Allison’s Top 10 List for Achieving Your Goals

As a Human Resources leader, a question I am often asked is “How did you successfully climb the career ladder?” In thinking about this question and reflecting on my career progression, I developed this David Letterman-style “Top 10 List.” I recently shared this list with a co-worker who approached me for advice and started our discussion by saying, “I want to teach, but I know I can’t…” At the end of our conversation—and what provides me the most joy in sharing my thoughts—she was more inspired and confident to succeed. I hope you will find my “Top 10 List” fun, relatable and worth sharing. (It’s more fun if you read this like you are David Letterman—i.e., “The 10th top way to achieve your goals is…”!)

10. Set Goals – To reach for something you want, you should know what that is. Think about where you see yourself in five or ten years—or in terms of what you want to achieve before you retire. By asking what we really want and constantly reassessing, we gain the benefit of introspection. Figure out what it is you really want in life, and then go out and do it. You need to be ready, willing and prepared to change your goals occasionally, as every day is a new experience and each new experience brings with it the potential for a new perspective.

9. Be Open to New Ideas – Look outside the box (especially true when you are looking to move up within your current organization) when searching for opportunities. My personal journey took me through a career track in which I gained experience in Community Development, Public Works, Budget, Purchasing, Grants Management and the City Mayor’s office prior to beginning my human resources path. Some may think I was a “job hopper.” For me, this was just part of the pursuit of my leadership goal. The experience gained helped immensely in obtaining a “big picture” view of how the organization worked and how each employee and department contributed to its success. This sometimes means venturing away from the beaten path.

8. Learn from Others – Mentorship is a good way to accomplish this, but I cover that later. Ultimately, the best way to achieve a goal is to model those that have gone before you successfully, and learn what not to do from those that have been less than successful.

7. Just Learn – I am thinking beyond the traditional pathways—college, workshops, reading, etc.—and speaking more about taking in everything around you and tackling any and every new task or project. For myself, and for those leaders I have observed, one key characteristic for success has been willingness to tackle any task, no matter how big or small. Such enthusiasm results in gaining valuable knowledge and experience. In addition to enhancing your talent profile, you also develop a reputation as someone who is respected and trusted, ultimately leading to being first in line when new opportunities arise.

6. Get Involved – Network! This was often my least favorite advice to receive because I didn’t have the time or energy. However, I came to appreciate and embrace the value of getting involved. First, it is one more means to expanding your skill sets. Second, the people you meet—at the very least—provide you with increased opportunities and, if you are lucky, become lifelong friends.

5. Don’t Be Afraid to Fail – Putting oneself out there and taking risks is not only enviable, but necessary. Some of today’s most famous and successful individuals failed multiple times throughout their journeys, such as Oprah and Michael Jordan. American writer Elbert Hubbard wrote, “There is no failure except in no longer trying.” Not everything will go according to plan. Learn to accept victories and defeats and use them to move forward.

4. Participate in Mentoring – Having and being a mentor contributes to how we progress, both individually and in our career. Find someone you admire—who has achieved success, and/or who has reached a similar goal—and ask them to mentor you. When thinking about mentors, remember you don’t have to limit yourself to one person. Remain open to developing learning relationships with a variety of colleagues. Also, be willing to find someone that can provide you with honest feedback and that possesses strengths in areas where you most need development.

3. Build Positive Relationships – The better our relationships, the happier and more productive we’re going to be. Every relationship we have can teach us something and, equally as noteworthy, the more you focus on your relationships, the better connected to opportunities you will be.

2. Have Patience – I was recently talking with my 26-year-old (Millennial!) son about this! You’ve heard the saying “no pain, no gain”? It goes beyond the daily workout routine! Success is sweeter when it is earned. Slowing down didn’t keep me from achieving my goals. Instead, it helped me realize how much my aspirations meant and how much I was willing to work for them. What resonated most in the discussion with my son is that part of having patience means celebrating the small victories. When you are too focused on the end goal, you don’t take time to give yourself credit for achievements along the way. This is important to your overall happiness, and being happy with yourself ultimately leads to success.

1. BELIEVE IN YOURSELF! Remember the co-worker who started our conversation by stating “I can’t…?” She wasn’t giving herself credit for the positive steps she had already taken toward her goals. You don’t have to be Einstein to succeed. You need the desire, passion for what you are doing and—most importantly—a belief in yourself! Lacking faith in yourself will limit you, no matter how great the opportunities to which you are exposed.

I leave you with best wishes for success in all your future endeavors! When in doubt, create your own “Top 10 List!”


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