Job Search Skills

Setting Goals

To become successful, you must know what you want, set goals, and work toward those goals. Success can only be determined personally. What is success for one person may not be success for another.

Your definition of success is determined by your values and beliefs. Once you know what you want from life, there is a common set of skills that can be applied to reach those goals whether you wish to become a member of the national culinary team, own your own restaurant, or teach cooking in a developing country.

Once you have completed your apprenticeship, there are many career paths available to you. You may wish to open your own restaurant, which may mean saving money to purchase and develop the property. You will also have to acquire skills in business management. You may choose to work in large hotels, working your way up through a variety of positions and properties to become an executive chef. You may aspire to be an educator, to cater meals in a client’s home or on movie locations, or to work in an institutional setting such as a hospital or ferry. Other individuals are content to work under a well-known chef or in a particular restaurant chain. It all depends on what you want from your job and from life.

Setting goals gives your life direction. Goals give you something to work for and provide a sense of accomplishment. While this books focuses mainly on work-related goals, the same process can be used to set and work toward goals in any area of your life. Of course, once you have set a goal, this does not mean that you have to rigidly follow a set path. Often, opportunities may come up that create a means to shorten your path or change direction. For example, the bankruptcy of the restaurant in which you are working or a job shortage may cause you to create your own job or change your career direction.

Values and Beliefs

What you want in life depends on what you value and believe. The first step in setting goals is to think about what is important to you. If you simply base your goals on what others want or believe to be important, you may not be happy even though you achieve these goals. Your choices and decisions have to be based on what you think, feel, and believe.

Your values and beliefs come from your family and your experience of the world. For example, if you come from a close and loving family where parents and children spend a lot of time together, you are likely to place a strong value on family time. You may also develop this value if you feel that you were lacking in this closeness as a child.

Values and beliefs may shape:

  • Where you want to live
  • What hours you want to work
  • How much money you want to have
  • What kind of family life you want
  • What kind of job and job responsibilities you want
  • What kind of community involvement you choose
  • How much leisure time you desire
  • How important religion, altruism (generosity to others), and spirituality are to your life

These factors, in turn, will shape what type of job you want. For example, some people are willing to work long, hard hours in a remote mining camp away from friends and family in order to make more money and to spend time in a remote wilderness setting. Notice that there is seldom a way of having it all. You have to set priorities, deciding which values are more important than others. Sometimes these decisions are long term. A person whose long-term goals include making money and spending time hiking and fishing may spend many seasons working in a remote lodge setting.

For others, these goals may be short-term decisions that form a stepping stone to reaching another goal. For example, the attractive wages in an oil drilling camp might allow a person to save enough money to open a bistro or coffee shop. This person may be willing to spend two or three seasons working in a camp while saving as much as possible.

Before proceeding any further, think about your values and beliefs. What are your priorities in life? What is your current situation? What are your current responsibilities?

What Are Goals?

Goals are statements of what you want to achieve, do or be. They should be:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Realistic
  • Timely

For example, “I want to qualify as a chef de cuisine within the next seven years” is a realistic goal for someone who is completing the Cook Apprenticeship program. At the end of seven years, you would be able to tell whether you had achieved this goal or not. Whether a goal is realistic depends on the your situation. For example, if you have not completed high school or begun a cooking apprenticeship, this goal may not be realistic.

“I want to live in a nice place” is not a measurable goal. You haven’t said when you want to achieve this goal, whether the place is a city or town, or a house or apartment. Does the statement mean that you own the place? You can’t tell from the way it is worded. The more specific you are about your goals, the more likely you are to achieve them.

Factors that prevent people from setting and achieving goals

At first thought, lack of money, education, and time seem to be important factors that prevent people from achieving their goals. However, the success of some people who lack all of these things and have family responsibilities as well suggests that other factors are more important. The most critical factors that prevent people from reaching their goals are fear of failure, lack of self-esteem, a fear of missing other opportunities, and a lack of confidence in their ability to meet their goals.

Keys to successful goals

The key to achieving goals is, first and foremost, to set a goal that you really want: a goal that you are passionate about and willing to work hard toward. You must believe that you can reach your goals. Your goal must be achievable. There is no point in setting an unattainable goal. You need to have timelines for achieving the goals. You must recognize that you need the support of others in reaching the goal. This may include your friends and family. You also need to recognize that some people will not be supportive and find ways to minimize your interaction with them.

Not enough time

Lack of time is a common complaint and a common excuse for not reaching goals. Everyone has just 24 hours a day. Some people have better time management skills. This allows them to get more done in a day than others can accomplish. Everyone finds time for those things that are most important to them. If you find lack of time a problem, consider how you manage your time. Do you waste a lot of time? Do you set priorities for your time? Could you delegate some chores to others? Are there some things you could drop or postpone in order to have time to achieve your goals?

Obviously, some people have more commitments than others. Some people also have lower energy levels or a higher need for sleep than others. This may mean that they must allow more time in order to achieve the same goals, or find other ways of achieving these goals. For example, you may only be able to attend one course per year rather than two or three while working full time if you are also a full-time parent. Perhaps a distance education course might be an option that allows you to achieve your goal.

Taking Stock

Once you have set a goal, you need to take stock of where you are. This means identifying your strengths related to the goal, and the barriers in the way of reaching your goal. Strengths include skills and experience related to the goal, any personal habits that make it easier to achieve success, the support of family and friends, and resources that you have such as access to a car, a special library, or a free babysitter. Barriers are all the things that get in the way of meeting your goals. They may be a lack of something, such as education, money, information, or experience. They may also be an existing financial or personal commitment that gets in the way of easily achieving the goal.

