Here is one of my theories about the world, if you have an objective for anything, you’ll do that “anything” better. Let’s assume hypothetically your goal is to get married. Then, which relationship is most likely to end in marriage, the one in which you and your partner are looking to get married? Or the one in which you don’t know if you want to even get married at all with anyone, and neither does your partner? Just being clear, with yourself and ideally with the others involved, on your goal makes achieving it so much easier.

So, whenever you take a job, why not define a personal objective? You’re getting a job as a writer? Then define the goal to really use it as an opportunity to become a good writer. You’re getting a job in which you’ll need to meet a lot of people? Why not define the objective to really build your network of people you know? By defining the objective clearly and directly for yourself, it makes it much more likely you’ll achieve it.

The best way to define an objective is to make it specific and measurable. There’s a classic goal definition strategy called “SMART” goals that is always useful. A good goal should have these five requirements

  • Specific – Specificity is the heart of a realistic objective, better to make it a specific process as opposed to a goal
  • Measurable – You need a way to be able to see if you did it or not
  • Assignable – Someone needs to “own” it and this is less relevant here since you will
  • Realistic – You need to be relentlessly realistic, always
  • Time-related – Even better to have a maximum time by which you will have done this, or not

Yes, I know I’ve previously argued against goals—so this is an exception to that rule—and the two sides can be reconciled if you remember to think about a process for making sure your goal does happen. This also highlights that not every recommendation is right for every situation, they’re more rules of thumb, not absolute decrees. I wish I had that power over you!

Even better: think about this goal as a tool to tell your client or boss (if it really is your goal, even better.) Why? Your client or boss would love to know your personal goals for a few reasons:

  • First, most want to help you. If they know you want to become a better writer, they’re likely to give you more writing work, and more space and freedom in the writing, for example.
  • Second, it shows them that you think in a goal-oriented way which, despite my previous argument against goals, lots of bosses tend to like and appreciate. Perhaps I need to add another clarification: while processes are better than goals, in general, goals are better than not having either.
  • Third, wouldn’t you want to work with the person who is working towards bigger goals? I would! I would for a clear reason: that person is always learning, because we need to learn to improve. The person who is always improving is the person who is going to get better and better at the job and is a much better long-term bet than the person who is stagnant in his learning.

While this will make your boss or client like you more, there’s an even more powerful version of this: don’t just state and share and work towards something greater, actually believe it. Do you want to be better at X, or Y, or Z in a year? Define a process to do so and use your client work as a vehicle to do this.

More specifically, different objectives always lead to different decisions. Are you working there to make the most money, or to learn the most about this, or to meet the most people, or just to get a visa, or…? Regardless of the reason, the objective you want to achieve should definitely push you into a different direction for every decision you make, small and major.