This is a guest blog by Michael Burns, PE, PgMP, DBIA
What a cool topic for my first EMI Blog—Goal Setting—as publishing and mentoring have been on my list of career objectives for many years. Writing my first draft, I realized it was January 4th, my father’s birthday and the time of year where resolutions and goal setting run rampant. My parents, school teachers who raised me in Boulder, Colorado, often limited their advice to philosophical statements like, “We are who we are becoming.” As a kid, this lack of concrete guidance frustrated me, as I sought clear direction for a successful life. Thirty years into my civil engineering career, as a parent, mentor, mentee and friend, I hold dearly to my parents’ guidance, accepting that we are who we are becoming is step one in balancing our desires against life’s events.
We are all on different paths, with varied inspirations, aspirations, needs and wants. Through my many career ups and downs, I’ve continued to unrealistically yearn for career path certainty: work hard, produce, promotion, prosperity. Thankfully, numerous wonderful bosses and colleagues have responded to my related inquiries with reading suggestions, including “The Celestine Prophecy” (James Redfield) and “On Becoming a Leader” (Warren Bennis), which from very different angles highlight our need to capture synergies and take advantage of coincidence. Without assuming what successes and struggles you’ve had, I’m suggesting a goal-setting process that fits your rhythm, creating a confident foundation for personal and professional growth.
The foundation of my goal setting is to Doodle, Doodle, Doodle, and Dream Big.
Typically this occurs with my first cup of coffee, during my witching hour—that time when my thoughts clutter my thinking. The engineer in me seeks order as I sketch, which means that I typically start with the same categories: family, fitness, career, finances. As I note past, present, and future actions for each category, bullets and arrows evolve into Venn diagrams, word clouds, and matrices—and frustration sets in. Hoping to avoid frustration turning into angst, angst unwinding my day or week, I set down each draft. As I work, exercise, sleep, or hang with family, with this draft in the back of my mind, a glimmer of additional certainty emerges.
At the right time, aligned to my needs, I pick up the draft and memorialize key objectives where synergies across objectives align. Then, as my mind wanders, days, weeks or months later, I start again respecting that goal setting, like design, starts with a sketch, and like good design is an iterative process.
We live in a world where growth is a mantra, yet the rewards from growth have become more opaque. Where talent management systems often erode culture instead of empowering continuous learning. Where information overload, social isolation, and rapid changes in technology, environment and geopolitics create uncertainty. This is particularly true for the Architecture, Engineering and Construction (AEC) Industry as we strive to balance commoditization of our outputs with empowered talent who can meet the dynamic needs of more and more complex project objectives. In these dynamic times, goal setting must be a stabilizing process, not an additional stressor. Please remember to empathize with your struggles, celebrate success, and grow from the challenges you’ve overcome.
Evolve your vision and goals as intentions, setting direction—not prescribing a destination. These intentions should empower your next step, yet for me they often create additional uncertainty. Uncertainty that almost always starts with who, not how. My intentions consider how to take the next step, but as someone who has professionally introverted tendencies, I often forget to consider who can help me achieve these intentions. Aristotle describes three categories of friendship: those based on utility, those providing pleasure, and those grounded in virtue. While professional friendships lean towards utility, don’t forget to engage friends broadly as you socialize your intentions. Engaging your network as you explore your intentions creates balance, reduces stress, and inspires learning objectives.
Good luck, and please feel free to reach out as you continue to grow your career, knowing that AEC Industry Professionals play a critical role in making the world a better place.
About the Author
Mike’s 27-year career has included planning, design, construction, and finance roles across a broad set of public and private development projects. His empathetic leadership style and program management experiences honed his understanding of complex governance and economic models, deepening his enthusiasm for leading teams delivering sustainable infrastructure in our communities.You can learn more about Mike here.
Articulating our desires allows us to participate in, and benefit from today.
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To your success,
Anthony Fasano, PE, LEED AP
Engineering Management Institute
Author of Engineer Your Own Success