For example, Susan, who wants to own her own restaurant, might identify the strengths and barriers as shown in Figure 16.

Figure 16 Sample list of strengths and barriers
Strengths 1.             Will complete Cook Apprenticeship program this year

2.             Three years’ experience working in a restaurant

3.             Worked as a bus person and server during high school

4.             Knowledge of wines as a result of my winemaking hobby

5.             Have been promised a full-time job as a cook on completion of apprenticeship

6.             Confident self-starter

7.             Highly motivated

8.             Need little sleep

9.             Can work long hours

10.           Supportive family

11.           Uncle owns a restaurant

Barriers 1.             Lack business management skills and experience

2.             Have not developed a menu on my own

3.             Do not know the market for new restaurants in this community

4.             Do not know the legislation and legal requirements for opening a restaurant

5.             Do not know how to mix drinks

6.             Do not know how to deal with customers or sell

7.             Lack the capital to start a business

8.             Have a car loan of $5,000

9.             Make child support payments of $200 a month

10.           Work irregular shifts which make it hard to attend courses

Once you have assessed your skills, strengths, and barriers, you are ready to start the next step, planning. Planning must take into consideration the strengths and barriers you have identified. To begin, use cards or small pieces of paper to write down ideas about steps you can complete to bring you closer to your goal (Figure 17).

Figure 18 Write down the steps you need to take on small cards or sticky notes. Image used with permission of go2HR.
Figure 17 Write down the steps you need to take on small cards or sticky notes. Image used with permission of go2HR.

Once you have run out of ideas, arrange the papers or cards in time order. For example, Susan may want to rearrange her budget and move to a smaller apartment so that she can pay off her car loan more quickly and then begin saving money. She might also decide to sell her car and buy an older, used car so that she can pay off her loan right away.

Check to see that you have not missed any steps. Refer to your barriers to see whether you have found ways around each. Look at each card to see if there are any steps you need to complete before you complete this one. For example, in order to register for a distance education course, you may have to request high school transcripts from another province.

Each step should be something that you can complete in a short period of time, usually no more than several months. Each step should bring you a little closer to reaching your goal. Be realistic about the time it will take to complete a step. Make the steps a little smaller if they will take a year or more. The steps you will identify will be different from those for another person with a similar goal because you start with different skills, abilities, and strengths and face different barriers.

Once you think that you have all the necessary steps listed, ask a friend or family member for input. Add any new steps and reorder them if necessary. In Susan’s case, her uncle, who owns a restaurant, could provide valuable assistance. He may also be able to suggest ways in which he could help Susan, perhaps by acting as a mentor.

Finding a Mentor

A mentor is a person who is a trusted advisor, someone you can consult on an ongoing basis concerning your progress and problems. You could approach someone who has already achieved a goal similar to the one you have set for yourself. This could be a former supervisor, a chef you have met through the local chefs’ association, or a restaurant manager you know. You should try to find someone you like and trust, a person who is willing provide you with help and encouragement. This individual should also be prepared to give you constructive criticism when you need it.

A mentor can be very helpful in keeping you focused and working toward your goals. He or she usually has more experience and can help you tackle the problems that arise as you work through your action plan.

Setting a timeline and sticking to it

Next, set a time for completing each step in your plan. Be realistic about the amount of time it will take to complete the step and the amount of time you can devote to the step during a particular time period. Plan to accomplish something each week and month, even if these steps are very small. Promise yourself a small reward for accomplishing a certain number of tasks on time. Share your plan with others who will help keep you motivated and ask them for their continued support. For example, Susan’s uncle might offer to meet with her once a month to review her progress toward her goal.

Enlist the help of family members and friends when appropriate. For example, Susan knows someone who might be willing to share a house and who would be willing to have her four-year-old son (who lives with his father) visit on weekends. By sharing, both Susan and her friend might reduce their living costs.

Keep checking your action plan to see whether you are on target. Don’t get discouraged if you miss a deadline occasionally. Readjust your timeline to catch up with the steps. If some unexpected problems arise, take stock again, add new steps if necessary, and readjust. For example, Susan had a car accident that caused her to miss two months of work and undergo intensive rehabilitation. During that time, she was unable to complete a course. Once she had recovered, she reviewed her action plan and adjusted her dates as necessary.

Figure 18 shows a partial list of the steps Susan identified in order to meet her goal and the timeline she prepared. She prepared this plan in March; you are looking at her progress in early May.

Figure 18 Progress on Susan’s action plan
Step Planned Completion Date Actual Completion Date
Rework personal budget to save $200 per month March 31 March 31
Give notice to present landlord March 31 March 31
Find new accommodation that fits new budget April 15 April 6
Sell car and pay off car loan April 15 April 18
Use proceeds to buy older car without loan (brother may have a lead on a good car) April 22 April 23
Move into new apartment May 1 May 1
Write Cook Red Seal exam May 15
Increase monthly savings to $400 as a result of having no car loan June 1
Borrow Restaurant Operations Manual from uncle and study legal and legislative requirements section; rework action plan if necessary June 15
Register for a bartender’s course to start in September June 15

Note that Susan has not met all of her timelines. However, she is making steady progress toward her goal. With support from her uncle, other family members, and friends, she will achieve success. At the end of June, Susan had met all of her goals so far and gave herself a weekend camping trip as a reward.

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Setting Goals by go2HR is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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