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Professional Goal Setting with Lauren Stefaniak

Chief evangelist at Creative Force

Summary

Setting goals for yourself is one thing, but making a plan to achieve those goals is another thing entirely. Like many things in life, this is a skill that needs to be developed and Lauren Stefanik of Victoria's Secret has some excellent advice for you on actionable things you can do to gain momentum toward your goals, and not miss out on the journey itself.

Key Takeaways

  • It's easy to set a goal like "achieve my dream job of the world's foremost expert in Giraffe husbandry" but how do you break that down into smaller steps?
    • Define the scope of your goal based on your starting point
      • Short-term: 0-6 months
      • Near-term: 6 months-2 years
      • Long-term: 2-5 years
      • Advise against goals that are realistically >5 years out - too many variables (internal, external) that turn these into chasing unicorns
    • Determine if & how this new goal fits into the roadmap of your total goals
      • Aim for <4 goals at a time, <2 per scope
        • Warren Buffet's 5/25 rule
      • "Shuffle the deck" based on what's most important to you (prioritize)
    • Break apart your goal into 6-10 bite-sized, achievable milestones
      • Recommend "non-traditional" milestones to promote emphasis on the journey and discourage fixation on the end result
        • Shy away from milestones based on promotions or salaries
        • This could look like "Gain my first direct report" as opposed to "Get promoted to manager"
    • Build a plan that's sustainable beyond the completion of your goal
      • Your goal most likely requires maintenance over time
      • To ensure you don't become complacent or stale, develop a system for yourself that feels doable, repeatable, and can become part of your lifestyle
      • Highly recommend reading Gretchen Rubin's The Four Tendencies to better understand your motivation style & what works for you (pulled the below from Gretchen's website)
  • Give yourself the flexibility & grace to pivot as you work toward your goal
  • What goal writing systems like STAR do you use? If you prefer a particular one, why?
    1. There are elements of SMART in the above explanation, however I recommend thinking about it this way:
      • BEFORE building a plan: Relevance (sweet spot between fat chance in hell & interesting, attainable diversification)
      • WHILE building a plan: Specific, Time-bound, Measurable
      • FINAL CHECK in building a plan: Achievable
    2. In my own life, I take a more organic approach to professional goal setting (as a recovering perfectionist overachiever... it's what works for me)
  • Is there a strategy for sharing your goals with a supervisor?
    1. Be open, honest & unapologetic about what you're looking to achieve
      • Double-edged but important sword:
        • A good manager wants to see you grow & succeed, should help you understand whether your goal is achievable within your current team/company
        • The business may not need nor be ready for what you're looking to achieve, so you must be committed to the goal as it could signal an end of your time with your current company/team
    2. Embed development into your annual objectives & goals (assuming your company has a formal process)
      • Your goals will naturally be a component of any mid-year & year-end review conversations
      • Should aim for a 3-6 month reassessment of your goals anyway
    3. If your company does not have formal goal-setting, take the initiative to create your own
      • ~3 business objectives
      • 1 personal objective for development
  • How do you know when your goals need to change?
    1. Your passion turns to obligation
    2. You lose the intent & purpose of your original goal
    3. A new goal means you deprioritize an existing goal
    4. Jeff Bezos' Regret Minimization Framework
  • How do you know when your approach needs to change?
    1. Assumes you still have a desire & drive to achieve the original goal you set for yourself
    2. If you're not seeing consistent, measurable progress toward your goal you should reassess your approach
      • Understanding your motivational style is critical here
  • How do you handle situations where your current role has goals that are at odds with your personal goals
    1. The company you work for is a business - treat yourself like a business too
    2. Your role is a transaction between yourself & the company: you perform a service for them and they compensate you for that service
    3. Assess in what way your personal goal is at odds with your business goal
      • Can you blend the goals in a way that ultimately protects your personal goal?
      • Are you comfortable making changes to the plan (ie. extending the timeline of your personal goal) to accommodate your business goal?
      • What is required in order to allow for your personal goal?
    4. Decision point: Can you make it work or should you look for another role?

Links & Resources

Full episode transcript

Daniel Jester:

From Creative Force, I'm Daniel Jester and this is The E-commerce Content Creation Podcast.

Setting goals for yourself is one thing, but making a plan to achieve those goals is another thing entirely. Like many things in life, this is a skill that needs to be developed, and Lauren Stefaniak of Victoria's Secret has some excellent advice for you on actionable things you can do to gain momentum towards your goals and not miss out on the journey itself.

Lauren Stefaniak:

Making milestones that are non-traditional, because I think what's really important for long-term, year over year growth in your goals is to emphasize the journey and do not fixate on the result.

And you will tend to do that if your milestones are tied to job titles, salaries, things that feel like they have caps or ceilings. You will lose the point along the way, and you won't enjoy it, if you're worried about getting to that milestone versus picking something that's a little bit less traditional.

