Setting Career Goals

Setting Career Goals: How to Set and Achieve Goals for a Better Career

Setting career goals is essential to your career development and growth. No matter your profession, setting goals can help you focus and have a successful career.

It’s important to set achievable career goals for yourself. Your career has a significant impact on your health, happiness, and financial standing. In this article, we’ll be exploring what a career goal is, short and long-term career goals, and work goal examples that you can use as a guide for setting and achieving your objectives.

What Is a Career Goal?

A career goal is a well-defined objective for the achievements you hope to have throughout your professional life. A good career goal will include steps on how you can achieve it. Having clear goals will help you come up with effective plans of action and achieve every professional milestone on your list. 

Short-Term vs Long-Term Career Goals

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The two basic types of career goals are short-term goals and long-term goals. Short-term goals can be achieved within a year or less. Anything that will take over a year to achieve is considered a long-term goal. 

Short-Term Career Goals

Goal setting is helpful in a career-planning process and short-term goals are an easy way to start. A short-term career goal is something you plan to do soon. It could be in a day, a week, a month, or a year. It should be achievable but very detailed. You should be clear about exactly what you want, when and why you want it, and how to achieve it.

Short-term goals bridge the gap between your current status and your ultimate goal. These goals will help you focus and point you in the right direction. It is best to align your short-term goals with your long-term personal and professional goals. Your short-term and long-term goals should be linked in such a way that the former helps you achieve the latter. 

Short-term goals may seem easy, but they require a lot of hard work and consistency to achieve. If you do not focus on accomplishing them, your broader goals may slip out of reach. 

Short-Term Career Goal Examples

  • Improving a soft skill. Soft skills are skills that impact your professional life. They cover a wide range of traits, from adaptability to teamwork. You can identify the areas you need to improve in and work on them. An example of this could be getting better at public speaking by practicing in front of friends and family.
  • Completing an online course. Online courses are usually taken to improve your personal and professional skills. Online courses make for great, achievable goals because they usually focus on one specific topic and can be completed within a short period of time. 
  • Getting a promotion. Say you want to get promoted within the next three years. You already know that achieving this would require a certain level of dedication from you. The next step would be to make a series of concrete, short-term action steps to ensure that the promotion will be yours in the desired time frame. 

Long-Term Career Goals

Long-term career goals will help you advance your career, but they require time, planning, effort, and dedication. These are goals that you hope to achieve in a few years. Having long-term goals will also help you ace your next job interview since most hiring managers ask job seekers about their career aspirations. 

When it comes to professional development goals, you need to take your time to make a list of relevant things. You also need to be willing to follow all the steps and avoid procrastination.

Long-Term Career Goal Examples

  • Changing your career. Enjoying your job and feeling passionate about what you do is an important aspect of professional growth. Transitioning to a more fulfilling career is a long-term goal that will involve multiple short-term steps, such as learning new skills, updating your resume, or speaking with a career coach. 
  • Building your network. Building a network is a very important career step. You must brand yourself in a way that helps you grow as a professional and improve your personal life. Just be sure that your goal to build your network is realistic and the network is relevant. 
  • Attaining a leadership position. Becoming a leader at work is no small feat. It will require a step-by-step plan to accomplish. You may have to get a certification or degree, gain a deeper knowledge of your industry, or improve your communication skills. These are all relevant and achievable but will require a long timeline and a lot of planning. 

What Is a Realistic Career Goal?

A realistic career goal is an achievable goal. It is great to have goals that challenge you but even better to have a goal that you can reach by following a set plan. If you’re an intern at a law firm, it would be unrealistic to expect to make partners within the year. You would need to go through steps to get you into a position where becoming a partner is realistic.

How to Set Realistic Career Goals and Achieve Them: A Step-by-Step Guide

pen and calendar to do checklist Guide to Setting Your Career Goals
Setting achievable goals increases your chances of success.

