Making Your Mark

We often hear about the importance of goal setting, and I’m sure you’ve all heard the classic “1,3,5, 10-year goal rule.” Setting attainable goals is vital to professional development, and without goals, we can end up wandering aimlessly through a job or task. In our last discussion, we covered the concept of “staying fresh” in your field, and various methods and strategies you may employ to get and stay ahead at the job. In this segment, we will zoom out a bit, and look at the longer term, as opposed to the tactical short term as we discussed.

Long term planning is extremely important, and without major milestones being set, our tactical, short term “staying fresh” objectives can be convoluted. Part of the goal-settings aim is to uncoil those issues and set you up for success that can be measured. When setting goals, I usually start with my furthest goal and roll back up to my short term. Starting with a 10-year objective allows you to set a waypoint, figure out the general idea of where you want to be, and help you plan your route backward from that goal.

For example: My personal 10-year goal is to either be a director-level leader or have my own IT consulting firm. Giving myself two similar options, with very different paths gives me flexibility as I work my way back to the 1-year goal.

My 5-year goal is to be a managing consultant with the tools and skills capable of launching my own firm if I choose to.

My 1 and 3-year goals consist of attaining certifications, experience and getting myself on track for management.

With these huge waypoints set, I am able to focus on my short-term goals. For my first year, I know I must pursue the CCSK, CISSP and possibly PMP. These long-term waypoints can now have tactical action items set in line. My suggestion is to start very broad, think of an idea that interests you, or a position that you’d like to be in within 10 years. Make your mark based on skills you have currently, or that you PLAN on having in the near future. Consider taking a peek at job postings and requirements for the position you want ten years down the line, as I’ve alluded to in past blogs. If you’ve been following my posts, you’ll know I like lists, so here is one to help guide you as you make long term goals:

  • Start with that 10 year goal, choose several job or status ideas/options
  • Set your 5-year goal to have the skills and network strong enough to support that move
  • Set your 3-year goal to have the certificates and skills necessary to easily walk into the job needed at 5 years
  • Set your 1-year goal as an attainable milestone, such as finishing education, training or other career challenges

As you begin to flesh out those milestones with tactical goals, you will avoid wasting time with tasks that do not support your end-goals. DO NOT WASTE TIME. I can’t stress that enough. If your 1-year goal includes graduating with your degree, don’t waste time with classes that do not give you credit toward graduation. Part of making your mark is making moves that make sense and don’t detract from your progress.

I’d like to take it a step further and do a mini-lab within this blog:


Let’s call this a thought experiment: We are going to have you select a role or status that you’d like to have in 10 years and work backward from there, including tactical goals and smaller milestones. I’ll be selecting one main idea, and working backward, but feel free to plug in your own ideas as we go.

10 Year Goal – I will be: The director of the Cyber Security Practice at my organization

Tactical Goal 1 – Develop and maintain a network of other directors in the industry, and my organization

Tactical Goal 2 – Attain PMP and CRISC

5 Year Goal A I will be: Managing consultant or equivalent

Tactical Goal 1 – Attain CCSK

Tactical Goal 2 – Gain 2 more years of experience in current role

3 Year Goal – I will be qualified to be a managing consultant, possibly early, moving my goal up

Tactical Goal 1 – Attain CISSP

Tactical Goal 2 – Obtain Security+, Network+ and complete 100 audits in current role.

1 Year Goal – Complete training/education/base certifications

Tactical Goal – Focus all efforts on meeting my 1-year goal, depending on what I need.

This thought exercise should help you map out your own path.

By: Patrick Ibrahim