Is My Career Goal Realistic?


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What?” – Veronique Debord-Lazaro

This week, Beth from Inspiring Interns talks about career goals and gives some tips on how to follow through and achieve them.

“What do you want to be when you grow up?”

Children, when asked this question, let their imagination run riot. They want to be an astronaut, a pop star, a mermaid. By the time they’ve grown into undergraduates, they’ve often switched careers but become no less ambitious. Now, they want to be a journalist, a CEO, a TV presenter.

But while small children are encouraged in their dreams, students are often told to take a reality-check. They’re told the industry they’ve chosen is too competitive, the chance of landing their dream job too slim. They’re told they’re aiming too high or over-inflating their talents – ultimately, that their career goals are unrealistic and need to be adapted to an increasingly competitive job market.

But is this good advice? Should graduates really jack in their dreams and resign themselves to a life of professional drudgery?

Nothing is Impossible

Let’s start with the positive. Nothing is impossible. There are people in this world working as journalists and CEOs and even mermaids.

There’s no way to guarantee that you’ll achieve your dream, but there is a way to guarantee you won’t achieve it: giving up. Never allow yourself to be scared into quitting. For every challenge that someone once called impossible, there is a person who proved them wrong.

Inspiration vs. Perspiration

You may have heard the Thomas Edison quote that genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration. Put another way, that means you need two things to succeed at your ‘impossible’ goal: a little bit of talent, and bucket-loads of dedication.

If you’re not willing to work hard, then the chances are that you won’t succeed. Employers love passion and determination, and if other candidates out-compete you on those qualities, the job will go to them. Prove you’re passionate about your chosen field by demonstrating relevant extracurricular activities and/or work experience.

Moral of the story: chase your dreams, but only if you’re willing to work for them.

Dream Big, Start Small

There is nothing unreasonable about aiming to be a CEO. What is unreasonable is expecting to be a CEO within five minutes of leaving university.

Whatever your ultimate goal is, see it as the end-point and focus on working out the career path that will lead you there. Be rational about timeframes and workload involved – in most industries, you’ll have to start off as an intern or assistant, and be given the boring grunt work. Put in the time and the effort, and you’ll eventually rise through the ranks.

Failure is Inevitable

Everybody fails. Every successful entrepreneur has a bad idea, every best-selling artist produces a dud.

Whatever your career goal is, the pathway to it will be littered with setbacks and slip-ups. If you want to achieve it, you must develop enough resilience to keep picking yourself up and trying again. Resilience is not only useful in the job-hunt process and professional life, but in day-to-day life as well, so do your best to develop it. Remember: criticism and rejection doesn’t mean you’re not good enough. It just means you haven’t yet found the right audience for your talents.

Everyone Loves a Trier

Ultimately, students concerned that they have unrealistic ambitions have two options. They can give the idea up. Or they can give it a go.

Regret is usually centred around the things we didn’t do, not the things we did. If you chase a dream for a while and it doesn’t work out, what do you lose? Not much. You’ll have to reassess your priorities and perhaps retrain, but career-hopping is so common these days that you’d probably end up doing that regardless. For most graduates, there will never be a better time to take a career risk. Few have the mortgages payments or family commitments that make job security imperative.

It’s true that plenty of people don’t achieve their dreams. But it’s also true that plenty of people do. Which category you’ll end up is unknowable. But don’t be the person who spends the rest of their life wondering “what if…?”

Beth Leslie writes graduate careers advice for Inspiring Interns, a graduate recruitment agency specialising in matching candidates to their dream internship. Check out their graduate jobs listings for roles. Or; if you’re looking to hire an intern, have a look at their innovative Video CVs.

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