Developing a Long-term STEM Career Strategy
In our final piece for the Think Bigger, Go Further series, we pull together all the previous blog posts into one guidance piece to help you pull together a career strategy.
The benefits of having a career strategy
A career strategy ties your personal goals and professional goes together and acts as a guide to steer you towards the career that will give you the most fulfilment.
It gives you clarity on the detailed aspects of a career such as, job title, salary and even expectations of what pension and benefit packages you’d like. You can then work out the best work/life balance and ensure you are working within a culture that best suits you. Also, a solid plan pushes you to reach your full potential, it keeps you motivated and focused, as well as helping with decision making so you become less likely to stall or get stuck in a rut.
So, where to begin?
Society often dictates what we feel we’re expected to do, including how we define success. It can feel like our personal values don’t match with these expectations, however, take a step back and consider the big picture again. To mould a career plan that will work for you mix your personal values with career ambitions.
Start with asking yourself three simple questions:
- What experiences do you want to get out of life?
- How do you want to grow and develop?
- What do you want to contribute to the world and the people around you?
This gives you three categories to reflect on when it comes to setting your goals.
What are career goals?
Their main purpose is to guide you through your career so you end up where you want to be, somewhere that challenges you and makes you feel accomplished, as much as it makes you happy and aligns with your own values. Setting them also helps ensure you don’t settle when you are bored, thus stops you stalling or remaining somewhere you feel overwhelmed.
Setting career goals can feel overwhelming, but don’t worry about finding one solution to get you all the way to the end. You will create both short and long-term goals for the career journey.
The journey may require new skills, relationship building, finding work/life balance, increasing your productivity, forming great personal habits, acquiring new qualifications etc. having goals makes sure these things are factored in. Our previous blogs on habits for success and innovators in STEM explore this in more detail.
How to set your career goals
As we mentioned before, it is good to set both short and long-term goals, one way to do this is with means vs end goals. An "end goal" is the final point and the thing which carries the most meaning, whereas "mean goals" are the stepping stones to getting there -- and, as it turns out, are just as fulfilling to achieve.
You can use the SMART method (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-bound) to plan these so-called means goals:
Make sure your strategy answers the "five Ws":
- What do I want to accomplish?
- Why is this goal important?
- Who is involved?
- Where is it located?
- Which resources are involved?
This gives you the opportunity to track your progress -- keeping you focused whilst holding you accountable.
There is no point in having an impossible goal, so make it attainable and realistic. This will push you to grow while reassuring you that they’re achievable.
Ensures your goal is worthwhile and fits into the big picture, moving you towards the end goal.
Set a deadline so you don’t let anything drag on, which will stall your strategy.
Remember that the end goal provides the overall ‘framework’ of the big picture which the means goals lead you to.
Time to set your goals…
Now we understand what a career strategy is, why it benefits us and have methods to set goals, it’s time to make that all-important step and begin to form your own career goals. Follow these steps:
- Get your wants, needs and don’t-wants together. Some of these will cover:
- What field do you want to be in?
- Is there an organisation you have in mind?
- Do you want to work full time or part-time?
- How important is flexitime to you?
- If you want a pay rise, define it - how much do you want to increase per year or promotion?
- Do you want a role that’s wholly independent or to be part of a team?
- What skills would you like to gain on your journey?
- Do you feel passionate about what you do?
- Write it down
It may sound obvious but writing your goals down makes a big difference. Dr Gail Matthews, a psychology professor at the Dominican University in California, studied the effects of writing goals down and how this influences the result. They found that you become 42% more likely to achieve your goals, simply by writing them down.
Furthermore, doing this embeds the goals into your subconscious meaning you set a personal expectation and desire to be successful in achieving your goals.
Note your end goal and then add the steps (mean goals) that will get you there. This makes the process much more approachable, and less intimidating.
- Take action!
Sit back and take in what you have written… you are ready to begin your journey by acting on your strategy. Start with the first mean goal and go from there. As you complete goal after goal tick them off, it will keep you motivated and help maintain momentum.
- Something to keep in mind: anticipate that change will happen, you will need to adapt, grow and even sacrifice at some point.
As you progress on your career path you will need to give more, your responsibilities will increase at work, as well as in your personal life (most likely). Therefore, you should learn to prioritise, this will help balance workload and maintain a healthy personal life balance.
Moreover, it is inevitable that surprises and things out of your control will come up, so make sure your strategy has some flexibility where possible. You can help set expectations regarding what you may come across by researching the demands this career path will require, it can also be good to reach out to those in the career already to get some insight.
More from SRG
For more insights into the ever-changing world of the life sciences sector, stay tuned to the SRG blog.
Latest News, Events & Insights
Think Big STEM Innovators
STEM is driven by innovation. It is a symbol of progress and provides solutions to our greatest challenges. From the creation of the steam engine and discovering the molecular structure of DNA to unlocking our smartphones with facial recognition, one thing is constant: individuals who think bigger push STEM discoveries further.
Career Goal Setting - Goal Celebration
Understanding the difference between means goals and end goals is the key. Very often the two types of goals get mixed up. An end goal should be something that brings you fulfilment, the means goals are the steps you need to take to get you to the end goal. When we focus only on the specifics of how to get something rather than the ‘what’ and the ‘why’, we can get blocked and frustrated.