How to overcome challenges in achieving your career goals

At some point in your life, you probably started mapping out your career goals. You graduated from school, you landed your dream job, or you found a professional calling that you are passionate about. You have your whole career ahead of you, which is exciting! 

However, after some time, the path to career success may start to feel overwhelming and impossible. You will inevitably encounter challenges in achieving your career goals and might question your career path in the first place. 

Navigating your career and life is much like navigating through a maze — you will find twists, turns, and unexpected dead-ends. Challenges in achieving career goals might lead you to question your chosen path or even reconsider your career choices altogether.

It’s important to remember that every challenge presents an opportunity for growth. With the right approach and mindset, these challenges in achieving career goals can be overcome. Your career goals are within reach, and — with determination and some hard work  —  you can achieve them.

Professional woman on steps with laptop and black bag

Define your goals

Before you can start overcoming challenges, you must first define what you want from your career. Do you envision a specific job title, a particular lifestyle, or perhaps the prestige of working in a renowned company? Is there an ideal salary figure that you want to achieve? Do you want to be able to take weekends and holidays off? Do you need a flexible work-life balance to support your family? 

Ambition alone won’t lead to success if you haven’t defined what success means to you. So, take a moment to outline your ideal career situation. Setting specific career goals provides clarity, making it easier to figure out how to achieve them.

Woman writing in a notebook

Note your strengths and challenges

Understanding your strengths and challenges is the starting point in creating a roadmap to your career goals. 

Start out with the basics. What credentials and education do you possess? Once you’ve listed these out, move on to your personal and professional skills. What do you excel in? And, of course, what are you passionate about? Passion in itself is a strength as it will make accomplishing your goals more meaningful.

Equally important is recognizing your opportunities. Are there skills you need to develop or certifications you need to acquire? Do you need to get a bachelor’s degree? Do you need to acquire a license to meet qualifications? First, acknowledge what you don’t know and what you aren’t qualified to do. Once you can identify what you are lacking, you can build goals to close those gaps.

Neutral office desk setup

Common challenges in achieving career goals (and how to overcome them)

Whether you’re just starting out or looking to make a career change, it’s normal to encounter a few obstacles along the way. From facing a lack of experience to dealing with unsupportive leadership, financial constraints, and even self-doubt, these challenges can feel overwhelming. But remember — each challenge also presents an opportunity for growth and self-discovery. 

1. Lack of experience or qualifications

We’ve all been beginners at some point. If you lack experience or qualifications for the job you want, don’t worry. Everyone starts somewhere, and it’s perfectly okay to transition and start over. Instead of apologizing for your lack of experience, focus on your transferable skills. 

As someone with almost 20 years of hiring experience, I can guarantee that enthusiasm and a willingness to learn will take you a long way in the workplace. Instead of focusing on all the things you haven’t done before — focus on what you can do and do it well. Skills like communication, problem-solving, and teamwork are necessary in almost every role, no matter the industry or experience level. Maintain an “I can do it” mindset and be confident!

Rise to the Challenge: Consider internships, courses, or starting at a lower position to gain the necessary experience. Be willing to put in the effort to gain the skills you need for long-term success. We all have to start somewhere, and each opportunity is a stepping stone toward your career goals.

2. Unsupportive leadership

Dealing with a boss or leadership team who doesn’t support you can be difficult — and, quite frankly, demoralizing — hindering your professional growth and potential. Start by assessing your own performance objectively to determine if there are areas you genuinely need to improve. 

If you’re confident in your contributions and efforts, the next step is to demonstrate excellence in your work consistently. Create a reputation for being dependable, proactive, and always exceeding expectations. Then you can start to build your support system and relationships with other senior leaders and professional connections to support you when you need it. 

If these steps don’t improve your current situation or if it’s affecting your well-being and career advancement, then it may be time to prepare for a job change. Tap into your broader network and start weighing other options. Remember, you deserve to work with supportive leaders who value your growth and contributions.

