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What are Your Career Goals? A Smart Guide on Setting and Achieving Them

Setting goals is a good way for us to see the big picture of what we want our future to look like. This also helps us determine the steps we need to take to get there. Likewise, professionals take time to set career goals for their professional development.

How about you? What are your career goals? Are they precise? Have you grouped them into short-term and long-term ones? What if a job interviewer asks you about your career dreams? Are you ready to answer the question? We created this guide to help you with your career goals—and beyond.

Defining Career Goals

These are specific statements that explain what kind of profession you intend to pursue throughout your career. As you write your own, make sure you define your career goals as detailed as possible. Doing this will help you craft a realistic action plan to achieve your goal.

You may also think of your career goals as the milestones you aim to hit as you go along with your profession. This way, you get the idea that you have something to look forward to while working on your career growth, making you more committed.

However, goal-setting can be tedious if you don’t know where to start. Therefore, let’s break them down into two main types. We’ll also list practical tips to help you set achievable career goals. Read on!

writing career goals on paper

Differences Between Short-Term and Long-Term Career Goals

Having an idea of what path you can follow lets you avoid being aimless, and makes your journey even more worthwhile. Though you can’t see what the future holds, the least you can do is to ensure you’re taking the necessary steps toward the kind of life—and career—you want to achieve.

This is why you must know how to set different kinds of career goals to help you achieve them wisely. Some goals can be met in shorter time periods, while others are reserved for the long term.

To put it simply, short-term goals are those you can achieve in less than 3 years. In contrast, it’ll take you 3 to 5 years or more to achieve long-term goals.

Review these samples as your guide in creating your own.

Short-Term Career Goals

  • Improve performance metrics
  • Earn a degree, diploma, or certificate
  • Change careers
  • Network
  • Enhance communication skills
  • Improve work productivity
  • Build on new professional skills
  • Create a personal website or build personal branding
  • Start working on a project
  • Build a reading habit

Long-Term Career Goals

  • Become a thought leader
  • Get the dream job
  • Earn a promotion leading to the dream job
  • Gain management experience and hone leadership skills
  • Establish or grow a business
  • Increase salary
  • Be a certified professional
  • Have work published or recognized on a national or global scale
  • Achieve a healthy work-life balance
  • Work on soft skills for professional advancement
woman organizing her plans on her calendar

How to Set Career Goals

Now that you know what a career goal is and how you can tell which ones are short-term and long-term, it’s time for you to dig into the more important part of goal-setting: the process itself. You can follow these guidelines to help you formulate SMART goals!

1. Specific

It’s tempting to set a goal as simple as you want to, but making it more specific lets you see how much you need to do to achieve it. You have to be clear on what successful means to you, as this may differ from one person to another.

2. Measurable

Coming up with a way to gauge your results is another way to ensure a SMART goal. Key metrics including timeframe, performance rates, and other data help give you an objective look at how far you are from reaching your career goals.

3. Achievable

With your resources and key metrics, are you setting goals that are realistic to achieve? It’s great if you’ve already laid out your short-term and long-term goals; but you can always review them. Filter and categorize them so it’ll be easier for you to prioritize. Likewise, this step allows you to revise those goals you’ve set that you think are too broad or unimportant.

4. Relevant

It’s crucial that your career goals are aligned to your big picture. Your goals will define your action plans, so make sure you’re working on those that can help you move closer to reaching them.

5. Time-Bound

Put your career goals in a calendar or dream board. Set deadlines for each goal. Then, break them down into smaller steps leading to bigger ones. What’s vital is that you set a schedule so you can keep track of your progress.

Actionable Tips in Achieving Your Career Goals

Hard work, paired with consistency, plays a key role in your success. To complement your efforts, it’s best to heed these careful steps as you start setting and achieving your career goals.

1. Train your mind.

Many professionals are able to improve their craft and map out their goals. What sets them apart is their mindset. Your willingness and hard work will be wasted if you don’t believe in yourself and you lack the proper preparation. It can also help if you begin with your end goal in mind.

2. Write them down!

Whether you prefer to have on your phone, computer, or paper, writing your career goals down is an effective practice. Doing this lets you remember them more and hold yourself accountable for achieving them. You can also choose to put your notes where you can easily see them to serve as your reminder when you feel lost or challenged throughout your journey.

3. Be SMART.

With the SMART goal-setting technique discussed earlier, make sure that those 5 metrics are met for every goal that you create. These will be a great help for you to ensure you’re on track, and the greater likelihood of you achieving your goals.

4. Ask for help.

Since this is about your career, you would most likely need help from others such as your manager, leader, colleagues, friends, and family. If you can keep them on the loop of what you aim to achieve, they can offer different kinds of support you need. Whether you require professional help and guidance from your mentors and colleagues, or emotional and moral support from your friends and family; they play a vital role in helping you achieve your career goals in the long run.

job interviewer asks what the applicant's career goals are

Answering “What are Your Career Goals?” in an Interview

One of the most common job interview questions is related to what you want to achieve in your career. To better guide you, check out these more specific guides on how you should answer this job interview question effectively.

Mistakes to avoid when answering “What are Your Career Goals?”

  • Stating goals that are irrelevant to the job you’re applying for: When faced with a recruiter or a hiring manager, you would want to avoid this mistake. Remember, they’d very much be inclined to consider applicants whose aspirations will help them relate to the future of the company.
  • Stating goals that aren’t realistic: Having a sense of confidence during a job interview is a must, but that doesn’t mean you can overdo it. Instead, being able to have clear, achievable goals lets the interviewer see you as someone who’s grounded yet ambitious.

How to answer the interview question “What are Your Career Goals?”

  • Start with your short-term goals. Break them down into smaller, more practical steps so that you can come up with a clear outline on how you can achieve them.
  • As much as possible, align your goals with the job you’re interviewing for and how these can help you add value to the company.
  • State long-term goals without getting too detailed. This will let the hiring manager or recruiter see that you’re allowing some flexibility in your career which is crucial in adjusting your goals as you move forward.

With all these, arming yourself with the other effective job interview tips will surely help you ace your job search and bring you one step closer to your goals.

Aligning Your Job Search to Your Career Goals

As you embark on your job hunt, who says you can’t start as early as now to take steps in setting and achieving your dreams? In fact, aligning your job search efforts to your professional goals can help you fast-track your progress.

With that, start with your job search tools! Ensure that your goals as a career person are evident on your application so that you can land a job at a company that’s right for you. Have you recently checked your resume? Is it effective enough to show your competencies?

With all the pressure you’re experiencing as you juggle various job search tasks, you might be missing out on great ways how you can write a powerful resume to help you land your job.

Don’t worry, Resume Valley is here! Hire our resume writing services and let our experts align your resume to your career goals.

You may also check out more of our related resources! Browse our career development tips and work resources to help you reach your dreams in no time.

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