Achievable Career Goals
Updated 30 October 2020
What Are Career Goals?
Career goals are the targets you set yourself for achieving what you want in your career.
They can be set by you, or together with your employer. They should facilitate your career strategy.
Studies show that those who create goals and regularly check and update them are more likely to succeed in their targeted areas.
However, most goals we set often get neglected or abandoned. We have all undoubtedly made many New Years Resolutions, only to give up on them a couple of weeks later. This is because the goals are not specific enough or they are too unrealistic.
The Importance of Achievable Career Goals
If you want to excel in your career, then setting goals is imperative.
Goals help us:
But it isn't as simple as 'I want to be a millionaire' or 'I want to be the manager'. Those are statements. Your goals are the steps you take to become those things.
For those goals to be motivating, they need to be S.M.A.R.T.
- S – Specific
- M – Measurable
- A – Achievable
- R – Realistic
- T – Have a time frame
Writing goals in this format gives you a deadline for a specific task. The smaller and more achievable a goal is, the more likely you are to be motivated to complete it.
What Are the Different Types of Goals?
Goals are categorized into four groups. These groups allow us to see the bigger picture and the small steps we need to take to get there:
Lifetime goals – These are your big, grand aspirations and usually refer to achievements at least ten years away. For example, the age you want to retire or your financial situation at age 55.
Long-term goals – These goals are typically what you want to achieve over the next five to ten years.
Short-term goals – Though they are called short-term, they could be anything from a month to a year to five years. They are the steps to help you achieve your long-term goals.
Stepping-stone goals – These are the daily or weekly tasks that take you one step closer to your short-term goals.
How to Set Career Goals
Now you know the format your goals need to be in (S.M.A.R.T) and the types of goals that exist, you can create your goals in relation to your career plan.
Start with your lifetime goals:
- When do you want to retire?
- How are you going to retire at that age?
- What money will you use to fund your retirement?
- If you are retiring overseas, what documents, approvals and living situation do you need?
Next, identify the long-term goals that will lead to your lifetime goals:
- Do you need your own business with X amount of money in the bank?
- Do you want to work your way up through an organization?
- How much money do you want to be earning by the time you are 45/40/35?
Once you have those goals clearly defined, it's time for the short-term goals.
As previously stated, these are not always achievable over a short timeframe. Earning a degree is a short-term goal, and it takes three years to complete.
Defining your short-term goals may take some time.
Think longer short-term goals first, such as degrees, postgraduate degrees and promotions to managerial levels. Then decide on the shorter short-term goals that facilitate those.
Eventually, you will reach your stepping-stone goals. You can decide these on a daily/weekly/monthly basis or once a goal is complete.
Do not overlook the importance of stepping-stone goals. These are the goals that give you regular successes and the motivation to keep going.
If you have high ambitions, then you need to be achieving your targets daily.
10 Examples of Achievable Career Goals
To get you going, here are 10 examples of the types of achievable career goals you could set yourself.
They are all adaptable, depending on your current position.
1. Update My Career Plan
Depending on your job and industry, updating your career plan once a year or every six months may be enough. For others, it could be seasonally or at the end of every quarter.
For freelancers and entrepreneurs, assessing your career goals at the end of every quarter allows you to see your financial situation and what needs to be done to grow your business.
For those working in organizations, it is suggested that you update every six months, starting from the date of your most recent promotion or pay rise. This enables you a full year to improve yourself before the next potential pay rise/promotion, with a mid-way evaluation point.
Lifetime goals should be assessed and adapted every five years.
2. Learn Something New
This could be a new language to make you a candidate for a position at an overseas location. It may also include an education qualification like a diploma or an MBA.
Depending on your lifetime and long-term goals, this short-term goal should play a key role in taking you closer.
A S.M.A.R.T goal example for this would be:
Enroll in program X by 2022
Pass the Level 1 assessment for learning French by February 2021
Continuously improving your level of education not only helps with career advancement but it keeps your brain engaged.
It is very easy to get stuck doing the same tasks or keeping the same routine. Starting a new course gives your mind a good dose of motivation.
3. Set up LinkedIn and Network More
Social media has become the place to meet people – especially for digital nomads.