While realistic goals will set you up for success, unrealistic goals are a recipe for failure. You need to develop your goals properly to be able to achieve them. Below is a step-by-step guide to help you set realistic goals.

Step 1: Set Clear Goals

Make sure your goals are well outlined and relevant to your final goal. You need to have clear goals that are attainable. Having clear goals will ensure that you don’t abandon them before they can be completed. 

Step 2: Create SMART Goals

Once you have decided on your goals and are certain of them, you want to ensure they meet the SMART criteria. This means your goals should be specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-based. 

  • Specific. When setting a goal, ensure that it is specific. Aim to be as straightforward and detailed as possible. It is one thing to say you want to become a web developer. Much better would be to say you plan to become a web developer who works 30 hours a week and earns $80,000 per year.  
  • Measurable. You should be able to measure the outcome of your goals. If possible, use numbers to define them. That way, you can more easily keep track of your progress. 
  • Attainable. Ensure that the goal is something you can reach. You can be ambitious while staying realistic. 
  • Relevant. A relevant goal should aid your personal growth and career development. It should be something worthwhile and contribute to your long-term goals. 
  • Time-based. Having a clearly defined timeframe will keep you focused and create a sense of urgency. 

Step 3: Create an Action Plan 

You should create a plan of action that tells you exactly what steps to take to accomplish each SMART goal on your list. This builds a bridge between your short-term and long-term goals and helps to cement the goals in your mind.

Step 4: Take Action

Once you have a plan of action, you should adhere to it. Start working through your plan and ensure that every step takes you one step closer to achieving your goals. 

Step 5: Re-Evaluate and Assess Your Progress

To hold yourself accountable, you should have a schedule for your evaluation. It could be weekly, biweekly, or monthly. It’s really up to you. When you evaluate your progress, you should be honest with yourself and make necessary adjustments. This helps to keep you motivated throughout the process. 

Tips to Achieve Your Career Goals

Achieving your goals requires a lot of determination, commitment, and hard work. People sometimes set goals that are too unrealistic and end up feeling discouraged when they don’t achieve them. However, if you set realistic goals and work towards them systematically, you are more likely to have success. 

Writing down your career goals will also increase the likelihood of attaining them. It helps you to think critically about how to achieve them. You can also share your writing with a friend, colleague, career coach, or mentor. This can help you feel challenged and determined to accomplish your goals. 

It also helps to visualize your success. When you envision yourself attaining your end goal, you will think through the steps it takes to get there and imagine yourself overcoming setbacks. At every stage, you should evaluate the next steps and adjust as needed. You should also be flexible and allow room for change as you grow in life. 

Most importantly, be committed to each goal and do not procrastinate. 

Career Goals FAQ

How do you set and achieve your career goals?

You can start by making a career plan, writing down your goals, setting a target, and seeking feedback. It might seem like a lot and, at certain points, you might feel like you cannot keep going, but be persistent. Explore your passions, invest a lot of time in research, and if possible, reward yourself when you meet certain milestones.

What goals should I set for myself at work?

Some examples of work goals are to learn a new tool, earn a professional certification, and publish an article in a professional journal. Some examples of personal career-related goals are to build a professional network, improve your communication skills, and sharpen your public speaking and presentation skills.

What is a career goal statement?

A career goal statement is a written description of your long-term professional objectives that helps you formalize the steps needed to reach your goal. It should be actionable, encouraging, and include specific milestones.

What are examples of a good career goal statement?

A good career goal statement is specific, comprehensive, and concise. If you wanted to become a web developer, for example, you would give yourself a target deadline and list all of the milestones. These might include joining a boot camp, building a portfolio, and staying apprised of developments in the tech industry.
The career goal statement for our hypothetical aspiring web developer might look like this: “My career goal is to become a full-time web developer in two years. To accomplish this, I will enroll in a boot camp to learn web development, build my portfolio, and gain an understanding of the tech industry.”

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