Forget Goals! Hold Onto Your Values Instead

J. Kelly Hoey
5 min readJul 10, 2020


Now is definitely not the time for setting hard, fast, “I must achieve” goals. I’m not saying ditch the ambition to work for a specific company or to start your career in a particular industry or with a certain title — just, chill on the career dogma that perhaps held true, for some folks pre: 2020.

COVID19 has turned planning, projections, goal-setting on its head — ’cause we just don’t know, and when everything in uncertain, unfamiliar, murky, in disarray, the goals set in earlier, more predictable BC times (before COVID) are somewhat, though not completely useless.

So rather than fixating on goals which rely on certainty (then delving into the depressing impossibility of achieving them as nothing is certain right now), try this instead: focus on values, principles, and learnings. Values, principles and learnings will keep you headed toward your ultimate goal (note, I said early to stop fixating on goals, I didn’t suggest dropping or ditching them altogether). Looking through the lens of values, principles and learnings will open your eyes to alternatives, curvy, unusual uniquely creative solutions, rather than madly grasping to the slippery false certainty of “I must do A in order to achieve B”.

An example of why I’m focused on values, principles and learnings.

A student reached out to me following a webinar I conducted last week. She has her heart set on working for one particular media and entertainment company. The lack of communication from on-campus recruiters (who she was previously in touch with) has understandably, caused the student some duress. What to do?

Here’s how I suggested the student unpack her career progression frustration:

  • First, sit back and think about why you’re so focused on a single company. There could be good reason for that fixation beyond “I love what they do!” so I’d suggest you figure it out, so you can articulate it — besides, clarity is a strong motivator to keep moving forward, especially in challenging situations (and this I know from personal experience!).
  • Second, write down all the reasons you came up with from the reflection above, putting company specific items in one column (i.e. only this ONE company has the ability or rights to do this thing), then put everything else that matters to you about how the company operates, leads, manages etc. and what you hoped to learn from working with them, into that second column.
  • Third, look at what you wrote down in the first column. How does it compare in length to what you wrote down in the second column? You may have listed a whole lot of darn good reasons that justify your mega-crush on one particular company. If that is the case, great! Now go think about how to make yourself smarter and wiser on how the company is operating, what their needs are, how their business is excelling or pivoting so you can uncover hidden job opportunities and reach out to the company’s executives and on-campus recruiters in more imaginative ways than “I’d still love to work for you” plus with this clarity, you’ll silence the naysayers who believe you should be expanding your job search.
  • Next, regardless of the length and content of the first column, regardless of how much you love, admire, drool over one possible employer, I’d recommend reflecting on what it was you wrote down in the second column. Does what you wrote down (ie. values, experiences, learnings you’re seeking from your career), does it open up any other ideas or possibilities? Does an industry competitor check the boxes on these items or perhaps even, organizations in adjacent or emerging sectors? Are there other ways to get the learnings or experiences you’re seeking for your career? Yes, this is where I circle back to where I started with “ditching strict adherence to a goal and embracing values, principles and learnings”. Focusing on column two is where you check your BC assumptions, and where you start to creatively problem-solve yourself into an imaginative career solution. This is where your career goal stops stalling out on the “straight career path” mindset and moves ahead by embracing a non-linear one.

By all means, hold fast to your career dreams but ground them in your values and don’t become hardheaded on how to ultimately reach your goals. We are all on equally unsure footing, in this vastly uncertain, constantly shifting work environment. Stay attuned to possibilities. Remain flexible on how to achieve the outcomes or goals you are ultimately seeking. Keep steady by reminding yourself of what it is you value.

Networking is not what you think it is! I’m looking forward to sharing the #BYDN networking framework with entrepreneurs, executives and small business owners as part of Staples (Canada) Spotlight Virtual Event Series on Thursday, July 16.

My #BYDN networking ask!

  1. Subscribe to the Build Your Dream Network podcast on iTunes/Apple Podcasts or Spotify or wherever you listen to your favorite podcasts.
  2. Rate the podcast (5 stars please!) on iTunes/Apple Podcasts (and if you really feel like going crazy, write a review too!).

Subscribing, rating and writing reviews has a big impact, in terms of podcast discoverability by new listeners as well as promotion by podcast platforms. So thank you (in advance) for taking the time to listen to my podcast and for rating/reviewing it. Knowing I have your support truly makes the hustle and grind of creating/marketing/promoting a podcast a whole lot more enjoyable!



J. Kelly Hoey

Design the career you’re destined to have around the relationships you’re building today // Facilitator + Strategic Advisor + Coach + Author