Achieve your career goals

This column, “Achieve your career goals,” was originally published as part of a career counseling and psychology series in Washingtonjobs, a subsidiary magazine of the Washington Post. It is by Dr. Lynn Friedman, a psychologist in Washington DC.

This is the second part of a five part series on developing and pursuing work-life goals. Part I dealt with how to identify your career goals and examined obstacles that interfere with this task.

How to achieve your career goals

What if you know what you want to do — but you aren’t sure where to begin? What if you know that you want to become a doctor or a computer graphic artist or teacher or to start a daycare center — Or, on a more personal vein, what if you know that you want to find Mr. or Ms. Right, but you aren’t sure how to go about it or where to look.

In other words, what if you have a goal, but you aren’t sure about how to even start creating a plan to pursue your goal?

First, ask yourself what it will take to achieve your goal. What steps do you need to take? If you don’t know, you need to do a little research.

Here are some of the several ways to research:

    1. Speak to people in the field that you are considering. For example, if you want to be a doctor, talk to doctors. If you find this prospect a bit anxiety-provoking, prepare yourself. If you want to become a computer graphic artist, talk to those who have successfully done it. If you are entering a competitive field, talk with people in another locale. For example, if you want to open a floral shop in your small town, don’t approach the local florist. Rather, talk to the florist in an adjacent locale.

This step often intimidates people who lack a sense of “healthy entitlement.” They figure, “Why would anyone want to talk to me?”

If this is the case for you, then try some of the other steps below.

  1. Go to your local library or bookstore. For example, if you want to be a doctor, read some books on how to become a doctor. If you want to be an web-based graphics designer, find books on that.
  2. Contact relevant associations and join them. For example, if you want to become involved with the Internet (and you’re a woman), join DC Web Women. If you want to become a physician, contact the American Medical Association and ask them if you can become a student member.
  3. Volunteer. If you do not have the appropriate education to join as a bona fide member, contact the local chapter and ask how you could serve. If you are a skilled organizer, offer to help at the front desk at the next chapter meeting, collect money, and meet the members.
  4. Find out if any place with which you are affiliated will provide helpful information. For example, if you have any kind of university connection — alumni or a student — talk with your alma mater’s career service department.

Remember that your goal is to find out how people became a web page designer, doctor, attorney, teacher, etc.

But, what if you fully intend to take these steps, but you find yourself stymied. Somehow, you can’t get to the library — or you don’t make those phone calls. Then it’s time to examine what is getting in the way. Some possible obstacles include the following:

  1. Obligations to the important people in your life, especially small children.
  2. A belief that you are not good enough, deserving enough or that you will be unsuccessful.
  3. A sense of insecurity, self-doubt, anxiety or depression.

Obligations to the important people in your life, especially small children.

It is hard to deny the needs of small children, particularly during their formative years, especially when one appreciates that they are only small once. Still, it may be very important for your children to see you reach for and pursue your own dreams. This provides a wonderful example for them. So, even if you are deferring your most time-consuming goals until your children are a bit older, you may want to begin to pursue your goal in some, more limited way. Alternatively, you may decide to pursue the goal even while your children are small. If you do this, make sure to set aside a certain prescribed time that is just for you and your child. If you have more than one child, it is a good idea to have weekly “private times” with each child alone. Even if it is just for an hour, this time should be time for you and your child to relax and enjoy each other — without intrusion from demanding siblings.

A belief that you are not good enough, deserving enough or that you will be unsuccessful.

A sense of insecurity, self-doubt, anxiety or depression.

There are a couple of steps that you might consider.

  1. Find a mentor. That is, find someone from a similar background or situation that has successfully done what you are trying to do. Talk with them about some of your apprehensions and doubts.
  2. Join a work-life group. In this context, you will get help planning, small, discrete steps that you can take to pursue your goals. Moreover, you will receive support — as well as the opportunities to help others with their goals.
  3. If you continue to find, despite your best efforts, that your insecurity and self-doubt gets the better of you, seek analytically-oriented psychotherapy. There are reasons why a person is filled with self-doubt, anxiety or depression. Often, the underlying causes can be effectively addressed in psychodynamic (aka psychoanalytic) psychotherapy. This sort of treatment can be liberating — allowing the individual to pursue many work-life goals that historically had been elusive.

You have read about how to identify your career goals and how to achieve your career goals. What do you do when obstacles get in the way? How do you develop a strategy for overcoming resistance to career change?

Are you considering career counseling, psychotherapy or psychoanalysis? Uncertain as to what might be most helpful to you? Feel free to call me: 301.656.9650.

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Dr. Lynn Friedman

Dr. Lynn Friedman, Ph.D., FABP, is a Clinical Psychologist, a Supervising and Training Analyst, and a Clinical Supervisor in full-time, private practice. She provides evaluation, psychotherapy and psychoanalysis as well as supervision to psychoanalysts-in-training and other mental health professionals. Beyond this, she is a board certified, psychoanalyst who teaches at Johns Hopkins University and the Washington Baltimore Center for Psychoanalysis.

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