The IndustryWeek Talent Advisory Board offers monthly advice on how its members got to where they are in the manufacturing world. If you have a question for the group, please send it to [email protected].
IndustryWeek’s Talent Advisory Board question for December was: Many people are currently evaluating their career goals, either as part of their performance reviews or for New Years’ Resolutions. How have you used goal-setting to advance your own career?
Bill Good—Vice President Supply Chain, GE Appliances
I recognized as a student in college and early in my career that I performed better when I set clear, measurable goals for myself. Setting personal and career goals provided direction and purpose as I focused on very tangible achievements. At the end of each year, I always take time to reflect and evaluate my performance against the goals I set for myself and adjust where needed. Since I began my career in an entry-level manufacturing role 36 years ago, admittedly, I revised my career goals many times along the way. Early on, I probably didn’t stretch enough as my goals tended to be shorter term. Back then, I would set a simple goal of “getting to the next level” through promotion. As I matured in my career, I saw the value of taking a longer-term view like “become a plant leader for a major U.S. corporation” as a goal. This helped me imagine and build a road map. It allowed me to objectively evaluate my skillset, look for the gaps in accomplishing my longer-term vision, and build a better strategy for how to work my way up the organization. What I quickly realized is not every career move would be a promotion. In many cases, I took lateral moves in my career to fill gaps in my skillset making me a better candidate for roles two to three levels down the road. In the long run, this proved to be a good strategy building both technical and business depth in preparation for the role I have today.
Becky Morgan—President, Fulcrum ConsultingWorks Inc.
In my early undergraduate years I was confident I would become the President of IBM. By the time I graduated I knew I knew nothing. Off to graduate school!
Upon graduating again, I moved to the Delmarva Peninsula with my then-husband. Professional jobs were not plentiful there so I taught college Economics at night and worked in roles for which I had no background during the day. Data processing and accounting systems. Those prepared me for broad not deep — excellent! We moved to Ohio where I became a bank economist. I loved being an economist but hated banking.
I was then recruited to Nestle because of my strong IT background! Moved into operations with a different boss on my first day on the job, which was fine with me. Broad not deep. I loved the food business, operations and strategy.
After five years I was recruited by TRW, a huge conglomerate in automotive, aerospace, and industrial sectors to lead an aero division. My division was prepared for divestiture and then sold, which involved a move back to the east coast and then back to Ohio.
Again, loving what I did but not who I did it for, I started my consulting business.
Does that sound like a career that was planned?
Some of you may know exactly what you want to do each day of your career. Your plan is much more linear than mine. I prefer to learn and do something new every day, which I didn’t know for the first several years of my career. Be open to the possibilities, creating them as you want.
Turns out President of IBM would not have been a fun job for me.
To achieve a milestone in my career, I found it amazingly impactful to write myself a letter imagining the future. I used that letter as the basis to set goals for myself. Reading through that letter a year later, what once seemed unreachable became reality as I focused my mind.
For ambitious go-getters looking for career growth, goal-setting is your friend. I’ve organized many of my career goals around expanding my skillset to prepare myself to lead a team, become more adaptable, and avoid getting pigeonholed into one type of role.
I knew I wanted to grow into a leadership position from early on in my career, and realized the broad range of experiences required to be ready for a larger scope role or future promotion. So, I connected my goals to align with where I wanted to advance my career.
Even when it wasn’t the most comfortable, I made it a goal to volunteer for cross functional/expertise projects that gave me experience in areas that I knew less about. At one point in my career, I was very used to roles that were directly tied to a business, but I pushed myself to branch out and take on ones with more direct leadership responsibility to ensure that my background reflected management experience as well as business partnering. I wouldn’t be where I am in my career today if it weren’t for those goals!
As we start the new year, my advice is to goal-set and dream big, but don’t forget to put the work in along the way. Focus on performing your current job well–meet the required deliverables and optimize your impact. If you lose focus on where you are now and fail to achieve results, you lessen your credibility as a contender for bigger roles with more responsibility.
Bill Scilingo—Vice President of Operations, Penn Color Inc.
Setting clear career progression goals is essential. Goals allow you to break down your vision into actionable steps which provide the framework for evaluating progress, soliciting assistance and reestablishing approach. And there is no better time than the present, as the end of a year and the onset of a New Year is an opportunistic time. Formal discussions with our leadership and hopefully renewed energy with some time off during the Holidays, provide the framework for evaluating progress and further development of your career goals. What I have found most effective is the following.
- Ensure that your leader is aware of your career ambitions and that his or her support is necessary for your success.
- As I know that your interest in reading these articles indicates you are most likely already high performing, insist that your leader provide you with feedback on performance factors that may inhibit your career progression as nobody is perfect.
- Reflect on your performance feedback to not only address improvement areas, but also leverage areas of strength.
- Evaluate and challenge your drive over the last year in achieving your own personal career goals.
- Find areas of improvement outside your comfort zone.
- Celebrate your success and reset on areas which have not progressed to plan.
- Reestablish and document your road map for success.
- Review your progress on a quarterly basis to not allow the daily work and personal schedule to inhibit progress.
As expressed by Jeffery Gitomer, “Obstacles can’t stop you. Problems can’t stop you. Most of all, other people can’t stop you. Only you can stop you.” Best wishes for a prosperous 2024!