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Set goals for your VA career and set yourself up for success

When applying for a job at VA, it pays to consider your personal and professional goals. Whether you’re just starting out or looking for a new challenge, your goals can have a big impact on how you approach applying for an open position on our team.

Just like you wouldn’t go on a road trip without considering where gas stations and restaurants are along the way, you can think of goal-setting as planning professional pit stops along the way to the career you want.

And just like a pit stop, the goals you set will let you know how far along on the journey you’ve come.

Step 1: Consider your long-term goals.

Long-term goals are usually large goals that will take an investment of time and effort. They could take several months, or even several years, depending on the scope of your ambition. Regardless, setting long-term career goals can help you evaluate your daily habits and activities against your future aspirations.

If we’re using the metaphor from above, your long-term goal is the destination of your road trip. Since you’re reading this at VA Careers, we’ll go ahead and assume your long-term goal is the job you want at VA. Whether it’s getting your foot in the door or moving up in the ranks, your VA job is where you want to be when all is said and done.

Step 2: Take an honest personal assessment.

Once you’ve established a long-term goal, it’s time to sit down and take stock of what you have available, and what you need to reach your goal. Just like you wouldn’t hit the road with an empty fuel tank, you wouldn’t apply for a job if you don’t meet the qualifications.

Think about what you bring to the table—the skills, talents, and training you have that apply to the goal you’ve set. If you’re not sure where to start, review listings for your dream job and use the information there to help calculate what you’re doing well, as well as what you should work on to make yourself a more compelling candidate.

As a bonus, this process will help you build your resume. It will also prepare you for the candidate assessments that are required for some positions, where you’re asked to evaluate your skills and experience.

Remember that a major part of this assessment is honesty. Don’t be afraid to acknowledge where you need some additional work. After all, you wouldn’t take a road trip if you knew you needed new brakes, right?

Step 3: Set short-term goals.

Short-term goals are more immediate goals you set for yourself to achieve your larger, long-term goals. Short-term goals can last days, months, or even 1 to 2 years. Regardless, all of these goals should contribute in some way to your long-term goal.

You can think of short-term goals as stepping stones or, to continue our road trip metaphor, the pit stops along the way to your final destination—gas, food, maybe even a place to rest before starting fresh the next day.

Your short-term goals should also be designed to address the gaps you acknowledged in your personal assessment. That could be something as simple as redoing your resume, or as complicated as pursuing a new certification or degree.

Some short-term goals VA applicants might consider include:

  • Getting organized. Maybe you redo your resume or rewrite your cover letter. Maybe you redesign your portfolio or update your references. Regardless, this is a great short-term goal because it can help prepare you for later success.
  • Gaining a new skill. Focusing on professional development is never a bad idea. Whether you’re getting certified in a new process or continuing your education, learning new skills makes you a more competitive candidate.
  • Gathering experience. Whether it’s an internship while you pursue your degree or volunteer hours at your local VA facility, learning how we do things here at VA is a worthwhile investment of your time, and one that will set you apart from other candidates.
  • Growing your network: Networking can take your job search to the next level. The people you meet, whether online or in person, can offer advice and assist you in the application process. Make connections and share your story.

Whatever the case, remember that your short-term goals should always align with your long-term goal. To use our travel metaphor for the final time, if you want to reach your destination as fast as possible, avoid detours!

Work at VA

Goal-setting can be a powerful motivational and organizational tool to help you achieve success, and when that success means a job at VA, you’ll earn many rewards that make the journey worth it.

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