And I'll give you an example. So, let's say I'm looking to grow my career in the current industry and track that I'm in. A bite-size goal for me might be gain my first direct report as opposed to get promoted to the manager level. Because getting promoted to manager actually doesn't mean anything for your development, but gaining your first direct report does. You're going to get experience and an understanding of what it means to be a manager.

Daniel Jester:

If this is your first episode of our podcast featuring Lauren, I really encourage you to check out our other episodes with Lauren about mentorship and about building a business case. Lauren has a ton of great insight that is truly valuable to professionals in any industry, but are also focused on things that we, in creative operations and specifically in The Studio, don't always learn through the normal course of our daily jobs.

So without further ado, here's Lauren Stefaniak of Victoria's Secret, and we're talking about goal setting.

This is The E-commerce Content Creation Podcast. I'm your host, Daniel Jester. And joining me for this episode of the show, returning guest, Lauren Stefaniak of Victoria's Secret.

Lauren, welcome back. And how are you?

Lauren Stefaniak:

Thank you so much. I am so happy to be here for the third time. Three-peat return guest.

Daniel Jester:

Three-peat return. Yeah, return. Well, we always have so much great things to talk about. I think we've got, this is the Lauren Cinematic universe of podcast episodes, I guess. All interconnected.

I've really enjoyed our last two conversations. I think we have created some great resources for people who want to develop themselves professionally, both in our industry and out. But we, specifically as creative production professionals, recognize the opportunity to share some information that isn't something that you necessarily always pick up through osmosis, whether it's in the studio or in the design department or in the larger creative operations organization.

And one of the things that came up in our last couple of episodes is around goal. So, let's just recap. We've started off with making the business case, which is very pragmatic, but also I think very valuable. And it's something that's been on my mind a lot as I've been working through my own professional and daily life.

And then, the next episode we looked at was like, mentorship came up in the business case. How did you learn these skills? How do we develop these skills? So then, we did an episode on how do we find somebody who can be a mentor. Now that we have that information, on how to set ourselves up for success in that relationship, let's talk about setting some goals.

And maybe you set your goals before you find the mentor, maybe the order's a little bit backwards here. Whatever the order needs to be, it came up over the last couple of podcasts that setting some goals for yourself and then building a plan to achieve them. That also is something that most people who have worked in-house for a large corporation have gone through this exercise. I certainly have gone through this exercise. I'm sure you have also, Lauren.

There's a little bit of a difference between doing the sort of company-mandated goal setting and all of that, that sometimes it feels a little bit like HR offloading your performance review onto you, right?

Lauren Stefaniak:

Yeah.

Daniel Jester:

But also we, as individuals and as people who want to grow in our careers, can and should have goals that are broader than the company that we current... Some of them can be related to the company that we currently work for, but should be broader than that.

You may have a goal, you may be working today as a photographer, as a designer, as a layout artist for some company, but maybe your goal is to end up in the C-suite someday. It's not too early to start thinking about that. It's not too early to start breaking down that big, hairy gold down into chunks that are more actionable. And I get the impression, Lauren, that you've got a lot of insight into how to make this happen.

Lauren Stefaniak:

I sure hope so.

Daniel Jester:

Based on the three pages of notes that you sent over, I think we do. So without further ado, I need to be talking a lot less in this episode already. Let's get into it.

We'll start off kind of big. It's very, very easy to set a goal, like achieve my dream job of the world's foremost expert in Giraffe Husbandry.

Lauren Stefaniak:

Okay.

Daniel Jester:

Lauren, I'm going to tell you, I wrote this on our outline and I am not sure where my head was when I wrote it, but I don't exactly remember writing it. But yeah, that's a crazy goal. Whatever the goal is, it doesn't matter what it is, end up in the C-suite at your organization or whatever organization that you want to work for. Some people have goals about the type of place they want to work. Some people have goals about the type of role they want.

How do you take that huge goal, and maybe a better one, let's get off the Giraffe Husbandry thing for a minute. Beat that topic to death already for this podcast.

But let's say that my goal, my personal goal, is to end up as chief content officer for whatever company I'm working for. That's a goal. And that's easy to just say that, I want to be chief content officer of a tech company in the future. Now what?

Lauren Stefaniak:

Yeah. Yeah. So I think Giraffe Husbandry goal or not, it's really important to start by defining the scope of your goal based on your starting point. Who you are today, where you are in your career, where you are in your life, and really assessing it against a timeline. So, when I think about goals, immediately I say to myself, "Is this a short-term, near-term, or long-term goal?" Because that will help provide me the context with which to build my plan in the future.

So, the way that I define those chunks of time, our short-term goals, are zero to six months into the future. So you can reach out with your hand and grab it, that's a short-term goal.

Near-term goal, six months to about two years. It's just out of your reach, but you can probably take a few steps and get there.

And then long-term goals are two to five years out, so you have to jog down the block a little bit, but you will get there. Personally, anything further out than a five year goal isn't really realistic just because there are too many variables, internal, external, that really make these like chasing unicorns.

