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Setting Big Career Goals? 6 Proven Tips From a Seasoned Veteran Trailblazer

Trailblazer David Nava in his golden hoodie stood next to Military Astro.
Discover what Trailblazer and ex-Naval Flight Officer, David Nava, learned about what it takes to make career goals a reality.

No matter your career path, goal-setting is key to achieving your biggest aspirations. Use these six tips to help you reach your most meaningful career goals.

After retiring from 20 years of military service as a naval flight officer, it was time to set my sights on a new journey: a career in the Salesforce ecosystem. When I heard about Salesforce from a LinkedIn connection, I used the power of goal-setting to build my Salesforce career path.

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Today, I’m a lead solution engineer at Salesforce, a Golden Hoodie recipient, and an All Star Ranger with more than 2,100 badges. There’s no end in sight to my learning journey. Along the way, I learned a lot about what it takes to make career goals a reality.

Here are my top six tips for goal-setting success.

1. Dream big

A few years ago, I listed my top career goals for the following year on a LinkedIn post. I asked others to share their goals for the next year, too. My goals, which probably seemed audacious to some at the time, included obtaining multiple Salesforce Certifications, earning hundreds of Trailhead badges and superbadges, and, most importantly, finding a job in the Salesforce ecosystem.

I not only achieved my career goals. I surpassed them.

In 18 months, I discovered Salesforce, earned six certifications, achieved All Star Ranger status on Trailhead—Salesforce’s free online learning platform—with 10 superbadges, and was hired as a solution architect by a highly-regarded consulting firm.

Dream big, work hard, and you can achieve anything in the Salesforce ecosystem.

After a year, Salesforce reached out and I was eventually hired as a senior solutions consultant. I’ve been promoted twice since then—first to senior solution engineer, then to lead solution engineer. And I was recently awarded the coveted Golden Hoodie.

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2. Learn, earn, repeat

Once you have your big career goals, it’s time to work on achieving them. I know it may seem daunting at first. Finding myself a year before my military retirement with no job prospects, despite my years of preparation, left me feeling defeated and dejected.

But when I heard about Salesforce and discovered Trailhead, I was hooked! One badge turned into five and quickly became 10, then 100 in just a few short months. I poured all my free time, energy, and heart into learning how to be a system administrator.

I became a 2x, 3x, then 4x Ranger, and am now an All-Star Ranger. There was no stopping me. I would get up at 3:30 AM every day (weekends, too) to jump on Trailhead and skill up for my future career.

I even used the Build Your Personal Portfolio Trailhead project to create my online resume.

Showcasing my work experience and professional background, the project also demonstrates my technical proficiency on the platform.

It’s a win-win and helped me get hired as a solution engineer!

I’ve earned 14 certifications, including Salesforce Certified Administrator, Platform Developer I, and Application Architect. Each time I achieve my latest goals, I immediately set new ones. I’ll never stop challenging myself to learn and succeed.

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3. Share resources

The Trailblazer Community is a community of giving, and I’m inspired to give back.

Helping Trailblazers develop a strong understanding of the Salesforce Platform strengthens the Trailblazer Community and, in this way, everyone benefits. Plus, it just feels good to give back.

I want others looking for challenging roles in the tech industry to benefit from the same free resources that helped me get started. So, I introduced 100 people to Trailhead, honoring those who helped me and justifying their contributions to my professional growth.

Favorite trails I’ve shared are the Admin Beginner, Admin Intermediate, and Admin Advanced to help build a solid knowledge base for the platform. I also like the Apex Basics for Admins and SOQL for Admins modules because they take an admin’s skills to the next level and help unlock new abilities.

4. Find your people

When I joined the Trailblazer Community, I learned about Salesforce Military. They provided me with free course and exam vouchers and assistance navigating the Salesforce employment process. Plus, Merivis provided me with high-quality Salesforce training and education through its training program, open to all service members, veterans, and their spouses.

This guidance was pivotal in helping me earn the Admin and Platform App Builder credentials. But they didn’t stop there. They brought me on as a volunteer consultant and permitted me to develop declarative solutions for their org. And they welcomed me into their alumni family.

It was only with the help of my professional family that I’ve been able to get to this point in my career.

Whatever your challenge, whatever your chosen path within the ecosystem, there are Trailblazers who are more than willing to help you succeed. Find and leverage their support.

So take advantage of the tremendous resources available within the Trailblazer Community: the people. They are among the most dedicated, motivated, talented, and generous people I’ve ever known.

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A group of 9 Trailblazer all sporting their iconic black Trailblazer hoodies.

5. Teach to learn

With Trailhead, I quickly found that the best way to learn a skill was to teach it to someone else. So I began volunteering for FourBlock as their sole system admin. It was both exhilarating and terrifying. What if I messed up their data? What if I couldn’t answer a user’s question?

But I persevered. I trained my users in Salesforce by creating numerous videos and presentations as well as hosting weekly web calls to demonstrate Salesforce functionality and answer questions. And I got better. So much so that FourBlock presented me with their Volunteer of the Year award at their annual gala in New York City.

Today, I’m proud to serve as a contributor for Military Trailblazer Office Hours. Initially one weekly meeting, Military Trailblazer Office Hours now include three content-packed sessions every week. There are more than 100 videos, including career path explorations, career transition resources, branding tips, expert technical advice, and partner company spotlights.

We also cover niche but important topics that don’t get much coverage in other venues, like mitigating gaps in employment when taking a professional pause to care for your family. It’s truly a collaborative mentorship environment where Trailblazers learn, grow, and connect.

6. Mentor others

I also extend my passion for teaching others by serving as a mentor. By dedicating several hours each month, I can personally mentor veterans and their spouses who are interested in joining the Salesforce ecosystem.

Mentorship opportunities also exist internally at Salesforce. I meet with Salesforce employees interested in transitioning to the Solution Engineer role. It’s a joy to be able to get them excited about the creative possibilities that this role brings to life.

I’m also a volunteer on Merivis’ Alumni Advisory Board and have been a mentor for Supermums, a nonprofit that helps moms and dads re-entering the workforce. This goal signifies my commitment to improving my mentoring skills, which helped me become a more accomplished learner and teacher.

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Ready, set, goal!

Goal-setting is a continuous process. Once you achieve what you set out to do, it’s time to set new goals.

Finding others who inspire you to push yourself further helps. I’m forever chasing Jennifer Lee, a former Salesforce MVP, fellow Salesforce employee, Flow expert, and 16x Ranger. She initially inspired me to become a Ranger and was one of the awesome people in my Boston Salesforce Saturday group.

When you’re able, give that support back to another Trailblazer. Continue the cycle of help and encouragement and further strengthen the community.

Now go goal-set, Trailblazer!

Check out my favorite resources:

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David Nava Lead Solution Engineer

David served in the United States Navy for 20 years, retiring in 2019. During his military transition, he discovered Salesforce and found that it ignited his passion for problem solving and critical thinking. David is currently a 14x certified Lead Solution Engineer on the Global Public Sector Department of Defense team at Salesforce. His commitment to mentorship led him to create Military Trailblazer (Career/Branding) Office Hours, a collaborative mentorship forum and supportive community, which earned him the Golden Hoodie award in 2022.

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