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Saturday, February 2, 2013

The Art of Goal Setting

The Art of Goal Setting
Sophia Sinha, Infosys

At the beginning of every new academic year in school, my teachers would make us write down a list of five goals we were planning on achieving by the end of that year. At that time this practice made no sense to me at all. But now as an adult when I look back, I wish I had someone in college ask me to do the same.

As children we tend to have the habit of doing what our parents and teachers ask us to do but as we grow older and more responsible, no one is around to help us with the same. There is no spoon-feeding, no one to ask us to follow rules or set goals. In such situations, if we have it in us then we go about making our own goals and objectives and trying to achieve those; more often we do not!

The art of goal setting is not a difficult task but the ability to work toward accomplishing those goals is where the trouble lies. If I ask you to take a paper and write down where you want to be in five years time, I am sure most of us would write down big aspirations and dreams. Now if I ask you to look at the list and practically and sensibly think which one of these goals you will definitely work toward achieving, then I am sure the list will shorten automatically.

Goal setting can be done based on only one thing and that is your perseverance. The reason you should have behind goal setting is to be better prepared to face the challenges life will throw at you, and to handle current problems and tasks at hand in a proper, planned manner.
There is no particular way or method of goal setting but a few steps can be followed. Goal setting should be done keeping in mind your comfort levels. Goal setting includes these basic steps:

1.    Deciding your goal and goal statement
2.    Defining the path to your goal
3.    Motivating yourself
4.    Tracking work done
5.    Review of work done
6.    Feedback from peers or superiors
7.    Setting higher / next goals
Here is a brief on each of these steps and how to go about implementing them:

1. Deciding your goal and goal statement

According to Paul Christenbury in his article Steps for Successful Goal Setting and Achievement, “A good way to remember how a goal statement should be defined is the old S.M.A.R.T. acronym used by many experts in goal setting. SMART stands for:

Time and Resource Constrained”

Taking this forward, I feel that every goal or goal statement that you define should be something that is closely associated with you, your day-to-day activities, or work. Define goals that make sense to you. This basically means that you should sit down and clearly write down practical and achievable goals for the near future before defining goals that you want to achieve five years down the road.

2. Defining the path to your goal

Once you know your goal it is very important to define the path you will follow to reach it. you have to make sure that you have written down how you want to get to where you want to be in the near future. The path has to be measurable and practical. It could be that your goal is to improve your command over the English language, so basically your path will be: read more books, look up meanings of new words, talk to people who are good with the language, take online tests.

3. Motivating yourself

I understand that keeping yourself motivated throughout is not easy but you have to look at the bigger picture. If you want to succeed in photography then you have to practice. You cannot become a world renowned photographer just because you want to; you have to work towards it. reading motivational quotes always helps me. I have taken prints of my favorite quotes and I have them pasted all over my office desk, at work, on my mirror at home. Whenever I feel low and feel like giving up I read these to help me jump-start. I also talk to my peers, seniors at work, and my parents to get motivation from them.

4. Tracking work done

If you want to reach somewhere you have to keep track of your work so that if you have to go back and redo it, you will find it easy. If we do not have any accountability of what we are doing and how we are doing it, we are likely to lose sight of the real thing and fail.

5. Review of work done

Once you have finished your tasks to reach your goal, it is important to do a review of what you have completed. This helps you better prepare for your next set of goals and to see if you have achieved everything and in the way you had planned. If something was easier than others, etc.

6. Feedback from peers and superiors

Always make sure that you have enough feedback from your peers and superiors. They could be your family, close friends, college professors, etc. who can help you decide if you have been on the right path to achieve you goals. It always helps to have someone on the outside review your work and give you advice on the same. Whether you accept it or not will be up to your discretion.

7. Setting higher / next goals

Once you have reached your goal, it is time to move on to bigger goals. These could be related to your last goal or they could be different ones. Sometimes though your goal is such that it requires constant attention, like if you are planning on having better written English, then you need to keep practicing the language in various ways. So this goal is such that it needs to be practiced constantly.

Goal setting is a good habit but only if you create a way or path of achieving these goals. Saying that you want to climb a mountain and doing nothing about it is not goal setting. Goal setting is when you decide to take rock climbing classes, learn the mechanisms of mountaineering, meet people who have done so, learn from them and then chalk out your plan as to when you want to do the same.

So go out there and get cracking…there are many goals to be set and many to be achieved!