And that's not to say you can't have a long-term, plus five year-out goal, but you have to break it down into something that's at least within the scope of two to five years. And then reassess and say, "Am I still working toward that larger goal?" And then look at it for another two to five years out, depending on how far out it really is for you. So, that's the first step. Contextualize, in time, this goal for you.

And then, the second step is determine if and how this new goal fits into the roadmap of your total goals.

So, we're not linear people. We have multiple goals at different times. And so, we want to be cognizant of how does this goal fit into the larger universe of goals that I have for myself? Is it realistic that I have four or five goals at any given time? Or is this one so big that it kicks everything out, and does that matter to me?

If you're so laser-focused on your one goal that you're thinking of, it's all you can think about, you're probably going to be unhappy with the other parts of your life that you felt similarly about other goals.

So, the way that I think about this is really aiming for no more than four goals at a time, and no more than two per scope. Meaning, don't stack yourself with four short-term goals because you're going to feel crazed in the next six months trying to get these sprints in your life complete so you can get to your goal.

And same with the long-term goal, if you have four long-term goals, you're probably losing the point and just like, "Where am I in this? How do I get to something that's achievable and actionable?"

Daniel Jester:

Or creating something for yourself that feels unachievable.

Lauren Stefaniak:

Right.

Daniel Jester:

Because you've only got long-term goals and nothing... Yeah. I wanted to also ask you, as part of this question, I don't always set a goal that is a title or a specific role. I know that one of my goals in 2018, 2019, that I was finally feeling comfortable enough in my professional skin to share with people, was that I wanted a role with more flexibility because I had missed many milestones with my kids, in their own development.

And one of my goals, what I called at that time professional goal, was having a role that gave me more flexibility to be with my kids more. Coincidentally, I may have single-handedly ushered in the pandemic and the remote work era by manifesting this for myself. That's not true. But it kind of fell into my lap in a way, because through the course of the pandemic and losing jobs and having connections that I had made in the past, coming back and ended up landing a job.

The point that I'm driving at here is in support of what you're saying, which is that we have to be open to the unknowns in the universe to some extent. We have to be willing to adapt our plan, I think. I have a feeling I'm getting ahead of myself again as I'm want to do with our notes.

But the part that I started off this whole diatribe on was, do you think, in your opinion, and I guess, how do you personally set goals? Do you set goals that are more characteristics of a role? Or do you set goals as titles or is it mix and match, or has it changed? Has it evolved throughout the years?

Lauren Stefaniak:

Yeah. I love that you ask this question because I think, when I was first starting out in my career journey, it was very much based on a role, a title and a salary.

Daniel Jester:

Yeah.

Lauren Stefaniak:

So I would say to myself, I want to make six figures by the time I'm 27 or whatever. Or I want to become a manager by next year. And what I found is, greater than just my professional mindset and mental health, is that that doesn't actually get you what you want. You know, have to reframe it as, "Okay, I achieved this. What does that mean for me and what is actually my priority?"

So, I love that you said that your goal was around flexibility, to be around for your family, because that's your goal. And the way that you get there may look like I take a role in a different industry, or I take a pay cut, or I do X, Y, and Z, that other people might think of as a goal. But really, you have to have a come-to-Jesus moment with yourself where you say, "What's important to me and what's my true goal?" Because if you tie it to a title or a dollar amount, once you reach that, you're going to feel some sort of emptiness.

You know your goal, you know how long about it's going to take you, you know how it fits into the larger universe of your goals. And then, you really have to have a come-to-Jesus moment with yourself again and say, "What is most important to me out of these four goals that I've set for myself?" And shuffle the deck a little bit to say, "Okay, I have these two short-term, zero to six month goals, but am I going to prioritize goal A over goal B? And does goal B need to move six to 12 months out from now, which kind of pushes into near-term territory, even though it won't take me as long to complete it?"

Reprioritizing based on who you are in that moment, and I recommend looking at these every three months, six months, to assess where you're at, will really help you move forward. So you're not getting into that space where you feel invested in a goal that you don't believe in anymore, or you feel like you're neglecting a goal that you're super passionate about because you're stuck in this space. It's always like this, how are you pushing and pulling your goals, and the timelines, to make it work for you and where you're going?

Daniel Jester:

We've got our goals, we're going through this prioritization exercise. And now, again, we're getting into smaller chunks, we're getting into things that we can see, we now know what we need to be looking at short-term, near-term. But still, I think there can be, and even for me, there still can be a disconnect between what, this is super cliche, journey of a thousand miles begins with one step, but how do you know which way to go?

Lauren Stefaniak:

What you then need to do is create a project plan for yourself, which a project plan is the least sexy thing I could have said. But it's really-

Daniel Jester:

It's very, very un-sexy. But we definitely are going to invite you back for an episode on how to make a project plan.

