The Climb: Picking Career Goals

One of my good friends climbs mountains. It makes sense—we live in Colorado, and she is passionately dedicated to athleticism and the outdoors. As for me, I am less into climbing mountains than I am into looking at them. However, one day over coffee, she was telling me about all the research she did in preparation to climb a mountain recently. Her comments made me think about how similar climbing that mountain is to following a career goal. Sure, one of them involves more imminent danger than the other (to my mind, unschooled as I am in mountain climbing). However, both involve doing your research, picking the right tools for the job, assessing your abilities, and making modifications in order to reach your goal. In honor of that conversation, here are five career goal steps inspired by mountain climbing:

  1. Take control of your path. The job hunt sometimes takes precedence over picking a career path, but taking control of this path can help you make sure you’re on track. Don’t let yourself be blown off course by the everyday distractions we all face. Nadine Katz, a professor of women’s health and clinical ob-gyn (among other titles) taught a course on leadership at the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) for 10 years. Her advice? “When you choose projects and you get involved in service work or committees, there should be a strategy to that.” (Adams 1)
  2. Chart your course. To take control of your career path, do some self-examination. Assessments like the Myers-Briggs or Strengths Finder can help identify some quantified characteristics, but you need to be willing to dig deeper. What are you passionate about, what does the world need, what skills do you have, and what can you be paid for? Determining a career path is about looking at your options through a combined lens of emotion and reason. Your passions will direct you towards your preferences, and reason will help situate those in a good place.
  3. Break it down. Break your career goals down into bite-sized chunks. Where do you want to be in 2 years? What about 5? 10? No one becomes a success overnight (well, some people do, but they are a serious statistical anomaly). Break your goals down into tasks and milestones, and remember to celebrate those milestones.
  4. Assess often. This plan for the course of your career shouldn’t be something you create now and then never change or modify. Set aside time, perhaps every six months or every year, to assess your career progress and examine your goals. Are you still on the right path? Is this still the path you want to be on? What goals can be moved forward, and what goals might need to be moved back? Making sure you’re on the right track is just as important as charting it in the first place.
  5. Be willing to accept change. Life is changeable beast, and things don’t always go as planned. So be willing to accept that your course might have to change. Unexpected medical problems, family decisions, industry changes, and many, many other unforeseen events can get in the way of career progress. Don’t let these things derail you altogether! Be willing to change course and make modifications to get where you want to go, and allow yourself the flexibility to move forward.

Just like climbing a mountain, a career path often entails an end goal. But as my friend says, it’s as much about the climb as it is about reaching the top. Don’t fixate so much on your ultimate aim that you forget to prepare a plan for that climb.

Are you interested in finding the right tools for your career climb? Email us at We offer free initial consultations, and we’ve helped hundreds of career changers make successful transitions.

By: Julia Pillard, Career Solutions Group


Adams, Susan. “How to Pick and Stick to Career Goals.” Forbes, Novermber 23, 2015.