General Tips To Overcome An Interview

General Tips To Overcome An Interview
So what if you are not a mountaineer. Or a keen hiker. You still cannot treat your interview like a careless morning trot along a jogger's path. Your jaw-jaw at the interview table is nothing less than a cautious climb up a mountain trail--which begins around your early childhood and meanders through the years at the academia before reaching a new summit in your career. And as you retrace your steps down memory lane make sure that you post flags at important landmarks of your life and career, so that you can pop them before the interview panel scoops them out of you. You don't want to be at the receiving end, do you?
Face the panel, but don't fall of the chair in a headlong rush-and-skid attempt to tell your story. Take one step at a time. If you place your foot on slippery ground, you could be ejecting out on a free fall.
So prepare, fortify your thoughts, re-jig your memory, and script and design your story (without frills and falsity). Without the right preparation and storyboard, you could be a loser at the interview. Here are a few preparation tips that books on interviews sometimes overlook.
Before the interview                                    
1. Chronological Outline of Career and Education Divide your life into "segments" defining your university, first job, second job. For each stage, jot down :
The reason for opting certain course or profession; Your job responsibilities in your previous/current job; Reason of leaving your earlier/current job. You should be clear in your mind where you want to be in the short and long term and ask yourself the reason why you would be appropriate for the job you are being interviewed for and how it will give shape to your future course.
2. Strengths and Weaknesses
You should keep a regular check on your strengths and weaknesses. Write down three (3) technical and three (3) non-technical personal strengths. Most importantly, show examples of your skills. This proves more effective than simply talking about them. So if you're asked about a general skill, provide a specific example to help you fulfill the interviewer's expectations. It isn't enough to say you've got "excellent leadership skills". Instead, try saying:
"I think I have excellent leaderships skills which I have acquired through a combination of effective communication, delegation and personal interaction. This has helped my team achieve its goals."
As compared to strengths, the area of weaknesses is difficult to handle. Put across your weakness in such a way that it at least seems to be a positive virtue to the interviewer. Describe a weakness or area for development that you have worked on and have now overcome.
3. Questions you should be prepared for                                                                                       
Tell us about yourself.
What do you know about our company?
Why do you want to join our company?
What are your strengths and weaknesses?
Where do you see yourself in the next five years?
How have you improved the nature of your job in the past years of your working? Why should we hire you?
What contributions to profits have you made in your present or former company? Why are you looking for a change?

Answers to some difficult questions :                                          
Tell me about yourself ?
Start from your education and give a brief coverage of previous experiences. Emphasise more on your recent experience explaining your job profile.
What do you think of your boss?
Put across a positive image, but don't exaggerate.
Why should we hire you? Or why are you interested in this job?
Sum up your work experiences with your abilities and emphasize your strongest qualities and achievements. Let your interviewer know that you will prove to be an asset to the company.
How much money do you want?
Indicate your present salary and emphasize that the opportunity is the most important consideration.
Do you prefer to work in a group?
Be honest and give examples how you've worked by yourself and also with others. Prove your flexibility.
4. Questions to As                                                                                         
At the end of the interview, most interviewers generally ask if you have any questions. Therefore, you should be prepared beforehand with 2-3 technical and 2-3 non-technical questions and commit them to your memory before the interview.
Do not ask queries related to your salary, vacation, bonuses, or other benefits. This information should be discussed at the time of getting your joining letter. Here we are giving few sample questions that you can ask at the time of your interview.
Sample Questions
Could you tell me the growth plans and goals for the company?
What skills are important to be successful in this position?
Why did you join this company? (optional)
What's the criteria your company uses for performance appraisal?
With whom will I be interacting most frequently and what are their responsibilities and the nature of our interaction?
What is the time frame for making a decision at this position?
What made the previous persons in this position successful/unsuccessful?
5. Do your homework                                                                                                                        
Before going for an interview, find out as much information on the company (go to Jobs Ahead Company Q and A) as possible. The best sources are the public library, the Internet (you can check out the company's site), and can even call the company and get the required information. The information gives you a one-up in the interview besides proving your content company or position.
Clearing the interview isn't necessarily a solitary attempt. Seek assistance from individuals who are in the profession and whose counsel you value most. Be confident in your approach and attitude; let the panel feel it through your demeanor, body language and dressing.
Getting prepared for your interview is the best way to dig deep and know yourself. You will be surprised that it would breed a new familiarity become more familiar with your own qualifications that will be make you present yourself better. All the best and get ready to give a treat.