Goal Setting for Networking Career Development

certskills
By certskills February 6, 2015 09:05

Do you ever set goals, for any part of your life? Are you happy with how you set, pursued, and achieved those goals?

Today’s post looks at goal setting for one slice of life: your networking career. People have written books full of advice on how to set and pursue your goals. Today, in this one post, I’ll give some thoughts that take a little less time to process, some that can get you started in the goal-setting process.

Overview

I set about to write this series in part because of an informal survey that revealed that 2/3rds of us networkers didn’t have a written development plan. Yikes! This post continues to develop the idea of a career development plan by focusing on goals. Of course, any plan needs to list goals along with the actions that help you reach those goals. Today’s post focuses on the goal setting process, along with the first few tasks. In particular:

  • Dreaming about Your Goals
  • Learning about Possible Networking Jobs/Careers
  • The Goal-Setting Process: Suggestions

Didn’t catch the rest of the series? Check out these posts:

 

Dreaming up Your Career Goals

The Cheshire cat in Lewis Carroll’s “Alice in Wonderland” offers a famous exchange that is often shortened to this line:

“If you don’t know where you are going, any road will take you there.”

Without goals you may make career progress, but you may not make the same progress, or end up where you really want to go. Simple enough. So I’ll take it on faith that you buy into the idea of goal setting for our purposes – now let’s talk about some particulars.

First, if you feel like you don’t do well at setting and achieving goals, take the time to learn from experts. That may be the best first step, even before you think about the technologies. For example, for this post, I actually ready a few chapters of Tony Robbins’ classic, “Awaken the Giant Within”. I was impressed with the contents, suggestions, and exercises there. No matter the book, if you’re serious about goal setting, now may be a good time to dig in and think about applying this to more parts of your life than just your career.

When you’re ready to think about and write down your goal, dream big. Do not focus on the barriers at this point. We can worry about those later. For now, take some time, dream about your career goals, and dream big. Picture yourself in that job, doing that working, making that money. You won’t reach a great goal if you never even let yourself go there mentally; now’s the time!

It’s fine to include financial goals at this point, or not, your choice. Some of us are in a place where we’re more motivated by money, or by the interesting work in a new career, or both equally, or other factors.

Finally, feel free to look at other people’s career and jobs and think, “I want to have a career like that”. I can remember doing that a few times in my days working for IBM. Nothing wrong with thinking “I want to be like Frank”.

Ready to start? I’ve got some suggested steps coming in the last section of this post. In the mean time, for you new to networking: how do you know what the options are? The next section takes a look.

 

How to Learn What Career Possibilities Exist?

Some of you already know what career possibilities exist from being around co-workers. However, some of you haven’t had jobs in the industry yet, or haven’t been exposed to as many job roles. So it’s sometimes difficult to set career goals if you don’t know much about different careers, the jobs that fit in that career, what the work is like, what it pays, and so on.

As a brief personal note, sometimes you truly don’t know what you want in a career until you’re around those who work in the field. I was an engineering major in college when I got my first job in IT in the co-op program from my college. At that time, I had no interest in studying or working in computing. After one school quarter working for IBM at a large data center, I didn’t hate computing any more. (IBM had lots more interesting gear than the college’s CS department!) By the time I was done with my 2nd work quarter, I had decided to change majors to CS. By the time I was done with a few more work quarters, I knew that networking was the specific IT field for me.

So, what can we do to learn what the possibilities are? Certainly, observing others when you already work in IT works well. But here are a few other tips to help you figure out some options:

 

Lunch and Learn with Peers: If you work anywhere near an IT group, talk to those people. Go to lunch; find out what they do, what their next career steps will be. Practice good listening skills (and if you don’t good listening skills, that ought to be your #1 soft skill to learn for your IT career, by the way.)

Listen/Ask in Forums: Online forums hold lots of clues about what people do in their jobs, even when the posting isn’t about a person’s job. Cisco’s Learning Network is a great forum for those learning for Cisco certs, but for career planning, you might be better off looking around at Cisco’s Support Forums. The Support Forums give you a place to ask real-world questions. Implied behind every question is some type of work activity. You could even ask that person privately to tell you their job title, and if that activity is a normal part of their job, rather than a one-time thing.

Search for #NetRole on Twitter: In preparation for this post, a couple of weeks ago, I Tweeted and blogged asking people to tweet to help us out with career goal setting. The idea: experienced people can Tweet #NetRole, their job role, and some activity that they do frequently in that job. In the roughly 10 days, we’ve had about 20 or so such tweets.

Your task? Just search on Twitter for #netrole, and read away.

Please give me some feedback on what works or doesn’t on these tweets! If you like them, retweet, tweet that you like them, and let us know! If you have follow-up questions, tweet the person back! I’ve not asked anyone to be ready to field questions, but most people on Twitter will reply at some point if they see your tweet. I did it on a lark, just to see if it was helpful. Pro and con are both fine.

Tweet Your Job Role, and Help Others: Hey, if you’re already working in a networking-related job, go ahead and Tweet with #netrole, and help others out as well.

Now we’ve discussed goal setting as well as learning what kinds of job roles exist. Now let’s look at a suggested process.