Over the past few years, LinkedIn has grown in popularity, making it an exciting platform to network on.
If your job role requires you to have a network of people, then setting these goals can help you achieve that.
The long-term goal is:
Establish myself on LinkedIn and make meaningful connections via the platform
The short-term goal is:
Increase interaction by 15% and build my connection list by 50 (actual connection, not random) by the end of the month
Your stepping-stones goals are:
- Set up a LinkedIn profile by Sunday night
- Dedicate thirty minutes in the evening to networking on LinkedIn
- Make three meaningful connections by the end of the week
4. Improve Communication Skills
Communicating is arguably the most valuable key skill as it relates to teamwork, your understanding of culture and how you interact with people.
A goal for improving this skill could be:
Improve communication skills by volunteering at the homeless shelter twice a week
Another example is:
Improve communication skills by talking to someone new during my lunch break at least once a week
Not only is this a career goal, but it is also a personal development goal.
Taking a personality test is a stepping-stone goal that will help you to understand how you communicate and what areas you can develop.
5. Look for a New Job
Is your current job fulfilling? Does it meet the standards you have set for yourself? How come you haven't been promoted yet? Does this organization work with your life goals and values?
There are some benefits to staying with the same organization. But if the role is not propelling you towards your long-term goals, you need to start looking for other options.
S.M.A.R.T goals for achieving this could be:
Research the current job market for my role by the end of the week to see if it is a growing role with plenty of opportunities or if it is in decline
Look at job adverts for the position I want and determine what skills I am missing or need to develop by the end of the day
Update resume by Wednesday night
6. Get Leadership Experience
As you move up in your career, leadership becomes more important. If your long-term goal is to become a manager or start your own business with the intention of employing people, then you will need to master leadership.
What can you do to achieve this? Are there any courses you can take? Does the organization you work for offer any training? Can you work as a team leader for a week?
A goal example would be:
Gain leadership experience by working as a team leader for the first week of December
You then need to decide on the stepping-stone goals to make that possible.
7. Understand Your Industry and Competitors
Confidently being able to identify all your organization's competitors, their current performance and the industry as a whole is a powerful career goal.
If you have your own business, this will tell you where your strengths and weaknesses lie. If you are employed, this knowledge will greatly impress your employer as it shows initiative and a passion for the role.
The overall goal is to understand our industry and competitors, but the stepping-stones goals are:
Identify five key competitors and their current financial performance by the next team meeting
Complete a swot analysis on the industry I work in and identify three ways to improve efficiency by the next office meeting
8. Get an Internship
Gaining experience is invaluable, and as a college student, internships are fundamental to your career development.
Your goal could be:
Secure an internship at a boutique marketing agency by Spring Break
More information on internships and why you should consider one is available in our article 'Why Take an Internship?'
9. Start Your Own Business
Having your own business is a very desirable and rewarding life goal. Finalize your life goals and break it down into smaller goals until you have a manageable set of stepping-stone and short-term goals.
Starting your own business takes a lot of sacrifice and dedication. You need to be committed to your goals, and you need to make sure that they are attainable.
Hiring a business coach is a goal that not only makes you accountable to someone but can help you create the right goals.
10. Learn About New Technology
It is no secret that the world is becoming more technologically dependant. Make it a goal to learn about a new technology, software programs or to code.
To ensure this, a career orientated goal is:
Find out what programs and tech my desired job role uses
If they are thinking of upgrading a system, volunteer to learn about the new one.
Without goals, it isn't easy to see where you are going.
For some, goal-setting a natural process, and ticking off everything achieved is immensely satisfying.
For others, writing down goals is simple enough, but it's hard to find the discipline to see them through.
If this is the case with you, make the goals smaller until you build momentum.
- Set S.M.A.R.T goals
- Revisit your goals regularly
- Update and adapt goals as circumstances change
- Never give up
If you need any help or guidance with your career goals, explore the resources available to you – job centers, career advisors, managers or HR.
They can all offer insight into what goals are realistic and what options are not.
Goals only work if they are achievable, but they should also push you to work hard so you can live the life you want, your way.