Lauren Stefaniak:

For your professional goal, perfect. So, yeah. I think you need to create a project plan. You have to bullet out six to 10 bite-sized achievable milestones, attaching timing to them. And what I recommend here is making milestones that are non-traditional. Because I think what's really important for long-term, year over year growth in your goals is to emphasize the journey and do not fixate on the result.

And you will tend to do that if your milestones are tied to job titles, salaries, things that feel like they have caps or ceilings. You will lose the point along the way, and you won't enjoy it, if you're worried about getting to that milestone versus picking something that's a little bit less traditional.

And I'll give you an example. So, let's say I'm looking to grow my career in the current industry and track that I'm in. A bite-size goal for me might be gain my first direct report as opposed to get promoted to the manager level. Because getting promoted to manager actually doesn't mean anything for your development, but gaining your first direct report does. You're going to get experience and an understanding of what it means to be a manager. And you won't focus so much on, "I have this title now, check. I got that off my list."

Daniel Jester:

Right.

Lauren Stefaniak:

Rather, you'll actually be developing the skills that are required to move along your journey.

Daniel Jester:

I love that point so much. And a lot of the reason, Lauren, is that sort of mirrors my own journey when I was still working in Studios, is that I really wanted that. I really wanted to have somebody for whom I was responsible organizationally. I really wanted to have that direct report. And I did think about it like that. I wanted to be creative production manager or whatever the role was.

And when I first got my first direct report, it ended up being really non-traditional, in the sense that I wasn't made a manager, it wasn't connected to a promotion. But I was then responsible for having somebody who reported to me, that I had to do performance reviews with them, I had to work on goal setting with them.

And you're absolutely right. The people who are hyper-focused on the sort of, for lack of, I don't want to sound denigrating, but the superficial parts of those goals are missing out on the opportunity to learn very real skills.

And so sometimes, if your goal is get promoted to manager, have a direct report, you have to be willing to realize that sometimes that means, sometimes it's short-term. Sometimes, it's being responsible for the intern program in your organization or in your department. And that still is super valid. You're learning those skills.

And the other thing I wanted to point out on this, this also gives you an opportunity to really celebrate those wins and learn how to sell yourself a little bit. Because an important part of this is, I know we talked earlier about the difference between setting goals for yourself personally that might transcend company, organization or role, but you still are going to have to do performance reviews wherever you work.

And so, really getting skilled at looking at the things that you've learned, and documenting the skills that you've developed through the different projects that you've worked on, this I think really lends itself well to that. If you're paying attention to your milestones, you're also already innately documenting your own progress and able to share that with people in the future.

Lauren Stefaniak:

And I think, we'll get to this in a little bit, but-

Daniel Jester:

Damn, I got ahead again.

Lauren Stefaniak:

You did. Interweaving it with your professional life, I think is critical to making sure you get to that goal.

Daniel Jester:

So, let's keep moving through your notes here. It could look different than checking off the box. We want to pay special attention to the way that we craft those milestones and make sure that they're meaningful. Because we need to not be just checking off boxes, meeting requirements. The whole point of this is to fulfill ourselves professionally and develop skills that will work for us in the future. Where do we move past this now?

Lauren Stefaniak:

So I think if you do a really good job on creating milestones that are natural fit, that you can move through and feel achievable, and you're achieving something, then you need to make sure that your plan is sustainable beyond the completion of your goal.

So I think a lot of people, I liken it to when you run a marathon, right? And so, the marathon doesn't actually end when you cross that finish line. That marathon is going to continue onward. You keep running, you have to take care of your muscles afterward, you may want to run another marathon. It's really like the tail off of your goal will continue. And most goals also require maintenance over time. You gain your first direct report, great. That's a skill you don't want to lose, so you need to foster that over time.

Daniel Jester:

And not to mention, it's going to be bumpy. That first direct report.

Lauren Stefaniak:

Yeah.

Daniel Jester:

I don't know anybody, I do know one person who did a phenomenal job with their first direct reports in a corporate environment. But for most people, there's going to be a steep learning curve. Most of us, and I'm speaking largely to people roughly in my generation age group, give or take five years, most of us have probably some strange feelings towards bosses that we've had in the past.

We have probably some pretty good examples of the type of bosses that we don't want to be. And it's very easy, in the heat of the moment with your first direct report, to fall into some of those things that maybe you don't want to perpetuate. So just to throw that out there, there's going to be a learning curve for most people on that first direct report. And definitely, maintenance is going to be part of that.

Lauren Stefaniak:

Yeah, yeah. For sure. And I think, in terms of overall how you aim to reach your goals, and I highly recommend that everybody read Gretchen Rubin's The Four Tendencies. Gretchen has an excellent podcast that explains a lot of this, but this has been pivotal to me in better understanding my motivation style and what works for me. So, I dropped the graphic in our notes here, but I'll briefly talk through.

