As a professional who has been in the job market for a few years, you face a few critical questions at this point in your career. “Do I continue down the same path, working in my present field and the same type of roles or do I want to branch out or change my trajectory?”
This question often arises because since having graduated 5 to 10 years earlier, you’ve had the opportunity to go out into the world and start building your experience and skill sets. In the beginning, it was all about getting familiarized with working in an organization, learning how to collaborate with colleagues, picking up many new skills and generally soaking up as much knowledge as possible to get started in your work life.
Since then, you’ve become more confident and assured of what you are capable of and what you still need to learn. Along the way, you’ve experienced challenges and achieved milestones you are proud to add to your C.V., but you’ve also had some setbacks that serve as important learning lessons. While they may not have seemed educational at the time, each of these failures has helped you to grow both personally and professionally. More importantly, your stumbles and your achievements help you better understand what you hope to accomplish as a professional.

Cameron Brett, the Managing Director of Randstad Professionals in Japan, points out that mid-career job seekers typically are transitioning from an exploratory part of their professional journey to one in which they start to specialize in their skills. As such they need to adopt a longer view of their career goals and their skill-building objectives. By having an honest view of these important considerations, they can hone in on the kind of roles they should seek next.
“Something I recommend for everyone is to do a skills assessment — where they are today, where they need to be in five years. Take a look at what skills do they currently have what are they lacking,” he says, pointing out that it’s more important than ever for candidates to understand their abilities and their needs in order to set realistic and achievable goals. “I think retraining and constant education is becoming more and more important as part of that consideration.”
Beyond conducting a skills assessment, you should also consider seeking out a mentor to help you define your goals. Why is this important? Part of the process for determining goals comes from our desire to fulfill our ambition as a professional, to proudly demonstrate our abilities, experiences and accomplishment. Brett says mentors can often help by sharing their own journey and efforts, providing a clear path forward to their disciples.
They set clear examples that you can aspire to and follow. In his own career development, Brett said he has reached out on LinkedIn to professionals he admires and asked for their practical advice, even those not in his network. This can provide truly useful insights into your career goals and how to get there.
Another consideration for setting your goals? Honestly assessing how you can adapt to change. For instance, if you are an engineer aspiring to be a chef, knowing whether you can learn to cook may not be the biggest obstacle (cooking, after all, is the hobby of many). Instead, whether you can adapt to a career of working evenings may be a bigger hurdle. While this is a glaring example, there are many instances where your adaptability will help you determine your career path and, as a result, your choice in job searches.
Finally, perhaps one of the most important factors in setting your professional goals are your personal goals. These may determine your career track because they may be prioritized over work objectives. For instance, do you have a desire to be located in a specific geographic location? Do you plan on an evenly split work-life balance? Are you seeking to retire early, which means seeking positions with accommodating compensation? All of these questions should guide your professional decision-making because if your personal and professional goals don’t align, you will ultimate be unhappy with one part of your life.    

three tips to help you refine career goals

1. undertake a self-assessment

Having worked for some years, you should stop and assess your strengths and weaknesses to help refine your goals. If you are lacking certain skills to advance to the roles you hope to secure, either acquire those skills or shift your expectations. You can only do this with knowing yourself.

2. seek inspiration and guidance

Even if you don’t formally participate in a mentorship program, seek out leaders who you aspire to be and learn how they achieved their goals. These can be acquaintances, managers or just complete strangers. The key is to learn from their triumphs and failures.

3. know your AQ

You’ve heard IQ and EQ, but are you adept in your AQ (adaptability quotient)? The more flexible and adaptable you are, the more options are available in defining your goals. Being able to grow within the dynamic times means you have different ways to reaching those pursuits..

launch your career: the ultimate handbook for mid-career job seekers.