 

Suggestions on the Process

By the end of this process, you should have:

  • A written list of goals, in shorthand
  • Dates assigned to each goal
  • A few of those goals with an expanded one-paragraph description
  • Some new attitudes and habits to start

To get started, here are some suggested steps:

 

Quiet time and place: Find some time, minimum of 30 minutes, maybe an hour, more if you can, get away from the world as much as you can.

Dream, no Barriers: Do not think of a goal, and then discard it because of some barrier. Goals only.

Write Down Each Goal, Shorthand: Write down each goal that comes to mind. Complete sentences optional – the notes are just for you to remember the substance. For example: “Design/architect networks as main job”.

Set some dates: when you think you’ve got a solid list of goals, now think about timing. Put a goal date on each. Don’t put off this step, and don’t leave off dates for some of the goals. Put a date on all the goals.

1 year or less goal date: write a paragraph: Pick 1, 2, or possibly 3 goals that have a 1-year or less completion date. Then write a one paragraph, meaningful, well-thought-out paragraph about that goal. Your audience is both yourself but also other trusted people who can hold you accountable, so make sure the paragraph would be clear to others.

Start a habit of visualizing your success: Lots of athletes use this technique today. The idea: visualize yourself achieving the goal. What’s that look like? Picture it in your mind. To make that happen, make a copy of your goal paragraph, put it where you’ll see it, and read it twice per day. Each time you read it, visualize yourself having completed that goal. Don’t read it for 3 seconds and move on! Read it, visualize it, and take a minute or two. It may be weird at first, but try it.

Do not stop the goal setting process yet! There is more to do.

Daily activities to start TODAY: Write down a list of activities you can do starting literally right now. Make a list for the 1, 2, or 3 goals for which you wrote out the paragraph, and put the copy of the paragraph where you will see it. The actions can be basic: read a web page, order a resource, get a login at a community site, read the first 5 pages of a book you already own. Do the first one TODAY.

Accept that Goals may change: Sometimes setbacks can help you choose a new (and possibly better) goal; sometimes they help you build your resolve to work harder. The goal setting process helps you make an intentional transformation, and it may lead to a place where you achieve that exact goal. It may also lead to other interesting places as well – but at least you have begun to intentionally pursue a particular path.

 

Finally, the above list is useless as something to read. It’s only useful if you do it, or some other goal setting process. It’s an active thing, not a reading thing.

 

Closing for Today

The key to today’s topic is to do the goal setting, get it on paper, and act on it. I have more to say, but the above is plenty to get you going for a planning session. Ask questions here if you have them, and I’ll watch for any #NetRole tweets as well.

Post your goals here! I’ll celebrate with you that you’re off the mark, setting some goals, and getting started towards the career you envisioned!

Thanks all!

Help Network Newbies: Tell them What You Do
The Career Development Plan Part 1
certskills
By certskills February 6, 2015 09:05
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5 Comments

  1. LeAnn February 6, 10:24

    Excellent information! It is definitely a process of setting goals. I decided to change careers and thought the best route to take was web design. I enrolled in the local community college. Part of the degree requirements also required taking other IT classes such as an intro to programming (initially VB, now C#), an operating systems class, and a basic LAN class. Once I was in the LAN class, I was much happier, more interested, and it just felt ‘right’. I continued along that path and found an internship with network services at a very large hospital enterprise in Cleveland. Every single person in the network services department allowed me to work with them, ask them about their career path, and basically made me feel like one of the ‘team’. That internship is over, so my next goal is to find an internship with a different type of organization while I take CCNA coursework. Not to steal a copyright, but sometimes you have to “just do it”.

    Reply to this comment
    • certskills Author February 6, 17:27

      Great story that’ll encourage us all, LeAnn! And is it ever cool to click with a particular part of your new career path – glad you found the right place! Keep at it!
      Wendell

      Reply to this comment
  2. Merly Matingou March 11, 22:23

    Wendell,

    I really appreciate you taking your time and writing this blog on “Goal Setting for Networking Career Development”. I have been applying this goal planning method for almost 20 years. I was a former athlete myself in which goal setting was extremely critical for me before the regular season started. The beginning of this year 2015, I decided to revamp my goals and started using a different framework of goals setting base on Earl Nightingale, “The Strangest Secret” and Napoleon Hill, “Think and Grow Rich”. This blog really gave me more ideas in which I will incorporate in my goals. Thanks again. Oh yeah, by the way I am currently reading your CCIEv4 book you wrote which I carry with me wherever I go.

    Reply to this comment
    • certskills Author March 13, 12:57

      Hi Merly,
      Thanks for the post! Indeed, so many parallels to athletic training and any long-term goal setting. It’s way more important to keep long-term discipline than to work in fits and starts. Encouraging words – thanks!
      And you can get a little workout carrying that CCIEv4 monster everywhere, at 1100 pages. 🙂
      Wendell

      Reply to this comment
  3. Abdul-Jabbar Bozdar January 2, 15:31

    I just completed my first draft of career development plan. Beside career goals like, finding my new job, getting certified, I added following daily goals: Packet Tracer practice: 2hrs, Cisco forums: 30 mins, Reading books (I love non-fiction books.), Going for outdoors like running, bowling: 2hrs, And of course practising Python everyday for 30 minutes to become an expert of Software-defined Networking. My long term goal is to become a CCIE in next five years (On January 3rd. 2022, I visualise myself a CCIE). I believe, I can do this all.

    Reply to this comment
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