Career advice can sound like a broken record at times. You’ve probably heard the same tips reiterated over and over again: “Network, network, network!” or “Create a strong resume!” While these bits of advice are certainly important, they don’t offer much direction for people who are struggling to determine their next steps. That’s where career goals can help.
If you’re feeling lost when it comes to your career, one of the most essential things you can do is set career goals. Career goals give you a target to aim for and help keep you motivated throughout your journey. They also make it easier to identify the steps you need to take in order to reach your ultimate destination.
In this article, we’re going to discuss the importance of career goals and how to set them. We’ll also provide a few tips for staying on track once you’ve created your goals. Let’s get started!
Career goals: what are they?
Goal setting is somewhat of a hot topic in the business world, both for individuals and organizations. The reason for this is that goal setting is a critical component of success. But what are career goals?
Career goals are specific objectives that you want to achieve in your professional life. They can be short-term or long-term, and they should be aligned with your personal values and ambitions. When you set career goals, you are essentially deciding what you want to accomplish in your career.
Did you know?
- A study conducted in 2015 revealed that people who write down their goals are 33% more likely to realize those goals
- Clarifying goals can positively affect the motivation levels of not just the individual, but the workplace as a whole
- 90% of people perform better when they set goals that are both challenging and relevant
Why are career goals important?
There are a few reasons why so much emphasis is placed on career goals. When you know what you’re working towards, you’re more likely to stay motivated and focused on your career.
Career goals also:
- Give you a sense of direction. If you are unsure of where you’re headed career-wise, it can lead to a lot of wasted time and energy. Career goals give you a roadmap for your career so that you always know where you’re going and what you need to do to get there.
- Keep you motivated. It’s easy to get sidetracked in your career, especially if you don’t have any clear goals. But when you have career goals, you always have something to work towards, and this will help keep you motivated throughout your career.
- Help you stay focused. While it can be tempting to take on a lot of different projects in your career, this can lead to a lack of focus. Career goals keep pulling you back to your main project and the things you need to be focusing on most in your career progression.
- Set the trajectory of your career. Your career will go in the direction that your goals point it in. If you want to move up the corporate ladder, then you need to have career goals that reflect this — otherwise, you’re steering the ship without a map!
Needless to say, career goals heavily influence your working life, both in the present and into the future. So how can you set meaningful goals that achieve their objectives?
How to set meaningful and effective career goals
Now that you are aware of the many reasons for setting career goals, it’s time to sit down and write. To set your goals, there are a few questions you should ask yourself first:
- What do you want to achieve in your career?
- What steps do you need to take to get there?
- What are your priorities?
- How much time are you willing to invest in your skills and career development?
- What resources do you have at your disposal?
- What are your skills and strengths?
- What are your weaknesses?
- What is your ideal job?
- What are the most important factors to you in a job?
- What do you want to learn or improve on?
- How can you set realistic goals?
After answering these questions, you will have a better understanding of what your career goals should be.
Writing your goals
In alignment with the SMART goals framework, you’ll want to make sure that your goals are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-bound.
Make sure your goals are clearly defined with a specific outcome in mind. For instance, “I want to be promoted within the next two years” is more specific than “I want to be successful in my career.”
Can your goal be quantified? For instance, “I want to increase my sales by 20% within the next six months” is measurable, while “I want to be more successful” is not.
Can you actually achieve your goal? Make sure it’s realistic and doesn’t require something that’s impossible.
Your goal should be relevant to your career and what you want to achieve. Don’t set a goal just because someone told you to or because it sounds good.
Your goal should have a specific time frame associated with it, otherwise it’s difficult to measure progress and know when you’ve achieved it. “I want to be promoted within the next two years” is a time-bound goal, while “I want to be successful in my career” is not.
So, with this framework in mind, here are some examples of SMART goals:
- I will secure a new job in the next six months that pays $50,000 or more, and I will achieve this by networking with at least 10 professionals in my field every month.
- I will save $2,000 by the end of this year by creating a budget and sticking to it.
- I will earn my MBA within three years by enrolling in a part-time program and maintaining a 3.5 GPA or higher.
- I will read one book on business strategy every month for the next six months.
The above goals are all specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-bound. But not everyone’s goals will fit perfectly into this framework — that’s okay! The key is to make sure that your goals are specific and measurable so that you can track your progress and stay on track.
Achieving your goals successfully
After writing out your goals, the tricky part begins — putting in the hard yards and achieving greatness! The following tips will help you set and reach your goals:
- Make sure your goals are SMART: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-bound.
- Set goals that are challenging yet achievable. If your goals are too easy, you won’t be motivated to achieve them; but if they are too difficult, you will become discouraged and give up.
- Prioritize your goals according to what is most important to you. For example, if you are more concerned with job progression than skill acquisition, arrange your goals to reflect this.
- Make a plan of action and set a timeline for each goal. This will include writing out each goal in specific language and setting a timeframe in which you would like to achieve each of your goals. Remember: these should be reasonable timelines that take your current commitments into account.
- Take action and make progress towards your goals every day. Whether big or small, take a step every single day — all of those efforts will add up in the long run, contributing to your eventual success.
- Get feedback from others to help you assess your progress. Colleagues, friends, superiors, and mentors are all great resources for receiving feedback on how you are progressing. If you are working toward a promotion, asking your boss to be involved in giving feedback will help them to see the effort you are making.
- Celebrate your successes along the way! Goals should be an exciting and fulfilling way to progress, not a daunting process that sucks all your energy down the drain. Acknowledge every little success you make along the way and be proud of yourself.
The best way to achieve your career goals is to take small steps every day and stay focused on what’s important to you. By setting meaningful goals and taking action, you will be one step closer to achieving your dreams.
Career goals are essential for reaching your full potential in life. By setting specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound goals, you can focus your efforts and achieve the success you desire.
To set effective career goals, start by determining what you want to accomplish in your professional life. Next, break these goals down into smaller steps that can be accomplished in a specific timeframe. Finally, make a commitment to yourself to achieve these goals and take actionable steps to reach them.
There’s no rule that says you have to set career goals; in fact, many people go through life without ever giving it a second thought, and end up successful anyway. If those people had taken the time to set goals, however, imagine how much more successful they might have become? We’ll never know — but the chances are well worth the time and effort.