Setting short-term and long-term career goals is vital for your future career. As Ted Turner once said, “You should set goals far beyond your reach to allow you to have something to live for.”
We couldn’t agree more. Career goals provide a sense of direction and purpose and allow you to reassess what is and isn’t working.
This article will inspire you to take your professional development to the next level and clarify all you need to know about setting career goals.
(Related: How To Deal With A Toxic Boss).
Why Set Career Goals?
A career goal is a concise statement that describes what you want to accomplish in your career.
Your goals are:
- More than just a job title or position.
- Clear for you – not what somebody else wants you to do.
- Markers to help you take stock of your skills and passions.
- A measurement of your skills.
Your career goals make decision-making easier. You can choose work experience, education, and skills aligned with achieving your professional ambitions.
(Related: How To Resign Without Burning Bridges).
What Is Goal Setting?
Experts define goal setting as clarified objectives to measure achievement. We suggest personalising these and becoming very clear on your bigger vision.
James Clear, the author behind the international bestseller Atomic Habits, takes it a step further by encouraging his audience to think of the kind of pain they wish to choose.
(The pain of change or the pain of staying the same,” as Tony Robbins once said).
James Clear attributes goal setting to the following:
- Sacrifices one needs to develop to achieve the required outcome.
- The rewards you’re striving towards.
- The positive impacts your goals have on the world around you.
Before setting goals, be clear on the “WHY” for each. Not just because you want to “be successful” but why.
(Related: When To Accept A Counter Offer?)
How To Set Your Career Goals In 3 Steps.
There is a range of powerful and proven goal-setting strategies:
1. Explore Your Possibilities & Compare Options.
You should not limit yourself to one field or industry but explore multiple to see which occupations you enjoy the most.
By trying many roles, you will also:
- Save time later in life.
- Save resources and effort in switching roles.
- Clarify a career you find appealing.
Research jobs relating to your field and speak to industry experts about their experience getting started. You can always politely reach out to leaders or career coaches on LinkedIn and ask for advice.
If, for example, you enjoy marketing but are unsure which industry you’d like to be a part of, you could:
- Explore marketing for global non-profit organisations.
- Research marketing roles in government agencies.
- Gain work experience locally in privately owned companies (or in-house).
- Undertake a local internship for a marketing agency.
(Related: How To Become An HR Manager In Australia).
2. Start With Short-Term Goals (Using The SMART Approach).
The widely used SMART method is an acronym for:
- Specific: Your goal should be clear and outline when, how, and why you want to achieve something.
- Measurable: You must outline ways to track your progress towards the goal.
- Achievable: Your goal must be realistic and attainable to succeed.
- Relevant: Your goal should feed into a bigger picture and make sense of your current circumstances.
- Time-bound: You should give specific completion dates for different elements of your goal to keep you motivated.
Short-term goals should take anywhere between one day and one year to accomplish.
Utilising the SMART approach will allow you to progress toward long-term goals in smaller, more achievable steps.
3. Establish Your Long-Term Goals (Using The SMART approach).
You can also utilise the same process to plan your long-term goals. We suggest writing an outline for approximately 3-5 years.
Don’t overcommit yourself to unreasonable and unrealistic goals; this can make you feel like a failure for not achieving them, lose momentum, and your work-life balance may suffer.
For longer-term goals, you can also harness the power of:
- Visualisation: Imagine what it feels like in your body to achieve this goal. Access tips here.
- Vision boards: Collate images and words that inspire you. Utilise platforms such as Canva to make a digital vision board. You can also set these as your desktop wallpaper!
- Letter-writing: Set aside time to write a letter to your future self – in 5 or 10 years. Where will you be, and what would you like yourself to remember?
- Manifesting: Utilise this form of meditation to call in and accept the goals that you are ready to accomplish. You can discover the basics here.
How To Accomplish Your Career Goals Faster.
When it comes to actioning career goals, there are some best practices.
1. Eliminate Competing Goals.
Have you heard of goal competition? You can lose progress with both when goals overlap or compete for your attention.
- Prioritise (in order) your most to least important goals.
- Time-block your days and weeks to work towards them.
- Reduce workload by finishing necessary tasks first.
Burnout is unsustainable and unhealthy. Maximise your energy through proper nutrition, exercise, and sleep to achieve long-term goals.
2. Align Your Environment With Your Goals.
The environment you are in can significantly impact your ability to accomplish your goals. Scientists have coined the term choice architecture.
For this reason, libraries are designed to be quiet and distraction-free.
In digital and multi-sensory environments (workplaces), we are constantly surrounded by distractions. Our tips:
- Choose a quiet workspace.
- Ensure the temperature is comfortable.
- Switch your phone onto “Do Not Disturb” for chosen hours of the day.
- Log out of social media to reduce the temptation to check notifications.
- Tell friends and colleagues you are unavailable during work hours.
You can also revamp your environment with simple visual cues to inspire your goals. We suggest:
- Post-It Note Reminders: Place on your laptop and desk to stop checking your social media.
- Affirmations: Write mantras or a positive message on your work desktop.
3. Measure Your Goals And Results.
Measuring your success is necessary to ensure you hit your career goals.
Numbers do not lie; we can only understand our progress and highlight room for improvement when we track our growth.
Simple questions to ask yourself (on a weekly, monthly, or sometimes even daily basis):
- Are your skills improving?
- Are you moving closer towards your goal?
- Are you showing up for classes?
- Are you honing your skills with extra-curricular activities?
- Are you networking with successful industry experts?
- Have you approached a mentor?
- Is your email outreach at its best quality and maximum capacity?
Once you reach a level you are happy with, it is time to set a new short-term goal.
Transform Your Career With Effective Goal Setting.
Setting career goals is essential for many reasons:
- You clarify what you want to do in your professional life.
- You plan for required skills and personal growth.
- You remain motivated and focused.
There are many ways that people set short and long-term career goals, and you will need to find a process that works for you.
Breaking significant SMART goals into bite-sized steps and constantly refining these are key.
Outlining career goals (and even an ultimate goal) that are authentic and inspiring for you is essential. Setting goals is the first half, but the other half demands you consistently work hard to achieve them.