What It Takes: The Importance Of Having A Career Goal

You need a career goal, a plan, and the determination and resilience to execute your plan successfully if you want to grow in your career. Reflections on the importance of career planning from a publicly listed company's CFO.


One of the questions I ask all candidates who interview with me is a very simple one, but it is surprisingly challenging for many to answer. That question is this: What are you doing the day before you retire? Not literally where you are sitting, but what is your goal!


We’ve all read the investment disclaimers slapped on all mutual fund prospectuses. Past performance is not necessarily indicative of future performance. While this may be true for mutual funds, it’s not true for individuals.


Achievers not only achieve early, they are more likely than not to continue to achieve. Achievers have a goal, they have a plan, and they execute with determination to achieve their goal.


We’ve all read the investment disclaimers slapped on all mutual fund prospectuses. Past performance is not necessarily indicative of future performance. While this may be true for mutual funds, it’s not true for individuals.

Some individuals have absolute clarity as to what their goal is, for others it may change over time. Regardless, you always need to have a goal. Without a goal, you can’t put a plan in place and build the skills and experiences necessary to achieve your goal. A goal allows you to baseline your skills, identify your gaps, and measure your progress in filling those gaps.


My hope in sharing with you my approach is to provide you with a framework that you can use to help you achieve your career goal(s). This is not the only approach, but it is the approach that I found resonated best with me. It is the one I utilized, along with strong mentorship and coaching, to achieve my goal to become a public company Chief Financial Officer.


In 1999, I went to work for a public utility located in the midwest of the United States. I was two years out from completing my undergraduate studies in Economics. I was on the corporate development team charged with growing the company through mergers and acquisitions. It was at this time that I determined my goal of becoming the Chief Financial Officer of a publicly traded company. I was fortunate to have absolute clarity on my goal, but I needed a plan.


The first thing I did was to take an inventory of my skills and experiences. At this point, I didn’t have a lot of experience, but I knew my core strengths. I wrote them down on a piece of paper. This was my baseline. If you are true to yourself, you will not select a goal for which you don’t have the skills to reasonably achieve. I was a financial minded individual, my education was in finance and economics, and the skills required to achieve my goal were consistent with my strengths as an individual.


Second, I met with the company’s Chief Financial Officer, to understand better what skills and experiences this individual processed and to understand what skills and experiences were required for this position. I wrote these down on a piece of paper.

This gave me a roadmap, a plan. I identified the differences between my baseline and goal to highlight the gaps that I needed to fill.


Time to execute. First and foremost, you must deliver results. Without results, new opportunities will evade you and you will find it impossible to gain the new skills and experiences required to achieve your goal. Deliver day in and day out, striving to exceed expectations with every opportunity you are presented. Hard work and results precede new and interesting opportunities. You are not entitled to anything!


Second, find good mentors, good advocates for you internally. Work with them, share with them your goals and aspirations. The decisions to provide you with new opportunities are not controlled solely by your direct supervisor. These are determined more so by their supervisor and your supervisor’s peers. Choose strategically positioned mentors, those you look up to and build those relationships.

Deliver day in and day out, striving to exceed expectations with every opportunity you are presented. Hard work and results precede new and interesting opportunities. You are not entitled to anything!


Third, don’t be superficial and evaluate new opportunities based on the title, the salary, or who your new supervisor may be. If you are presented with an opportunity to fill your gaps and its a lateral move, take it. You will be receiving a free education and will gain skills and experiences that make you more valuable to your organization. The compensation will follow. If you are motivated by compensation, you can always find a similar position for more money somewhere, but you will not be increasing your long-term value, you’ll be capping it.


Don’t be superficial and evaluate new opportunities based on the title, the salary, or who your new supervisor may be. If you are presented with an opportunity to fill your gaps and its a lateral move, take it. You will be receiving a free education and will gain skills and experiences that make you more valuable to your organization. The compensation will follow.

Lastly, be patient, but not too patient. Your hunger for more will be evident to those in control of your future. Organizational timelines are not always aligned with your own, but companies don’t want to lose great talent either. Work with your mentors, your supervisor, and your supervisor’s peers to express your interests. Timelines converge to your benefit with a tactful tacit push combined with professional patience.  


Good Luck!

About the author: Steven Brazones is the CFO of Raven Industries.

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January 14, 2021

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