So for Gretchen, there are four buckets, I guess, of motivation styles that you may fall into. And this will determine how you achieve goals and what motivates you. So, you can either be an Upholder, where you meet your outer expectations and your inner expectations. You could be a Rebel, where you resist both. You could be a Questioner, where you're resisting the outer expectation, but you meet your inner expectations. Or you could be an Obliger, which is the opposite, you meet the outer expectations and resist the inner expectations.

And so, once you understand which you are, I personally am an Upholder, which I think is easier than some others. A Rebel, I think, has a hard time. Rebels probably aren't necessarily setting goals for themselves that are attainable. But-

Daniel Jester:

Yeah.

Lauren Stefaniak:

If you are one of the other three, I think understanding who you are and what motivates you will be critical. So for me, because I'm an Upholder, I can either hold myself accountable by a goal I've set for myself, or I can hold myself accountable by delegating to other people to hold me accountable.

Daniel Jester:

Hmm.

Lauren Stefaniak:

And knowing where you are will really help you complete that goal.

Daniel Jester:

Interestingly, and not really surprisingly to me, but certainly anecdotally, some of the people that I've worked with that I'm so impressed by, and I think very highly of professionally, and Lauren, you are absolutely one of these people, are people who are very self-aware. And I think, self-reflective a lot. I think that's a really important characteristic.

And obviously, I have not read The Four Tendencies, but it's definitely going on our E-commerce Content Creation Podcast book club list for sure. Because I think this is really interesting, and this is something that in my side hustle, to use common parlance, of being a city official, through being a parks and recreation commissioner, we need more people to practice being a little bit more self-aware in the way that they interact with each other. And so, I'm definitely a big advocate for that. And I'm very interested to read this book.

I wanted to ask you, there are goal writing systems that exist. I know, I think STAR is a goal writing system. Yeah. What is STAR? Situation?

Lauren Stefaniak:

Yeah. So, I think it's changed over time. And in full transparency, I didn't even know about goal writing systems before I was preparing for this podcast. I think-

Daniel Jester:

Oh. Did I teach you something, Lauren?

Lauren Stefaniak:

You did.

Daniel Jester:

Oh my goodness.

Lauren Stefaniak:

You sure did. Yeah, yeah. But I did my research, so it's going to sound like I know what I'm talking about.

Daniel Jester:

By the way, if you Google STAR system, it's mostly just space garbage, which who cares? Who even cares about that? I'm just kidding.

Lauren Stefaniak:

But I think, what I at least learned is that STAR seems to take on different acronyms over time. Right now, the big one is SMART. So they added an M to STAR.

Daniel Jester:

Right. Yeah. Okay. Now I'm-

Lauren Stefaniak:

Yeah.

Daniel Jester:

I'm remembering it now. STAR specifically is Specific, Timely, Action-oriented and Realistic. And this is one, I remember now why I wrote this and I did remember this at the time when I wrote it specifically, I wanted to ask you about this.

Because I do think that some goals need to be very specific. You need to be much more specific than you think you need to be, I think, on certain types of things. Like one of my goals is to, and this is not me speaking, but hypothetically, one of my goals is to be very wealthy. You have to define what wealth means to you in order to make that goal mean anything. And that's where I think specific comes in.

Lauren Stefaniak:

There are a lot of elements of STAR, or SMART, or whatever you want to call it, in the above explanation of how I was talking about assigning time to your goals. But I think, when I look at the acronym SMART from start to finish, it doesn't necessarily make sense.

So if I were to parse through the letters, and how I would approach them in my own goal setting, and how I would recommend it, is that before you build a plan and you have a goal in mind, think about the relevance. So, there's going to be a sweet spot between there's a fat chance on how I'm ever going to achieve this goal. And then, yeah, this goal is actually within my grasp or it's a little bit outside of my scope, but I can get there.

So you really have to ground yourself first, and is this goal relevant to me and where I'm at? Like your goal of Giraffe Husbandry, if you're not already in the giraffe world at least a little bit, you're probably never going to be the world's foremost expert. That's a fat chance goal. But if you're at least within the realm of that, maybe it's attainable.

Daniel Jester:

In vet school, at least.

Lauren Stefaniak:

Yeah. Exactly, exactly.

Daniel Jester:

Or something even marginally related. Not just in the animal husbandry aisle of your local used bookstore.

Lauren Stefaniak:

Right. Went to the zoo once and-

Daniel Jester:

Yeah. Just really fell in love with those blue tongue guys.

Lauren Stefaniak:

Yeah. So I think, before you build that project plan that I was talking about, you need to think about the relevance. So assuming this goal is relevant to you, while you're building a plan, that's when you should develop the specific, time-bound and measurable aspects of your goal.

So specific. Meaning, I want to be wealthy, what does wealthy mean? Wealthy means, for me, I make $1 million.

Time-bound, I make $1 million within the next five years.

And then measurable, it's kind of hard when you say $1 million, but measurable, and I do it without driving myself crazy. I don't know.

Daniel Jester:

Yeah.

