Most people work various odd jobs before launching into a career, but there comes a time to plan for something more. A career isn’t just a job. It’s the story of your professional life. And a good story needs a cohesive structure. So as you contemplate your own career arc, you may find it helpful to think about the possibilities in terms of specific career objectives. Career objectives constitute highly specific goals that identify the kind of work you want to do and the specific progress you want to make in the course of that work.
Lots of people have career objectives that concern money. This might take a casual form, like aspiring to earn enough money to have a place to live, food to eat and enough left over to have some fun. Or it could be much more responsibility-oriented, such as establishing financial security and being able to enjoy retirement. Somewhere in between, many people pursue a career so that they’ll be able to buy the things they want in life, including a nice home, good health-care and an education for their children. If you build a career for money, you won’t be alone. Lucrative careers tend to focus on the professions such as law, engineering and medicine, as well as in booming sectors of the economy like technology and energy.
Many folks pursue their career in hopes of becoming a “somebody” rather than a “nobody.” Humans are social animals and thrive on the validation of their peers. It isn’t always about being a movie star and having throngs of fans. Many people find it deeply rewarding simply to build a name for themselves in their community and their field of expertise. They get a lot of satisfaction from knowing that others see them as reliable, competent authority figures who do good work. Think of it as “local fame.” A career objective like this might lead you to consider careers where you will have the opportunity to be important in people’s lives, which could involve opening a restaurant, becoming a civil servant or running a huge company.
People find fulfillment in countless ways. For one person, fulfillment might mean building a career that involves lots of human interaction. For someone else, fulfillment might come from having an intellectually stimulating workload that keeps her mind sharp. For the next person, it might be the opportunity to do a lot of traveling. This kind of career objective often leads people to give up the opportunity for more money in exchange for a shot at the priceless treasure of a job they love. Fulfillment-driven careers can be almost anything, depending on the person involved, but they tend to be less likely to involve stressful jobs with few long-term prospects for advancement, like call center work, administrative assistance and retail clerking.
A Better World
All kinds of people feel a very close connection to something bigger than themselves. Maybe they feel a bond with the world or with human civilization. Maybe they feel a bond with their country, their alma mater or their family. Whatever the source of this connected feeling, it often leads people to want to make the world a better place or “give something back.” This kind of thinking leads to careers in social justice, art, science, medicine and many other fields where individuals can make a lasting, positive difference -- be it for millions of people around the world or just a handful of needy, vulnerable souls who really needed it.
Josh Fredman is a freelance pen-for-hire and Web developer living in Seattle. He attended the University of Washington, studying engineering, and worked in logistics, health care and newspapers before deciding to go to work for himself.