How Well Do the Shoes Fit?

4 Key elements for career goal-setting

I was 16 and thrilled to be going to work at my first part-time job at a shoe store. On my first day, I was given minimal training and then set loose in the showroom to serve customers. The store was very busy, and I felt confused as I stepped out into a sea of people trying to grab my attention to locate the shoes they wanted to try. 

I moved back and forth from the crowd to the stockroom where I searched frantically to locate shoes in the right size, style and color for each customer. Often, when I returned to the showroom – palms sweaty and filled with anxiety because I knew I was failing at this job – I couldn’t locate my customer. I suspect several of them had given up and left the store, as their patience wore thin and my progress was slow.

Turns out I was not a success at selling shoes.

Despite this, experience has taught me that the process of getting to where I set out to be has always been as relevant as the goal itself. It was never my career goal to work in a shoe store. But the experience was valuable nonetheless!

Very often we become so fixated on the goal that we neglect to consider that each phase and stage of our career is filled with an abundance of experiences and lessons. These ultimately equip us to fill the shoes we’re destined to fill.

How are you measuring up to those shoes? Are you going through the process, or are you growing through each process? The process to achieving career success does not start when you think you are finally in alignment with your career goals, it doesn’t begin when you’ve settled in your niche, and it certainly isn’t activated when the industry doors fly open.

You must be wondering, “Well, where does it begin?” Believe it or not, the process of achieving career success begins in the shoe store (…well for me it did). For you, the process begins when you’ve set foot in the job market, the moment you’ve landed your first working gig, and it continues through every job after that. 

It is our experiences (big and small) that will essentially prepare us to fill our career shoes. How do we prepare ourselves to fill these shoes? By setting goals of course! However, there are some specific steps in the goal-setting process that propel the success of our career.

Here are 4 major steps you need to take into consideration when setting your goals:

#1 – Pacing Yourself.

It is always good to see the bigger picture when planning for your career. But again, the process of accomplishing your goals is crucial. Moving from an entry-level to a top-tier position may not be your overnight success story – in fact it’s rarely anyone’s story. The thought of what – and how long – it may take to achieve an ambitious goal can become overwhelming. And this is exactly why it is so important to create short term goals that will prevent you from getting sidetracked and deterred. Additionally, setting short term goals allows you to stay focused and deliberate in taking the necessary steps to accomplish your end goal while giving yourself the opportunity to celebrate small wins along the way.

#2 – Positioning Yourself.

Being the CEO of a company may seem like a distant goal when occupying an entry-level position. However, the skills of a great CEO are not born overnight. A common mistake is limiting your performance to the position that you currently occupy. While this may result in some success climbing the corporate ladder, it will most certainly delay and could even derail your journey to the top of the rung.

I once had a colleague who was new to my department share with me that the first thing she did after getting into a new position, was to figure her way out. It seemed ridiculous to me at first—until I witnessed her second promotion that year.

Always embody your next role while mastering your present. In the words of Whitney M. Young Jnr., “It is better to be prepared for an opportunity and not have one than to have an opportunity and not be prepared.”

How will you prepare for the opportunity that will propel you into achieving your goals? Identify the skills and traits you will need to conquer your next big career move and own it! If successfully achieving your goal means cross-training in another department, shadowing a coworker who has the skills and knowledge you need, or requesting to be mentored by an expert in your field, then be willing to invest the time and energy you need to reap the future reward.

Make decisions today that position you for opportunities tomorrow.

#3 – Building Yourself.

Maybe you didn’t enter the job market with a bang and instead, you are filling a less than desirable role or maybe you are still deliberating the career path that suits you. Here’s the good news, you now have the opportunity to mold and shape the direction of your career path, which means – make use of it!

While opportunities may present themselves along the way, it is never too late to be strategic about your next career move. Now is the time to be purposeful and intentional.


Take the time to acquire the knowledge you need in building your skills. What does this look like? If you’re looking at a career change, compare learning and training paths, consult with experts and create the edge you need in making an entry in the industry where you intend to excel. The same applies if you’re looking to grow in your current field. What are your strengths, and what skills do you need to develop? 

I help people every day to connect their existing skills with suitable career options. It’s a good way to nurture and reveal an underlying passion. 

#4 – Nurturing Yourself.

The chances of achieving your goals are magnified when you surround yourself with like-minded people who have an insatiable appetite for success in the world that you aspire to – whether that be corporate, nonprofit, entrepreneurship – or another field.  

You guessed it—we call this networking. Creating a circle that keeps you motivated and accountable is a sure way to accelerate your goals. When setting your goals, be considerate about how you will nurture yourself and your goals with a holistic approach that will not only groom your skills, but also your mind, to take on the journey that lies ahead.

When setting your goals, be purposeful about creating an avenue, forum or support system that will reinforce your goals, provide industry insight and rejuvenate your mind in staying focused.

Incorporating these key elements as part of your goal-setting process will create a stable and well-rounded foundation to propel your career goals. You can start figuring out where you want to be by understanding where you are right nowdownload our Career Growth checklist.