Man feeling happy with his career goals
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5 alternative career goals to make you happy

29 Mar 2017

Will that big office actually make you happy? Sometimes, the more obscure career goals make you happier than the obvious ones.

When you think about a set of career goals you want to achieve in your life, what do you think of? A big promotion? A pay rise? A snazzy new office?

These ambitions are quite common, if a little generic.

There’s nothing wrong with having these goals, though. In fact, they are great achievements and if they are what you want, you should celebrate when you get there. But are you sure these are the only milestones in your career that will make you happy? Will your work life feel completely fulfilled once you get that promotion?

Certain milestones might seem like the key to ultimate career happiness but, nine times out of ten, that happiness is superficial and temporary, unless the milestones come with other benefits.

To help you achieve more sustainable satisfaction with your job, we’ve come up with five alternative career goals that you should set yourself.

Most of the time, you will find that these goals will bring with them those other ones that you’ve been longing for, such as a pay rise.

Learning a new skill

We’re not talking about getting to grips with the internal system in the first week of a new job. Setting this goal means taking the initiative to find a new skill that will enhance your career, learning it and becoming qualified.

Of course, not all skills come with formal qualifications, but completing a social media course or becoming competent in basic programming is much better than being vaguely familiar with a topic.

Your goal should be to learn a completely new skill that will enhance your career to a level that makes you feel confident about putting it on your CV.

Getting external recognition

Whether you are consulting clients, executing big marketing projects or developing websites, receiving external recognition for your work will definitely be one of the most satisfying goals you will achieve, especially at the start of your career.

When someone outside of your immediate family, or even outside of your team in work, notices your work personally and comments on how good it is, this will spark something important in your brain.

This might not seem like something you can control, but setting this as a goal will help you to commit your best self to everything you do, and when someone outside your circle, your department or even your company pats you on the back, it will be worth it.

Completing your first solo project

You don’t have to do it all alone. Depending on the size of the project, you might need help no matter what – but if it was your idea, or you are the lead on a certain project, bringing it from start to finish is a serious career achievement.

If you haven’t already, spend some time thinking about an idea that you could feasibly execute, with or without help. Bring it to your superiors and make it your own once they approve it.

Taking a project from idea to execution and managing it every step of the way will do wonders for your skills and career development.

Getting your own pay rise

Yes, we said getting a pay rise on its own is a superficial goal, and the happiness is temporary, but getting your own pay rise because you asked – and fought – for it is an entirely different joy.

Extra money in your pay packet is much sweeter when you don’t have to wait around for your boss to hand it to you.

Taking your salary into your own hands feels scary and intimidating, and that’s why it should be one of your main career goals. Deciding why you deserve a pay rise, communicating that effectively to your boss and succeeding in getting it, should be celebrated twice as much as simply earning one at your annual review.

Finding meaning in your job

So, you’ve got your pay rise, a big promotion, an important new title and a swanky new office. Happy? You probably are, but once the newness fades, will you still be happy in your job?

You might have noticed that these career goals are all linked to the idea that you enjoy and get meaning from your job. Whether you find your role personally fulfilling, you feel like you’re making a difference in the world, or you’re working on something exciting and innovative, the job itself must satisfy you beyond big pay cheques and perks.

If the only milestones that will make you happy in your career are tied to money and seniority, none of it is likely to make you happy for very long.

Make it your most important aim to look at your job and decide why it makes you happy. And if you find that it doesn’t, it’s time to find out what would, and work towards that.

Jenny Darmody
By Jenny Darmody

Jenny Darmody became the editor of Silicon Republic in 2023, having worked as the deputy editor since February 2020. When she’s not writing about the science and tech industry, she’s writing short stories and attempting novels. She continuously buys more books than she can read in a lifetime and pretty stationery is her kryptonite. She also believes seagulls to be the root of all evil and her baking is the stuff of legends.

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