The Target Concept

A “target” is positioned as a visual metaphor for finding your optimal career fit.

Throughout your career, you will likely have many targets as your interests change and the dynamics of the world unfold through forces you do not control. Your viability over the long term is predicated by your ability to adapt and find new targets throughout your career.

Narrowing into the bullseye of a target requires exploring the concepts of concentric circles starting from the outermost circle. After you gain a deep perspective in an outer ring, you carry that mental model into the next. The fit strengthens as you move closer to the center.

It’s unlikely to start a career at the center of your ideal target. It’s generally a slow and steady journey from the outmost ring where we develop value skills over time that enables us to move closer to the center.

Finding your target will require exploration and iteration over time. Think of this exercise as a way to establish your mental model that is ever-present to guide your daily actions that optimize career fit and a set of desired outcomes in your life.

In practice, you will likely spend years in each circle gaining skills and adapting how best to deliver value. Reaching the center to call the career shots on your terms is only possible when you have amassed the skills, experience, and credibility in your field. There are no career and life hacks to start in the center. It will require patience, focus, and endurance to reach the center.

In the lectures that follow, I weave together my ideas with those of other strategists that I have referenced in the Resources section. I selected these books given how they have influenced my career strategy thinking over many years.

A Target Metaphor from Data Science

In the world of data science, the goal of supervised optimization algorithms is to best estimate a target function (f) that maps input data (x) onto output variables. A machine learning algorithm called gradient descent (or ascent) takes small, incremental random walks to find a global optimum. That optimum could be to minimize or maximize the output. In the picture above, there are multiple starting points but the algorithm will “hunt” and eventually find the global optima.

Think of your time and energy as the input data. Your mind needs to function as the optimizer to find the type of work that will deliver the maximum output you desire. For example, it could be to maximize compensation or minimize the work you need to do. The “random walks” is your career journey to find the work and conditions that enable you to reach your full potential. You may have become comfortable and think you are operating at your potential, but there will be a new optimum (work opportunity) that produces more impact. Your mission over time is to find that optimal target that given the input of your expertise and energy will deliver the maximum impact. That will require you to make the career transitions and not get complacent to accepting the status quo.