Job Basics: The Goal

goal soccer ball

So, where does your career/job life start? Where does it all begin? With a Goal of what you want to do and what you want to be. Note this doesn’t have to be what you want to be when you grow up, since I’m not sure I’ve grown up yet. It just has to be something you’re reaching for now or in the near future.

Having a goal that you truly want, that you “get”, that you feel viscerally directs you. You know why you’re reaching for it. You have the drive to propel you. You develop an almost instinctive understanding of what you’re trying to achieve.

You start with where you want to end up and figure out what to do to get there – the first Job Basic is knowing where your want to go.

Here’s what that consists of.

Know What You Want To Be

Your career goal should include a profile of what you want to do and be for a living. There’s many ways to describe it, but it boils down to this quite simply:

What are you going to do that lets you do the things important to you and pays the bills?

Note the two important things – what matters and what pays the bills. I’s not “what I want,” it’s not a “dream job,” it’s not “making ton of money.” It’s a harder-edged thing, a practical approach that is still about you.

I usually find career goals break down about three ways:

  • The first is the Job Description. You may have very specific goals in mind that in turn are well described and socially recognized – programmer, novelist, etc.
  • The second form is the Skills Description – what you know and do that people pay for. Many general careers, such as artists or handymen are in this category.
  • The third is somewhere in between, a basic job that has some broad skill sets and usage. My own area of Project and Program Management is like this, strict descriptions that have insanely varied skillets and specialties. What you do in general is the same and definable, but there are places people and jobs vary widely.

There’s many ways to find your goal. I’ve written about many at Muse Hack and its previous form over the years. But a few next steps to get you going:

  • Simply go to a job board for your profession and look at the jobs, see what strikes you.
  • Talk to people in an industry you like and ask what fits your preferences and skills.
  • Look at people you admire whose careers fit your preferences and ask what fits yours.
  • There are endless amounts of books written about jobs people can do with “X” interest or “Y” background. Read some – and be sure to recommend and share the good ones.

Now, once you have a goal . . .

Do Your Research

When you have a career in mind, the next step is to research it and find out more about it. We’ll be covering this more later, but . . .

When you are deciding on a career goal, you need to understand what it is you want to do for a living so you can become it. That sounds simplistic, but consider what you should know to actually get there.

You have to know

  • What skills the job entails – so you can acquire and improve them.
  • What the career structure is – how you get in, move up, and maybe even leave.
  • Where the work is so you can relocate if needed.
  • What the future is probably going to be so you build a stable life.
  • What the work is like so you can face the challenges (or maybe avoid them)

A rule I emphasize that, when choosing a career to pursue, you should do enough research that you can reasonably state how you can get there as a timeline. It may not be easy, but you can get there – and well cover that next column.

A few ways to do get to know a career.

  • There is probably a plethora of career books out there fitting your interests. Read one. Yes I said that earlier, but really, go buy one, these folks earned it.
  • Sites like provide basic career snapshots and might give you ideas for deeper research.
  • Almost any industry site has career advice, and will often provide good career profiles.

Be It As Soon As Possible

Now when you have a career in mind, you should start doing it as soon as possible. Not to get paid (though that’d be nice if you can manage it), but just to start getting active in the role you’ve chosen.

  • You want to be a publicist, so start publicizing your local convention.
  • You want to be a programmer, so go find a language to code in and start writing something.
  • You want to be a surgeon, so go do some volunteer work at a hospital to understand how they run.

A very important part of a chosen career is that it is part of you. By making it part of you as early as possible you learn how it works, you gain knowledge and contacts, you expand your horizons, and you gain understanding. Nothing teaches like experience.

Admittedly nothing disillusions like experience either, so you might discover early on you don’t want to do what you chose. Better to find it out as soon as possible.

There ways you do this? Well that depends on what you want to do. If you want to write get back to that fanfic, but if you want to develop satellite launch systems it’s going to be a bit more complex personally, financially, and legally. But do something.

Now when you’ve got your goal, next up we have to get you there . . .

– Steven Savage

Steven Savage is a Geek 2.0 writer, speaker, blogger, and job coach.  He blogs on careers at, publishes books on career and culture at, and does a site of creative tools at He can be reached at