Lauren Stefaniak:

Creating this plan for yourself that has the specifics, after you understand whether it's relevant to you, I think is important. And it's also something that you can do while you're building your plan. You don't need to have this all laid-out before you sit down and start working on it.

And then, the last thing I would say, final check in building a plan before you start moving, is this achievable?

Daniel Jester:

Right.

Lauren Stefaniak:

So is this plan, that I set out for myself, achievable? If yes, great. Go for it. But if not, maybe there's something you need to tweak.

Daniel Jester:

Yeah, there are some things that you can, through force of will, achieve. And there are some things that just take a certain amount of time that you may or may not have, right? Like, "I, at 37 years old, with four children and sole-income provider for my family, am not likely going to be able to achieve a goal that would require me to go back to school to achieve a PhD degree."

Lauren Stefaniak:

Right.

Daniel Jester:

At this point in my life, that's probably not, and that might change in the future. To your point, at various places throughout our notes, there's always time to reevaluate. Certainly, I'm not saying that, at 37 years old, my life is over. But I have immediate priorities that are going to interfere with those goals. Meaning, I have to be really honest, is this actually achievable? It's probably not achievable for me to get a PhD in Giraffe Husbandry, when I've got people at home who need my attention because they're small children.

Lauren Stefaniak:

Yeah. Or it could be, and you could say something to yourself like, "I am going to work toward my PhD, but I'm going to take it in a night school. And night school for me is going to take six years as opposed to doing school full time."

So, there are ways that you can push and pull your different elements of your goal to make it actually achievable, so that you can have a shot at getting to your goal.

Daniel Jester:

Yeah. I kind of fell into a little bit of a trap there, didn't I? It doesn't have to be either yes or no. Maybe making it achievable just require some edits and some adjustments.

The next thing I want to ask you specifically about is one that I have given this a lot of thought to. And also I think that, again, I still come from an era, a little bit of, in a lot of ways, very toxic relationships with our workplaces and with our supervisors. And I know that early on, when I was in my younger, like late teens, early twenties, and even working in office jobs at the time, there was definitely a culture of like, you don't want to be seen as somebody who is ambitious in any kind of way. You're supposed to be very happy in your role right now and commit a 110% to that role.

And why would you ever share with anybody who you reported to, or was in a supervisory position, that you have any ambition beyond that role of merchandise coordinator or whatever. For me, it was supply chain coordinator.

I remember thinking that I was being very forward-thinking and progressive in my job, that I was like, "Someday, I want to be the supply chain manager for this company." And the supply chain manager, who was my boss, was offended and kind of freaked out by that.

He thought that I, you know, he interpreted it somehow as that I was thinking that he wasn't doing a good job. And I was like, "No. I mean, I think it's healthy to want and care about career advancement."

So the long-winded way to get to this question that I just worked through is, what advice and strategy for sharing these goals with the supervisor do you have? Sometimes, maybe there is a little bit of strategy here on what you share and when you share it, but I think no individual can achieve these things on their own, if you have these goals for your career. You're going to need the support of people around you. And so, we have to figure out how to have these conversations.

Lauren Stefaniak:

This is kind of a tough one to swallow. But you will not be handed something, you have to ask for it. And so, you need to be open, honest, and unapologetic about what you're looking to achieve with your supervisor, so that there are no questions about where you're going. And personally, it will help you. You won't be disgruntled or just stewing in your own anger that you're not moving forward in your career. It's out there in the open.

What I will say, a caveat to this, it is a double-edged sword, right? So, a good manager will want to see you grow and succeed. They will help you understand whether your goal is achievable within your current team or company. Or they might say to you, "You know what? I fully support your goal. It's not going to happen here, though. The business isn't ready for you to be a manager. It's not ready to add a manager level role. There is already a manager. But how can I help you develop so that you can go be a manager elsewhere?" That is what a good supervisor will do for you.

The other side of that coin though is, you have opened yourself up, you know? You were saying, I'm unhappy in my current role, I'm ready to move on. So at this point, you really need to be committed to that goal, because it may mean the end of your time at your company, which is okay. But you just have to be prepared that you may have to let go of your current role, which probably is a nice, warm and safe cocoon.

Daniel Jester:

This is something that I feel very acutely, which is that, when I have those moments of realization, the way that it manifests for me is starting to have a feeling of being a little bit trapped in the role that I'm in currently, and realizing that it's not going to meet those goals.

But then, also just the nature of our relationship with work is like, "I still have to work, I still have to provide." And I have to often remind myself that, as is evidenced by the fact that I professionally host a podcast about an industry that I used to actually work in and contribute to in a meaningful way, you never know what random opportunity is going to present itself, that again, going back to the thing about flexibility and prioritization and stuff, that achieves goals for you that maybe you had long forgotten about.

Lauren Stefaniak:

Mm-hmm.

Daniel Jester:

This is where I think the strategy of sharing comes in a little bit, is that it requires a little bit of thinking about your manager and the relationship that you have with your manager, and is this the right manager to share this information with to help me achieve these goals? Or do I need to play these a little bit closer to the vest?

