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Millennials: What’s the State of Your (Career) Union?

Three steps to realistically assess and set goals for advancement

(Image: Thinkstock)

As President Barack Obama prepares to give his fifth State of the Union address, critics and advocates remain watchful during what will be a defining moment for the nation’s leader.

John King, CNN’s chief national correspondent, reports that this speech “is viewed by strategists in both parties as part of a defining test: Can Obama rebuild his standing enough to force action on some of his priorities, or will 2014 instead be remembered as another frustrating year of gridlock and the gateway to ‘lame duck’ status? To that end, many see this speech—this wish list—as potentially his last chance for significant action.”

Just as the State of the Union is a monumental part of any president’s tenure and can drastically affect their likeability and influence factor as a leader, the everyday boss (whether you head a corporate department, helm your own small business, or serve as strategic CEO of the brand that is you), any young professional can take a few cues on goal-setting and career planning from a practice that has been around more than 100 years. Here are three steps to doing so:

1. Work with a team to truly assess where you are and where you want to be. President Obama has a team of administrative support, and when it’s time for the State of the Union address, he has aides in charge of correspondence, research and outreach, as well as a speechwriter to work through the process. You may not have the presidential dream team, but you should definitely have a mentor, supervisor, adviser, industry peer and some sort of career coach (whether a seasoned professional, educator or paid consultant) to get a full picture of where you stand as a professional.

You can also use career assessment resources like Kevin Lile’s Career Motivations Challenge or iSeekSolutions Skills Assessment Tool. Once you know where you are, you can set a plan, with the help of this same team, to get to where you need to be. You can create a vision board or map out a plan via spreadsheet or calendar goals. 

2. Know where your critics stand and address their critiques realistically. Many will be watching President’s Obama’s speech simply to find out how he’ll reset the course from previous promises made during the State of the Union that have yet to be met. In the same way, as a leader in your career advancement, you should always know all perceptions of you from key people in your workplace and industry. Meet with your manager and have coffee with peers to get candid insights. If you can’t stomach hearing critiques from a coworker, talk with peers from a former place of employment or people who have worked with you on projects in the past. Find out how people perceive you (versus the reality of who you are.) How valid are their critiques? Will these perceptions hinder your future advancement? If so, how can you change them or work to improve on valid weak points?

3. Keep tabs on your successes and your failures. No need to get obsessive about this, but in the same way that the public and media keep tabs on the president’s goals, successes and perceived failures, you should always be aware of benchmarks in your journey, how well you’ve done, and how you can improve. Keep yourself accountable, or have a mentor or coach be your accountability manager. Sometimes it’s good to have one or two people reminding you of where you want to be and keeping you on your toes. Besides, how can you get where you want to go without first knowing whether you’re using the correct road map or mode of travel?

You don’t have to be Commander-in-Chief or a BE 100s CEO to begin taking control of improving your career to position yourself as a leader. If you start these habits now as a young careerist, you’ll already be on the right track once you reach the heights of your journey.

Will you be tuning in to President Obama’s State of the Union address? What points would you like to see him touch on, especially in terms of young professionals and careerists? #Soundoff and follow me on Twitter @JPHazelwood.

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