Rise to the Challenge: Take the initiative to solicit direct feedback from your supervisor. If that doesn’t yield results, seek help from HR, other professional connections, or a career coach. Evaluating other options within or outside the organization can also be beneficial.

Money jar with spilled coins

3. Financial obligations

You may have professional goals and passions but find it challenging to quit your “day job” due to financial obligations. Tap into a more “growth” mindset to get creative in shaping your (paid!) career opportunities. 

Just as a closed curtain limits your view to the center stage, a fixed mindset confines your career aspirations to what you know or have been told. By adopting a growth mindset, you can find a middle ground between passion and practicality. It’s about being open to creative solutions and considering diverse career paths that align with both our interests and practical needs. For those feeling stuck, it might be time to challenge these fixed beliefs and ask, “What if…” to explore new possibilities. 

Rise to the Challenge: Pursue your career interests by starting a side hustle or working part-time in your desired field. Not only does this provide additional income, but it also helps you gain valuable experience that may lead to a full-time career option down the road. 

4. Unsure of career goals

If you’re dreaming of career success but aren’t quite sure what that entails for you personally —you’re not alone. Many people often feel caught between societal expectations, personal interests, and practical considerations. 

Instead of constantly battling this overwhelm, try engaging in self-reflection and exploration to identify your interests, values, strengths, and priorities. Seek guidance from career counselors, mentors, and trusted peers who can offer perspective and support as you work to clarify your career goals. Remember, it’s okay to take your time and explore different paths — especially if you enjoy the journey along the way.

Rise to the Challenge: Experiment with different roles and industries to see what feels right to you. Try new things to discover what sparks your passion and where your talents lie. Go back to Step 3 and start a side hustle to try multiple options at once! 

5. Self-doubt

We all know that super-confident person who commands attention when they walk into a room. But trust me — even the most seemingly confident person grapples with self-doubt from time to time. Self-doubt is a universal human experience, but how you handle these defeating moments will set the achievers apart from dreamers. 

As the ever-so-wise Tony Robbins puts it so well: “I don’t have to get rid of the fear, I just have to dance with it.” Use your self-doubt as fuel to push yourself further. 

So, why do we doubt ourselves? Whether it’s from past experiences or specific events like missing out on a promotion, self-doubt is simply a defense mechanism to protect you from further failure or embarrassment. But don’t let that fear control you and hold you back from reaching your full potential. You will never achieve success without first risking failure.

Rise to the Challenge: Don’t let fear or self-doubt take a front seat in your career. When in doubt, seek honest feedback from loved ones for reassurance and guidance. Sometimes, others see your strengths more clearly than you do and can help you out of your comfort zone. At the very least, challenge yourself to just try whatever hard or scary thing you’re worried about. What’s the worst that could happen?

Woman with dark curly hair working on laptop

Your career is what you make of it

After over two decades in the professional world, I’ve had my fair share of challenges in achieving my career goals: Battling that nagging feeling of unfulfillment in my work; Navigating tricky (and sometimes downright nasty) office politics; Planning a stable financial scenario in order to start my own business. 

None of these challenges were easy, but in the end, they were all (to quote the brilliant Marie Forleo) figureoutable. Every obstacle can be overcome if you are just willing to put in the effort. And in the end, that is exactly how you will build a successful career that you will enjoy and be proud of.

Achieving your career goals

Your career (and your life!) is a journey filled with challenges, but it’s also one filled with growth, learning, and achievement. By defining your goals, acknowledging your strengths and challenges, and adopting a proactive approach to facing these common obstacles head-on, you can navigate your career path with confidence and success. 

Remember, every challenge is an opportunity in disguise. Embrace it, learn from it, and keep moving forward to create the career that fits your goals.

What challenges are you currently facing in your career? What can you do today to take the first step today toward achieving your career goals? Share your dreams and ideas with us in the comments!

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