Setting and Achieving Your Career Goals

Ken ColemanBy Ken Coleman7 Minutes

No matter who you are or what industry you’re in, it’s important to set goals for your career. Career goals keep us moving forward, prevent us from getting stuck or stagnant, and give us something bigger than ourselves to work toward. 

Career goals are short, simple statements that describe how you plan to grow and move forward in your career. They act as a measure of what you plan to achieve — kind of like a promise to yourself. And the great thing about goals is you call the shots. You get to decide what you want your future to look like, then work toward making that vision a reality. 

You might already have an idea of what you want your career to look like long term. Or, you might have no idea where you want to go in your career. That’s okay. The goal-setting process can help you figure it out. If the idea of setting big goals seems overwhelming, don’t let it stress you out. You can break them down into more achievable tasks.

Short-Term Career Goals 

Ideally, your short-term career goals will help you work toward your big-picture, long-term goals. But even if you don’t know what those are yet, you can still set great short-term goals that help move your career forward. Here are a few examples:

  • Get a paycheckI’m not kidding. Sometimes simply having some form of income is our number one goal, and that’s okay. Maybe you quit your job, got laid off, or just need to make ends meet. Do what’s necessary to provide for yourself and your family. Once your situation is more stable, you’ll be able to think more about where you really want your career to go.
  • Clarify what you want to do long termMaybe it’s time to make a mid-life career change or maybe it’s time to figure out your career direction for the first time ever. Once you’re clear on your passions, talents, and professional mission, you can find your career sweet spot and start looking for options in that field.
  • Education, training, and certifications Sometimes you need certain qualifications before pursuing your ideal career field. Your goal might be going back to school for your MBA, completing a coding boot camp, or anything else that increases your career experience and hiring potential.
  • Connect to people and placesMaking genuine connections is an easy short-term goal that can pay off in the long run. You can find plenty of ways to network, even if it’s just by getting to know people at church or volunteering for a company that interests you.
  • Start on a path toward your dream jobA goal of yours could be to get a job that puts you directly on the path to your dream. This might come in the form of a side hustle, part-time job, or entry-level job. But at least it will get you in the door.
  • Get promotedA promotion (along with a pay raise) is an awesome goal. Depending on where you work, this could become a longer-term goal. If it’s early in your career, and you’re really crushing it at a great company, promotions will ideally happen every two to three years.

Long-Term Career Goals 

There are all kinds of long-term career goals. It all depends on what you want your career to look like. Here are a few common examples to get you started:

  • Find your dream jobThis is a goal that could take many years to achieve, but if you’re willing to do what it takes, getting your dream job is possible. If you’ve been working toward this by doing some of the short-term goals mentioned above, you’re already well on your way.
  • Be a leader You don’t have to be in leadership to be a great leader, but you might want to make it a goal to lead a big project or a team. Leading isn’t for everyone, but if you’re willing to put in the hard work and approach it with a servant’s heart, you might surprise yourself.
  • Be impactfulSo many of us don’t want to spend our whole lives just working a J-O-B. We want to know that our work really makes a difference. Whatever that difference is for you, be sure to define it as a concrete goal so you can work toward it.
  • Leave a legacyThis goes hand in hand with making an impact. Think about what you want to be able to give to future generations, whether that’s a legacy of great leadership, a book you’ve written, or a financial inheritance that you can leave for your kids and grandkids. All this can happen because of the career goals you set.

There’s a lot of persistence and patience required, regardless of how big or small the goal. Sometimes it’s hard to find the balance of going after it and making things happen, while also being patient and waiting for the result of your hard work to pay off. But all those things build character.

Keep going. And don’t quit!