A career goal can be seen as personal growth that makes you better in your current position, it can be a point you hope to reach in your chosen profession, or it can even be a turning point in your career, such as a complete change. It is important for each employee or job seeker to clearly define career goals in order to create an effective action plan.

Setting unrealistic goals can lead to frustration. However, this does not mean that one should completely avoid formulating career goals. Because clear career goals are a way to make sure you have something to strive for.

There are two main types of career goals – short-term career goals and long-term career goals. 

Although there is no generally accepted definition of ”short-term” and ”long-term”, we will assume that short-term career goals are goals that can be reached in one year’s time, and everything else will be considered long-term.

4 Most common career goals

Apart from the two main types – long term and short term – career goals can also be sorted into categories depending on their focus.


Goals focused on professional advancement 

These goals are all about improving your business performance and being more efficient; aiming to be better at what you do.


Goals focused on leadership advancement

There is a lot of room for career advancement when it comes to leadership. These goals are about improving your management skills and targeting positions that require more responsibility.


Goals focused on educational advancement 

There is always more to learn. These goals could be about keeping you up to date with new developments in your field or simply learning something new and different.


Goals focused on personal development

These goals place an emphasis on personal growth and skills such as networking. Achieving these has a positive impact on your professional life.

The key to setting career goals that you can truly achieve is to make them SMART:

Specific – target a specific area for improvement.

Measurable – quantify or at least suggest an indicator of progress.

Assignable – specify who will do it.

Realistic – state what results can realistically be achieved, given available resources.

Time-related – specify when the result(s) can be achieved.


Additionally to making your goals SMART, here are a few more ways to make sure you achieve your career development goals:

Write them down. Keep your long-term career goals on hand so you can refresh your memory when needed so they don’t become unclear and blurry.

Visualize them. Create a collage or design a simple motivational poster and hang it on the wall in front of your work desk.

Start small. Setting big professional goals for yourself can feel intimidating and can prevent you from getting started. So break your goals down into smaller steps, starting with something very small that you can accomplish right away.

Answer ”what next”. What will happen when you reach your career goals? What comes after that? Having something even bigger and more meaningful than the goal itself will be the real motivation to keep you going.

If you can’t identify a specific area of interest, you may want to start with a broad career goal. As you gain experience in your current field, plans will begin to appear in your mind and you will want to explore alternative options. Until then, it’s perfectly acceptable to consider multiple ideas and keep your options open.

In this case, you can begin to prepare yourself for all possible options goals. Once that happens, you can define a more focused career goal and actionable personal development plan for yourself. As long as you approach your career planning with the right attitude, the experience you will gain will help you solidify your plans.



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