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“But I Want to Work for One of the Big Four Firms at All Costs!”: The Art of Managing One’s Expectations While Aiming High

Person running on a pavement road.

Anes Benkrid

by Anes Benkrid, 2nd-Year Student in Commerce / Juris Doctor

Would you be able to run a marathon should the urge suddenly arise? If you’ve never followed a training plan to that end before, your answer will most likely be “no”. It takes indeed an average of eight to 10 weeks to prepare physically for such an event. Career goals follow the same logic. Applying for a position at a large firm without considering the required qualifications and relying solely on one’s dreams is like entering a prestigious marathon without ever having run a 5K. With that in mind, let’s look at some steps that will help you pursue your goals in a thoughtful way.

Step 1: Prepare well

By putting together all the winning conditions, you will be able to achieve your most ambitious dreams. Visualize your goal and make it less “vague” by breaking it down into sub-goals: these are the small milestones that will, one by one, allow you to cross the finish line. As in marathon training, set more modest, but measurable targets within a realistic time frame. By setting S.M.A.R.T. goals and keeping in mind your original ambitious goal, you will maximize your chances of success. It is, therefore, possible, even likely, that before you join a large firm, you will have to prove yourself in other organizations for some time. Your first 5K could be a leadership role in a student union or a volunteer position in a charity.

To identify the sub-goals that will serve as steps toward your ambitious goal, book an appointment with the Career Counsellor at the Telfer Career Centre through Career Launch.

Step 2: Aim for one goal at a time

As you can see, rushing into things and taking decisions lightly may not be the best approach. The sub‑goals you have set for yourself are steps toward your final goal. At each stage where you need to make a decision, review your progress and update your sub-goals to reflect new considerations. You may need to modify your training plan to maintain your trajectory. This is not a waste of time! On the contrary, it will bring you emotional and professional balance. Your first 10K could be a summer job with a medium‑sized firm. You may also experience rejections (all runners experience injuries) or develop new interests (some runners take up triathlon!) It is also likely that you will need to acquire some specific skills or knowledge (good runners perfect their technique and educate themselves on nutrition and recovery).

To tailor your job application based on your next career sub-goal, make an appointment with the Professional Development Coordinator at the Telfer Career Centre through Career Launch.

Step 3: Crossing the finish line

With patience, grit, and hard work, you will reach your goal. There may be many obstacles along the way, but what matters is that you overcome them and, most importantly, that you never give up on your dreams.

Even seasoned marathoners have learned to walk before they started running. If your goal is to work for one of the most prestigious firms in your industry, make sure to have a clear roadmap of S.M.A.R.T. milestones first.

Elite runners surround themselves with a competent team (nutritionist, massage therapist, coach, etc.) To achieve an elite position, do the same! Don’t hesitate to visit Career Launch to book an appointment with the Career Counsellor or one of the specialists at the Telfer Career Centre!