Matching Who You Want to Be with Where You Want to Be

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We all reach a point in our career where we lean back and do some serious soul searching. Maybe more status, higher pay, corporate perks—material things that reflect where we want to be—are really moving us away from who we want to be.

The point is, are you getting the satisfaction you need out of your chosen career path? Sometimes just knowing you performed a job well, that it helped others, and that you’re not just in it for the almighty buck can make you feel better about your career. Trouble is, we get so immersed in daily tasks, weekly schedules and monthly reports and projections that we can’t see the what from the who.

Start with the Big Picture

Project your career trajectory 10-years into the future. Will your lofty title, big corner office, and lots of travel make you feel satisfied? Or will you be happier without all the trappings of corporate power, helping co-workers better their lives, improving the environment, providing a better service, rather than just “moving” what sells the most? One thing that may help you in these long-term projections is to look at those above you. Are your managers, VPs and senior executives happy? After all, this is where and who you’ll likely be in a decade or so. In his book, Out of Gas, Randy Dyess chronicles the lives of Mark and Kelly, two upwardly mobile professionals, who sacrificed much to achieve their dream careers.

Breaking it Down

Once you’ve reconciled who you want to be with the where, you need to establish the incremental steps you need to achieve your goal. These are the specific one-, three- and five-year targets that will help you achieve your goals without sacrificing who you are as a person and individual. If you want to start a family, you’ll need to make some sacrifices in terms of commitment to your career—kids will take time and attention away from your career, so the who you want to be (parent) will take precedence over the where (promotions, moving geographically). If you get married and buy a home, you won’t be able to move around as much. These here-and-now decisions will affect your entire career in the long run. In his book, Before Happiness: The 5 Hidden Keys to Achieving Success, Spreading Happiness, and Sustaining Positive Change, Shawn Achor reveals a technique called Success Mapping, which can help you set goals around the things in life that matter to you most.


George Doran’s SMART goal setting can be particularly useful in reconciling your personal and career goals. SMART—an acronym for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time-bound—uses a checklist for evaluating your career path objectives. Specific would include taking or not taking a promotion to a cross-country field office. Measurable would be working two hours overtime every day to achieve a personal or career goal. Attainable would be recognizing that you can only work overtime three days a week. Relevant would evaluate the goal as really necessary to achieve a larger objective—will the extra hours help promote me or help others? Timely considers how long you’re willing to work those extra hours—a week, a month, longer—to achieve your overall goal.

Is where you want to be really who you want to be? Be SMART to find out where your career is leading you.


Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici/


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