've been taking classes in storytelling from Narativ. I'm learning how to tell stories that make an audience lean forward. I'm learning strategies to tell what happened instead of how I feel about a situation. The Narativ methodology is helping me to become a better storyteller. But mainly, I am learning how to be a better listener...without listening, you lose impact--in your job, in your ability to work with others, in your ability to communicate.

The process of finding your first job--and positions after that--can be fraught with anxiety, self-doubt, and doubt: Am I really qualified to do this job? Do I have the experience that it takes? All too frequently, you may miss a really obvious skill---one that can make all the difference--and that you already have. The skill I am referring to, of course, is listening.

Several years ago, I watched an Ivy League senior with a 3.98 GPA from a relatively unpopulated state (let's call it Nebraska) participate in the selection rounds for a Rhodes Scholarship interview. He had a long list of organizations he'd been involved in as well as measurable achievements for his extracurricular efforts. But there wasn't a single activity that he was involved in that he didn't hold the top title--President, Captain, Chair. As he told the committee, "I just prefer to be in the leadership role."

He didn't get picked. The committee went with other candidates who had experience in simply serving as a committee member, a participant, a team player.

In the midst of everything, never forget: Employers are looking for great listeners who can follow directions! Often, they will hire you for this singular ability--and then teach you the rest.

That's my two cents on listening. Now I want to hear what you have to say...

MIA the First Day at Work - How to Recover?

So you're supposed to start your job here


But you find yourself lost here two full days before your first day.


You can't find your cell phone. You can't feel your legs. You ache. Your car is upside down and smashed.  And time passes from day to night. You drink swamp water because it's the only thing you can do. And you wait to be found because you can't drag yourself any farther.
This is the situation Thomas Wopat-Moreau found himself in earlier this week. A 2009 graduate of William & Mary, Thomas missed his first day of work at Barclay's on Tuesday. He was stranded in a forest after his car veered off road and catapulted over 475 feet through the woods early Sunday morning.

He landed upside down. Crawled out of his car, made it 150 feet before he could go no further, and survived on swamp water for four days. On the fourth day---thanks to a weak cell phone signal and efficient police work, he was found. According to news reports, he has no feeling in his legs and is suffering from internal injuries...but he was healthy enough to respond to his rescuers and to ask for a drink of water. You can read the full story here.

If you were Thomas, how would you talk to Barclay's?
If you were Barclay's, how would you handle a new hire who went AWOL before the first day but who physically couldn't get to work? How would you handle a new set of physical challenges that did not exist when the offer was extended?

I'm interested in hearing the perspectives of both recent grads and "early careerists" as well as the HR perspective. Please weigh in!

Cross-posted at Secrets of the Job Hunt.