Stop Setting Goals! Start Gathering Goals!

Job Perfection Series:
  1. Find Your Passion
  2. Spot Your Strengths
  3. Gather Your Goals
  4. Nurture Your Network
  5. Enhance Your Education

This article is part of a five part series on finding your career calling and discovering the five paths to your perfect job. To start this series from the beginning, read the introduction.

I must be honest with you. I’ve never been good at setting career goals. I suppose the word “set” is what kills my initiative when goal setting. Setting something sounds permanent, immovable, and fixed. “Set” is something you do when laying brick, making Jello, or dying hair. Finding a career path or landing a job is not a permanent structural thing. Careers and jobs are more malleable, flexible, and always changing.

Today I want to look at another way of achieving career goals. I want you to stop setting goals and start gathering goals. I’ve found great success in finding the perfect job since I ceased to set and started to gather. I’ve also put together a downloadable worksheet to help you gather your own career goals.

Here’s why I stopped setting goals and started gathering goals to find my career calling:

Stop Setting Goals

Like many of you I’ve tried to set goals using methods like S.M.A.R.T, where goals must be Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely. On the surface, most of the letters in the S.M.A.R.T acronym make sense. For example, stating “I want to grow a 10 foot money tree today” may indeed be specific, measurable, and timely, but hardly attainable or realistic.

My failure with systems like S.M.A.R.T have nothing to do with setting specific, attainable, or realistic goals though. I usually fail at goal setting when time and measurement are at play. Some career goals just don’t measure up when being compared to reliable systems of measurement. Is my career goal less worthy if I can’t measure it in inches, units, miles, calories, liters, or pounds?

Setting goals based on time is my biggest issue though. What do I want to do in one year? How about three or five years? I don’t know about you but I have no control over the future. I can imagine a future with white picket fences and money trees if I want, but it may not be my employment reality five years from now. Personally, I find it impossible to achieve a goal based on some time in the future. The only thing I really care about is now. What can I do today to find my career calling? Is there another way to look at attaining career goals?

Start Gathering Goals: Worksheet

I’ve found another way to look at career goals. Rather than set goals into dumb S.M.A.R.T variables, I gather goals based on three points: Job Satisfaction, Lifestyle, and Compensation. Combined together these three points form the Gathering Goals Pyramid.

Download Worksheet:  goals_worksheet.pdf


Here’s what each point means:

1. Job Satisfaction pertains to the quality of the job on a whole. This encompasses the people you work with, the tasks you work on, the impact you impart, the organization’s culture, the opportunity for growth and development, and the intellectual component.

2. Lifestyle deals with the number of working hours, control of your schedule (can you pick the kids up from school?), the daily commute, the amount of overtime, the required travel, and vacation time.

3. Compensation includes salary, overtime pay, bonuses, retirement plans, health and dental plans, and job title.


The tricky bit with each point is one can be directly at odds with the other. For example, a lawyer or medical doctor may be firmly placed in the compensation corner of the pyramid but their lifestyle and satisfaction corners may be challenged with overtime hours and hectic schedules. In another example, my sister worked at a community newspaper as a general news reporter. She loved her job, enjoyed the lifestyle the smaller community offered, but barely earned enough bucks to break even.

As you can see, it’s easy to maximize one of the pyramid points at the expense of the other two like in the lawyer and doctor example. It is more challenging to solve for two of the three competing elements, such as with my sister. The ultimate goal is to maximize all three points.

Try this exercise yourself and see where in the pyramid your goals are gathered. Download the “Gather Your Goals Worksheet” and write each of your job or career path goals within the three points. Are your goals gathering more to one corner? Do you land between two points? Or do you land right smack in the middle?

With this exercise each career decision requires you to make a thoughtful trade-off based on your current goals, your desired career path, and your personal life values. None of these considerations are taken into account with the S.M.A.R.T system of goal setting. So stop setting goals and start gathering goals!

Build a Book

Be sure to add your Gather Your Goals Worksheet to the scrapbook you started in Five Ways To Find Your Passion. This book is the best tool for finding a new career or landing the perfect job as it’s all about what makes you unique. You will need this book over the next few days as we continue to build on your career calling.

Stay tuned tomorrow for the next installment of Your Career is Calling: Five Paths to Job Perfection.

Your two cents:

  1. Anita June 17th, 2013

    I know you made this series of resume’ info years ago, but it is still so helpful and appreciated. Thank You!

  2. Kerry June 17th, 2013

    Hi Anita: You are very VERY welcome. Be sure to use the free resume templates too!

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