One great method for gauging success is whether or not an individual has set and achieved goals. Goals can be personal, professional, or some combination of each. In an interview, prospective employers will want to see your accomplishments. What did you achieve in past positions? What is common for those who are successful is that they have the ability to set and work to achieve their goals. However, what separates them apart from others is that they do not ease off the pressure. The goal is not always the end game, and they often try to push forward more. They tend to look beyond. The goal is not the end, only a milestone.
Maybe I set my goal to lose twenty pounds, and through a good diet and exercise program, I reach my goal. What then? Do I continue to lose weight? Or do I work on maintaining it? Worse, do I revert to bad habits and regain it?
Setting a goal is critical, but having some plans for what to do afterwards is also an important step. Take my example.
When I finished school back in 1995, I had a history degree in my hand, and very little skills or even an idea of what to do. I was set on completing the degree and graduating. But formed some plans and earned an associate’s degree in computer information systems.
Luckily, I got a help desk job, and gained valuable experience, which led to an IT support analyst position. I was also working towards my Microsoft MCSE exam. My professional experience was limited, and in lieu of years of experience, having a quality certification helped get me started.
The full certification was a series of exams, and I was past the midway point. I was fortunate to get a good position as an IT analyst, even though I was not yet finished. I spent time learning and adapting to my new position, and put completing my MCSE to the side for a while. Weeks turned into a month, which turned into a season. Before I knew it, a year went by. Although I was learning new things with my job, I was complacent and lost the drive.
I ask myself what would be different had I finished it. The challenge, as with most IT certifications, is that technologies evolve. Versions change every few years. In my mind at that time, I only saw the completion of my degree. I only saw the finish of the certification, but lost sight as I moved into a new job.
Real world examples are plentiful. We fought in Iraq, but did we fully appreciate how things would be once the main battles were over? Many would argue that NASA did not have a clear direction once they reached the goal of landing on the moon. J. C. Penny and Sears close stores to reach stable financial footing, but are they addressing the underlying problem of why they were struggling in the first place.
The lesson I learned is that a goal should be open ended. Think about what you set out to do, but ask what is next. You lose the twenty pounds, celebrate the success, but ask what’s next. In some respects, the most important question is what will be done after you reach your milestone.
So what is next? Always look beyond the goal, and do not ease off the pressure.