When asked about my professional goals recently for a new job, I spent about an hour jotting down exactly what I valued about the work I do currently and what I would like to change. It's a simple exercise that's worth revisiting if you haven't done it in a while.
In my experience, writing goals rather than just thinking about them provides much greater clarity. It forces you to say exactly what you mean, and to double-check whether you really mean it. It also forces you to think about whether and how you are achieving your goals in the present. Are you on track to doing the things you want to do?
I'm surprised how much my goals have changed in just the last five years, too. Five years ago, I was especially focused on increasing my media presence. I wanted to be seen, to be heard, to be read. It makes me roll my eyes at myself now, but I wanted to develop my brand.
Now I am much more interested in the quality of my writing and my ideas, and while I still enjoy being seen, heard, and read, it's more important to know that my ideas have real value in the world.
Here's what I wrote:
In the long term, my primary goal is to keep writing. That's it.
I achieve that goal by continuing to write and positioning myself as a writer. What that means is I don't get pigeonholed as an editor (some editors also write, but it's tough), and I don't have any affiliations that would preclude me from being seen as a writer. While writers can certainly have a wealth of life experience, I've seen a few writers get side-tracked into marketing positions and then never recover. Whether a position with [this company] would be considered a "marketing" role is a key concern.
In the short term, I aim to
- write about topics that are interesting to me and
- create content that is valuable, factual, and truthful.
When writing about productivity, for example, I am especially interested in reading the science seriously and not blowing findings out of proportion. To blow a finding out of proportion gets clicks. To report on it accurately provides value. My [current work] fulfills this goal because everything I write about products comes from hands-on testing.
Another short-term goal is to continue earning a steady paycheck from writing while also reserving about 10 hours per week to work on my own writing that is not necessarily earning any money yet.
Nice to Have
There are a few things that I enjoy doing related to work and would happily do more, but they are not so important that I strive toward them actively. These include public speaking opportunities, as well as on-air/media opportunities.
Right now, I only do about one public speaking gig per year. Sometimes it's a presentation, like at a business conference, and sometimes it's just moderating a panel. When I lived in New York, I appeared on video, TV, or radio about twice a month. I also used to make video tutorials to go alongside articles, which I enjoyed, but I didn't have sufficient support and resources to do it as well as I would have liked. I'm a huge fan of podcasting and only experimented with it, but again due to lack of support and resources, it never went anywhere. These are all things I'm excited to pursue in conjunction with writing, but they aren't as important as my writing goals.
Personal Work-Life Goals
In my personal life, I appreciate flexibility in my schedule, the ability to work from nearly anywhere in the world, and working with people who are tech-savvy enough to know that "tech-savvy" really just means "unafraid to look up anything and everything."
I would like to work with people who can push my writing and my ideas to be better.
While I never work crazy hours and always take my time-off seriously, I understand the realities and trade-offs of working from a different time zone, such as having to attend a virtual meeting at 6:30 a.m. or 11 p.m.
I'm usually happiest when I have a friendly relationship with my colleagues, rather than one that's overly formal.