Your Neurology Career: Setting Goals

January 24, 2017
Karen Appold

Don’t let your career goals turn into forgotten New Year’s resolutions. We discuss mapping your path and staying on target.

Setting career goals involves making decisions regarding what you want to accomplish in your profession a year from now and in decades from now. The more specific your goals are, the easier it will be to make decisions on what you’ll need to do in order to achieve them.

But in the busyness of life, it can be difficult to find the time to be forward thinking. William A. Schiemann, PhD, principal and CEO, Metrus Group, Inc., a business management consultant firm in Somerville, NJ, advises planning time in your schedule quarterly to assess your career. “Ask yourself what your ideal vision is-where do you want to be working at the end of your career?” he says. “Some very successful people take a personal retreat every year-a day or two away from everything to reset.”

When setting goals, find the middle ground between not aiming too high or too low. “Realism is important, but dreaming is needed as well,” Dr. Schiemann says. “Dreams stretch you beyond the normal path.”

It’s also important to take some risks along the way. “Even if you take a risk and it doesn’t work out, it can be a learning experience and enable you to be far more successful and fulfilled in the future,” Dr. Schiemann says. “So aim high, but also be grounded in the reality of where you are. Select a few paths that might be possible, with at least one shooting for the moon.”

Next, play out a few scenarios of the different paths you could take to achieve your career aspirations. Map out how your path might proceed from the here and now to the vision of tomorrow.

The importance of short-term and long-term goals

When setting goals, you’ll need to identify some for the short-term and some for the long-term. Long-term goals provide a vision for your life. In comparison, short-term goals help to provide intermediate stepping stones as you progress toward the long-term goals. For example, earning a medical degree was a step toward your larger goal of becoming a neurologist.

After you have set your goals, the next step is to establish a timetable for both short- and long-term milestones you’ll need to reach in order to achieve your goal. Write down actions you plan to take. Review your progress every quarter or so. If you didn’t meet a goal, figure out why you didn’t and if it’s achievable in the near future. If not, what alternative stepping-stone goals can you set to reach your ultimate goal?

Staying on target

Along with setting short-term and long-term goals, you’ll need to identify drivers that will enable you to reach the next steps. What additional credentials might you need? What networks of physicians or non-physicians should you expand? Should you have a mentor and if so, whom are some candidates that might fit the bill? Do you have a support system at home? What activities can help you reduce stress and enable you to be more productive? These and other drivers are all important as you work to achieve your goals.