Because again, you don't want to just go in and say, "I'm unhappy and my goal is this. And I want to achieve that." There are ways to get that message across, saying things in a way that is like, "Look, I'm learning a lot in this role, but I consider this a stepping stone to a larger goal of mine. And I'd like to discuss the opportunities, whether here..."

And sometimes those opportunities, the other thing that I thought of while you were talking through this, sometimes those opportunities come in the form of project-based things. They may not be ready for you to be a manager, have a direct report today, but they may give you the opportunity.

"We have this project, this implementation that needs to be done. We're onboarding new software. We're starting a new program, we're doing this, we're doing that." This is a way that Amazon worked across the board in every department. It was like, you had your day job, but if you had an opportunity to get assigned to a project, that gave you the ability to pick up a lot of skills and make a lot of connections that otherwise you would've been isolated from.

Lauren Stefaniak:

I think that's such a great point, is that it may not be a linear, straight up the food chain look at your goal. It could be like, I'm going to dabble here and there, diversification, like we were talking about earlier, can get you to your goal in a non-traditional way, if it's not going to be a linear move for you.

Daniel Jester:

We have just a few more minutes, Lauren. And again, yet again, we've only gotten through about halfway of the notes that we want. And we'll do it this way. I'm really interested in asking about how you handle situations when you realize that your current role has goals that are actively at odds with your own personal goals for yourself.

But I want to know from you, in the last couple of minutes for this episode, what do you think is the most important information for our listeners to hear on this topic on professional goal setting?

Lauren Stefaniak:

Yeah. It's funny that you bring this up because this is probably my hottest take with the last-

Daniel Jester:

Oh wow, that's where I want to go then.

Lauren Stefaniak:

Yeah.

Daniel Jester:

We're more shifting this podcast squarely into salacious content. Just hot takes across the board. Pineapple does belong on pizza.

Lauren Stefaniak:

I would not go that far.

My hot take here is that I think it's so important to remember the company you work for is a business and so that you should treat yourself like a business, too. And what I mean by that is, at its simplest, and this can hurt because it feels like you put in so much time and effort into your role, and you feel connected to it, and there's this personal connection. But at the end of the day, your role and the work that you do is a transaction between yourself and the company.

You perform a service for them, they are compensating you for that service. So, when you are in a space where your role's goals and your personal goals are not aligned, you really need to assess in what way your personal goal is at odds. So, can you blend them in a way that protects your personal goal?

Like you said before, as the single income of your household, I'm sure you want to protect your professional life and you don't want to just throw caution to the wind on your role. So, how can you blend the two together so that you are still feeling comfortable in moving forward? Or are you comfortable making changes to the plan? So, should you be extending the timeline on your personal goal to accommodate your business goal? Essentially, what is required in order to allow for your personal goal, and then you're going to find yourself at a decision point.

Can you make it work or should you look for another position? Is your personal goal so important to you that it's just not driving with what is going on around you contextually? And you may need to say to yourself, "This isn't serving me anymore. I need to go somewhere else in order to achieve my personal goal."

Daniel Jester:

On the topic of that decision point of looking for another role, or seeing what you can impact in your own role, this was something, and I'm going to name drop him again so Jeff Strauss can give me a hard time about it in my DMs on LinkedIn. Terence Mahone gave this perspective to me. I don't even think it was advice, I think we were just talking, he's a past podcast guest a couple of times.

But he pointed out that people are very quick sometimes to have a bad day at work, and decide it's time to hit the job boards, and see what else is out there. But he pointed out that you do have, and I think nowadays there's more receptiveness to this, especially in our industry in particular. I know that not every job, not every role, not every industry, is created equal in the relationship between managers and their direct reports, but you have X amount of energy, X amount of capital to spend on these things.

You can spend some of it trying to go out there and find a new job and make up reasons to miss work so that you can go do interviews. And I don't know about you, Lauren, but I've never been super comfortable. Obviously, it's a part of life to have a job and be interviewing for other jobs, and that's something that's sort of secretive, but it's never something that, it's not my most comfortable self to be that person, who's like, "I got to ask for PTO because I have to go do this interview." And then a lot of times they involve travel and it becomes a whole thing.

That requires a certain amount of energy to go through that process. That you might consider investing that energy into trying to change the role that you're in now into what you want it to be. And not everybody has this opportunity, I recognize this. You have to be aware enough of what's going on. But I thought that that was a really powerful thought. That like, I'm going to spend a lot of time and energy going out and looking for a new job, what do I like about the job in the organization that I have now? And is there an opportunity for me to instead use that energy to improve my current situation?

Lauren Stefaniak:

Yeah. I think that is so impactful and kind of mirrors my own journey, right? I started at Victoria's Secret right out of college. I was a copy editor on the catalogs and now I'm the Director of Creative Operations. And it was not at all a straight line. It was like, "Oh, I'm going to do something over here and then something over here."

