4 benchmarkers everyone should follow

“If you haven’t carved out a plan, it should be a top benchmarker since it defines so much of your career and your ability to retire.”

It is the inevitable question on first dates, job interviews and when dining with your overzealous aunt: Where do you see yourself in five years? Before you roll your eyes thinking about it, remember that while you might not need to know exactly where you’ll be in a few years, having goals is an essential part of career development. And while the expectations you set for yourself might be vastly different than those of your partner’s or your best friends, there are a few general “benchmarkers” every professional should work towards.

As career coach and author Mary Camuto explains, these signify progress, recognition or achievement on your journey. Whether they are formal or informal, dreaming of something isn’t enough — it’s important to put the work in to arrive at your hopeful destination

Here, a few suggestions to help you brainstorm and set your own:

I am finding the right opportunities for growth

Whether early or a few years into your career, everyone has experienced a dead-end gig. Even if you liked that job (or your current one), if you can’t positively say you’re in a current situation that aids the progression of your skill set, career expert Joy Altimare says it’s time to seek greener pastures. As she explains, it is important to seek a position that helps you tap into your potential as a keen, strategic, compassionate and valuable professional.

On the other hand, it isn’t merely up to your manager to provide these runways. Sometimes, you need to create your own too. As Altimare explains, consider seeking out networking events, continued learning seminars or programs and other avenues that build your robust network. You might also consider creating a “must read” list of business or development books that allow you to reach your full value — whether they are saving you time, money, sanity, or all three.

I have a tribe

Ever hear the saying it is lonely at the top? That’s because if you don’t prioritize interpersonal relationships, you could wind up being incredibly successful … but alone. Though it might not directly translate in your LinkedIn profile or your income, when you have a supportive group of friends, colleagues, and mentors, you’re more likely to perform at a higher level.

Not only do they give you confidence, but they become your cheerleaders and your editors, providing both feedback and encouragement. If you don’t feel as if you have a tribe, Altimare says it is a must-meet benchmarker for anyone in any industry or career level.

“It’s so important to find and nurture healthy work-relationships. This is the network that will serve you well as you progress through your career,” she explains. “Cultivating mutually respectful relationships and building a reliable network of professionals in your 20’s and 30’s should be more of a milestone than getting that corner office.”

I am actively investing in my financial future

The most successful of workers aren’t just thinking of today or the number of zeros at the end of their paycheck… but rather, about what they’ll have saved in 10 years. And 20 years. And 30. One of the key measures of accomplishments and maturity is investing in your financial future. Altimare explains if you haven’t carved out a plan, it should be a top benchmarker since it defines so much of your career and your ability to retire.

If it all feels a bit overwhelming, that’s normal. But it doesn’t mean you should hide from it. Instead of treading water, seek the advice of an advisor, read up on books or attend classes to update your knowledge.

I am creating my ideal lifestyle

Close your eyes and imagine what your ideal life looks like. While plenty of us have complaints, some are able to squint and actually envision the life they lead. Career coach Christine Agro says this is a smart practice to understand what you’re ultimately working towards.

Whether this is owning your own home (or a few), working fewer hours but bringing in a larger income or logging hours remotely, this benchmarker sets the scene for your day-to-day, week-to-week, and year-by-year priorities.

Lindsay Tigar|is a seasoned lifestyle and travel writer