The Shorthand of Strategy: How to Set Personal Goals

You’ve likely been a part of goal setting for your last company. Take the same principles that lead to a strong organizational strategy and apply them to creating a strong job-search strategy.


Any successful organization got to where it is today, because they decided long ago to focus on a goal and craft a plan to achieve that goal. You’ve likely been a part of planning or executing a strategy like that at some point in your career. The same principles that lead to a strong organizational strategy apply to creating a strong job-search strategy. Choose a goal and plan to achieve it.

But it’s not as simple as tossing a dart at the board of career goals. This article provides the essential definitions and questions necessary to establish a winning job-search — or organizational — strategy.

Let’s start with some key definitions:

1. Your values
Values are beliefs that determine behaviors. These last for all time. If honesty is one of your (or your organization’s) values, then you’ll tell the truth even if it hurts short-term results. Values are not necessarily what are posted on the wall; they are revealed by how you and your team consistently behave.

2. Your purpose
In their wonderful book, “It’s Not What You Sell, It’s What You Stand For,” Roy Spence and Haley Rushing define a purpose as “a definitive statement about the difference you are trying to make in the world.” A purpose is the reason why you (or your organization) exist. This also lasts for all time.

3. Your strategy
A strategy is a statement that describes what you want to achieve and what you intend to do to achieve the desired outcomes. This is a subset of your purpose and values. It is a description of what will drive decisions for the next three or so years.

4. Your tactics
Tactics are the carefully selected items on how you (or your organization) intend to fulfill your strategy in the next six to 12 months.

5. Your planned actions
Planned actions are the specific steps you will implement in the next 30 to 90 days in order to execute the tactics.

In the end, a strategy answers four questions:

  • What is your desired destination?
  • What do you want to primarily focus on: (Choose one.)
    • Customers (people)?
    • Products (things)?
    • Services (actions)?
    • Technology (vehicles)?
    • Method of selling or distribution (approaches)?
    • Pricing (salary)?
  • What do you want to secondarily focus on? (Choose one of the above.)
  • How will you emphasize your chosen focus?

The key is to decide what your organization will primarily and secondarily center on. Aspiring to focus on all these items equally is a recipe for disaster. And it’s okay to say that you will place less weight on some areas.

Another great exercise is this: Make a list of ten professionals (or organizations) you admire, and ask yourself what you believe they are primarily and secondarily focused on. What career advice you take away from their success and apply to your own career?

Not certain that you want to commit to such a long-term vision? You can always shift it as you go. Look at what happens when a professional (or company) shifts what it primarily centers itself on and makes a shift in strategic direction. Sometimes it dilutes a brand, but sometimes it expands it.

Here’s an example: For many years, Apple primarily focused on products. It made computers and concentrated on constantly improving them. Then in 2001 it shifted its primary focus to technology. They realized they could use the systemized knowledge they had gained over the years in electronic technology to make a variety of highly valuable items. This allowed them to get into the digital music industry with the iPod and the mobile phone industry with the iPhone.

Similarly, IBM shifted its primary focus from products to services and built an amazing success in the business-consulting industry.


A strategy comes to life when you decide what to do — and more importantly what not to do.

After you make these fairly straightforward decisions, the success or failure of your strategy will largely lie in planning and execution. As you move forward in establishing your strategy, always work to maintain clarity and simplicity. It will reduce the amount of time, energy and resources that can be wasted in moving ahead strategically.