And a lot of the conversations with my manager looked like, "Well, where do you see yourself going? What do you want to explore? What do you want to do?" And thankfully, we've been able to make it work over time. But as opposed to leaving and finding this mystical other job that seems to be exactly what I want, which is probably going to fall short in some way because the grass is not always greener, how do you make your grass greener that you're currently in?

Daniel Jester:

Hmm. Yeah. What would it take? Like sitting down, and for me, I don't know about for you, Lauren, but for me, all of this involves sitting down with pencil and paper. Always. I don't know about your note taking habits, but I do a lot of my best brainstorming just notebook and paper. Because I can scribble scrabble, and I can draw myself little pictures, and I can let my mind wander a little bit.

And then, eventually, start to coalesce some of these ideas, like thinking about, "Okay, what do I like about my organization? What do I like about my role? What do I dislike about my organization and my role? What are my goals and what would it take to change my role here? And do I have the opportunity to have this conversation with somebody who has the power to change my role to what I need it to be?"

Lauren Stefaniak:

Yeah. I think that's so important. And this could be a whole other topic, but I think a lot of companies struggle with retention. Acquisition is one thing, I think they can bring in excellent talent. But talent retention is something that a lot of companies struggle with. They don't want to lose you, they hired you for a reason, they want to make it work.

Reminding them of that and showing them how they could get to that with you, I think will really help you figure out how to make it work within your current company, so that you can create the best position possible.

Daniel Jester:

I want to ask you about this on retention, actually. I've been talking a lot about retention specifically in Studios on LinkedIn. We did a podcast episode about it with Josie Diamond of John Lewis. And one of the things that I was talking about, I was actually talking about this with my wife, we're talking about another issue entirely. But sometimes it works out this way at companies too, where the money that you have for something, it's like money at a company isn't always just money. The fund that it sits in, where it comes from, what it's slotted for, all of that has an impact.

And I've had this sort of, I've been working on this theory and I don't know if you can confirm or deny or even add any insight into this, that companies just don't have money for retention. There's always money in there for hiring people. But when it comes to retention, I think a lot of the ways that a company falls short in retaining their own talent simply comes from the fact that there's no money to do the things that we know would impact retention.

Lauren Stefaniak:

Yeah. I think that's a great point. I don't think you see it as a line item on a budget. You see-

Daniel Jester:

Yeah. Retention, I've never seen it. I have definitely seen, okay, we have open roles, we have open headcount, but I've never seen anybody say like, "We have $10,000 to retain our best people in this department. What can we use it for to make sure that they're happy?" I've never seen that.

Lauren Stefaniak:

Yeah. Or it's a numbers game, right? They're like, "You can make five people happy out of your 500. Which five people do you make happy?"

Daniel Jester:

And then you have to do the scene from The Office, where you put beans on people's pictures to figure out who's going to get the money.

Lauren Stefaniak:

Right. Exactly. Yeah.

Daniel Jester:

Anything else we want to talk about, Lauren, as we wrap up this episode? I think that this was a great start to professional goal setting. Like all of our conversations so far, we could definitely go deeper and go longer. But we're at 45 minutes of record time now, with maybe a little bit of editing to do, so I think we should probably call it. Anything else? Any final thoughts on professional goal setting for our listeners?

Lauren Stefaniak:

I think I'm good. Time for people to get off their treadmills.

Daniel Jester:

Yeah, your run is over now. Congratulations, you made it.

Well, Lauren, thank you so much again for your insight. It really is truly always a pleasure to have you on the podcast to talk about these things. And I don't know, man, this might become a thing where it's like once a month, it's our once a month, monthly, or maybe honestly, you should just come on and co-host the show occasionally.

Lauren Stefaniak:

Oh, I would love that. I would absolutely love that.

Daniel Jester:

Yeah. We could figure that out. Yeah. But anyway, thank you so much for your time. And I don't know what we're going to end up talking about next but, as always, your insight is just incredible and the way that you think about things I think is really valuable to people. So, thank you for sharing that.

Lauren Stefaniak:

Yeah. Thank you for the platform. I love it.

Daniel Jester:

That's it for this episode of The E-commerce Content Creation Podcast.

Many thanks to our guest, Lauren, and thanks to you for listening.

The show is produced by Creative Force, edited by Calvin Lanz. Special thanks to Sean O'Meara.

I'm your host, Daniel Jester. Until next time, my friends. And Ian, another week. Didn't forget about you, buddy. Hi.

About the host

Chief evangelist at Creative Force

Daniel Jester is an experienced creative production professional who has managed production teams, built and launched new studios, and produced large-scale projects. He's currently the Chief Evangelist at Creative Force but has a breadth of experience in a variety of studio environments - working in-house at brands like Amazon, Nordstrom, and Farfetch as well as commercial studios like CONVYR. Creative-minded, while able to effectively plan for and manage a complex project, he bridges the gap between spreadsheets and creative talent.