Do You Want to Achieve Big? Start Thinking Small

by Pranav Ramesh
June 07, 2022

“Man is what he believes” – Anton Chekhov

Does your career feel like a runaway train sometimes? You might feel as though sometimes you’re in control and you know where you’re heading, but massive disruptions, especially within the last 2 years, have upended your trajectory?  

Consider these statistics. Across the globe, there are roughly 1.35 million tech startups. The computing and processing capacity of computers hits double figures every 18 months.

We have produced 90% of all Big Data created in just the past two years. Each second, 127 new devices are connected to the internet worldwide.

As technology rapidly changes the way we live, careers in tech are changing just as quickly. New positions are created to manage new and different problems that have never occurred before in the history of humanity. Job seekers can find recently imagined job postings on boards almost weekly.

What is the best way to manage the speed and quickness that employees find in their field, and, inherently, their career path, changing? One technique used successfully by career coaches and mentors alike is to set small goals to reach long-term success, and the reasoning behind it may surprise you. A second method is to understand where you want to end up in your career and plan backward. And when these two techniques are coupled together, you can help map out a strategic plan for success that can carry you through to your penultimate career goal.

RELATED: Why Setting Career Goals Will Set You Up for Success


Achieving Small Goals Can Equal Bigger Success

It’s easy to talk about keeping your career trajectory in sight, planning in advance, and knowing what you want from the future. How do you take a larger plan and break it down into manageable, better yet, achievable goals?

Sometimes the difference between setting a goal and taking a step within a larger process can be challenging to understand. Earning your certification for your desired IT skills would be a “step.” A goal would be simply completing the first course in the certificate program. Being able to accomplish a smaller goal is a lot better than trying to take a big step, especially when you’re just beginning the process. The intention behind setting small goals is not necessary to get you closer to your larger goal but to develop the skill of belief in oneself. The belief that you can indeed accomplish the goals you set, however small. Belief takes time to build, especially in ourselves. Unless belief is developed over time through the practice of accomplishing these small goals, it remains weak and virtually useless.

That’s why achieving success through small goals is so motivating. It doesn’t matter how badly you “want it,” most of what matters is how much you believe you can. 

Where is it you want to be? Mapping your way to success

Setting achievable goals is only part of this method to help you regain control of your career trajectory. If small goals are crucial to set, then you have to be able to lean in and answer the big question: What is it you want in your career? 

If you’ve been lucky to have early success thus far in your career, you might have to remind yourself to take a moment and figure out what it is you want. When caught up in a situation like this, it’s easy to know what you don’t want in that next stage in your career. It’s probably more important to know what you do want. 

“Don’t forget where you came from” may be a useful sentiment to instill a sense of home within people, but it’s not always helpful when trying to advance your career. If you don’t know where you’re going, you can risk getting stuck in a work role you never planned on staying in.  


Telescoping your priorities 

One skill that leadership gurus say effective leaders employ regularly is the ability to zoom in and zoom out on priorities and goals. It’s like a telescoping lens for your career. By being able to focus intensely on immediate priorities (those short-term goals) and then being able to pull back and examine the “big picture” for your career, you’re able to incorporate both the present and future vision for your career. Effective leaders are also able to discern when is the right moment to “zoom in” versus “zoom out.” Building this zoom ability into your skill set can have proven advantages not just for your career, but in regular, day-to-day tasks as well.  


Learning and development at work 

An additional component that can be helpful is having the support and buy-in from your employer. Your employer should want to see your career grow and develop as much as you do personally. Be very wary of an employer who sits back and watches your career stagnate without opportunities for fresh training and plans to address skill gaps.  

Many companies foster excellent leadership and development opportunities for their employees. Through Adobe’s Learning Fund program, for example, employees are offered $10,000 per calendar year to pursue academic degrees, top credential programs, advanced specializations, and technical certifications, and $1,000 per calendar year for short-term learning opportunities. That can help take the burden off employees who are trying to afford additional schooling or certifications.  

And some employers prefer helping employees progress via internal programs. At Marriott International, the Global Voyage Leadership Development program intends to help recent university graduates and the Marriott Development Academy is aimed at helping aspiring managers acquire the skills required for leadership roles. It’s always ideal when an employer’s goals and employee’s goals align.  

Hopefully, after this read, you’ll be ready to determine what your big career goals are and set small goals for the best odds of improving your career trajectory. At the very least, you can begin to research some companies that are prioritizing employee growth and goal setting to see how it’s being successfully implemented. Happy goal setting!  


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