Annual Mandatory Introspection
We recently went through the annual exercise of building yearly goals at work. While most look upon it as an annoying impossibility. Certainly, rolling your hopes, dreams, and personalities into a single document isn't possible. I do try to use it as a useful time to contemplate my professional personality.
A lot of co-workers have an issue where they can't speak of what they want, need, or could be because it feels too much like marketing material. They're trying to woo potential investors to inflate a meaningless stock price, one in a market where they're a small player and, like all markets, perception matters more than reality. They don't want to speak like they're a product on a shelf, because they don't want to feel like a product on a shelf.
Considering career goals can be a lot like formulating brand attributes for a product. In some ways, you do have to find the professional equivalent of tasting great, being less filling, and being loved by 18-35 year-olds. An artificial goal, in an impossible format, using skills practiced only 4 hours a year.
The best way to get through is to remember: if I'm a product, then I'm a product that I really find useful, can easily muster passion about, and use everyday. I have a personality, not just packaging. I have a focus group, and they think I'm pretty "in", particularly when they need someone to help them move. If I know who I am and what I want, I can describe it, even if I have to use a different vocabulary to do it.