Choosing the career path right for you is one of the most important decisions you will ever take, as it has a significant impact on your happiness, health, and financial standing. This solution can be straightforward if you set up career goals beforehand.

Unfortunately, many people do not know how to manage this process by letting luck define their professional future. As a result, most of them are dissatisfied and disenfranchised.

Let’s take a look at how to define the right career goals for you and improve your career development.

5 Steps to Define a Career Goal

  1. Start with self-assessment
  2. Study the most desirable career goals
  3. Making a decision
  4. Generate as many career opportunities as possible
  5. Seize Your Opportunities – Achieve your chosen career goal

Article content:

  1. Benefits of setting a career goal
  2. Types of career goals
  3. Rules for determining a career goal
  4. Your goal should be as specific as possible
  5. Determine how you will measure success
  6. Check whether the goal is achievable
  7. Your goal must be relevant
  8. Set the start and end date for achieving it

Benefits of setting a career goal

Correctly setting a career goal will give you a framework to achieve that goal and provide you with the opportunity for career development. Determining the right career goal will bring you job satisfaction and significantly reduce your workplace stress.

You can define different career goals related to your particular desire or a particular task or project.

Career Goal Examples:

  • Promotion to a specific position – e.g., Team Leader
  • Completion of a specific project
  • Solving a complicated work problem
  • Improving professional skills
  • Successful change in career development
  • Obtain a specific prize or recognition

Types of career goals

Your career goals should address both your current situation and your longer-term career ambitions.

That is why we look at two types of career goals – short and long term.

Short-term career goals

Short-term career goals are your immediate goals.  Consider them as steps you need to achieve in order to achieve your longer-term goals.  Short-term goals usually exist for a short period of time – from several days and months to one or two years.

Examples of short-term career goals include:

  • Completion of specific tasks or projects
  • Accumulation of specific work experience
  • Completion of specific training courses

Long-term career goals

Long-term career goals are usually the big goals that you need years to achieve.  On the way to achieving them, you should usually use several steps for which you set individual short-term career goals.

Examples of long-term career goals include:

  • Finding a job in a specific professional area.
  • Get a promotion to a certain hierarchical level.
  • Earning a certain amount of money.
  • Achieving job satisfaction.

Rules for defining a career goal

Your career goal must be specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound. These five elements form the so-called framework for creating SMART goals

Your goal should be as specific as possible

Instead of “I want to be good at talking to an audience,” set the following career goal: “I want to make a successful 10-15-minute presentation to an audience of at least 50 people.

Determine how you will measure success

If you want to change your profession from an Accountant to a Marketing expert, take the following steps to achieve it:

  • Acquisition and development of marketing skills
  • Acquiring professional work experience in the field of marketing
  • Plan the completion of specific training courses on a monthly basis
  • Then find and apply for a particular free marketing position.

Check whether the goal is achievable.

If you are currently in your first job as a computer programmer and your career goal is to take a higher position in the same field, set short-term goals that will help you achieve your larger goal within a reasonable timeframe.

If you later find that your goal is unattainable because you have not enough experience, for example, set a new short-term goal – acquiring a specific number of years of professional experience in your current position.

Your goal must be relevant.

Your short-term goals must be in tune with your work values ​​and your long-term career goal. Every specific goal should be meaningful to you and move you closer to the professional you want to be.

To make sure that you have a relevant career goal, answer the questions:

  • How can this step help me achieve what I want?
  • Does achieving this specific goal contributes to achieving my long-term career goals?
  • Why is this goal important to me?

Set the start and end date for achieving it

Setting deadlines for each career goal is crucial for your motivation and for achieving the desired result.

Before setting a goal, examine and take into account all the possible obstacles that might be encountered on the way to achieving it.

For example, if your goal is to be promoted to a managerial position in your current company, set a time limit of 6 months. If you fail to reach your goal during this time, ask yourself why?  Where you too aggressive on the target, where you not ready for a promotion or did no opportunities arise.

You now need to decide if you want to continue pursuing the goal or drop it for a different goal.

Then create a new goal, for example, starting a new job directly in a managerial position in another company.

Plan Ahead For A Career Change

5 Steps to Define a Career Goal

1. Start with self-assessment

Carefully evaluate your individual strengths, preferences, desires, style of work, and financial needs. To do this, it’s important to know who you are and in what profession you want to be. This includes self-assessment of your work values, interests, skills, and personal qualities.

Career profile

Start by reviewing your education and working history. Which training and job positions were the most satisfying for you? What were your most successful roles? List the activities you have done with pleasure and through which you have the greatest impact on a project or task. Which are your best-developed professional skills?  Assess what skills have helped you get here and achieve professional success. Make a list of your most powerful skills that you enjoy and use with pleasure. Finally, list these personal qualities that help you work well and be successful.

2. Study the most desirable career goals

After defining the ten most desirable career opportunities, it’s time to explore them in detail.

  • Research information about the obligations of specific positions.
  • What are the qualifications required for good performance?
  • What problems are faced by employees who occupy the positions?

This information will help you decide whether the specific career goal is right for you.

Read as much as possible about them on online job advertisements, on Google, or on sites of specific employers.  Then try to talk to as many people working as possible. This will give you invaluable “inside” information about reality. Compare all the information found about the ten career options with the list of your interests, skills, and values ​​that you generate during the self-assessment phase.

3. Making a decision

At this point, you should be ready to make an informed decision on what career goal you really care about:

List all known advantages and disadvantages for each possibility.

Rate the options, and prioritize them.

Exclude those career goals that are against your values.

4. Generate as many career opportunities as possible

The next step is to generate as many career opportunities aligned with your career goals as possible.

How do you generate career opportunities:

  • Apply for new jobs internally.
  • Be sure to let your manager know your career goals.
  • Apply for new jobs externally.
  • Always attend work functions, such as parties and celebrations and network.
  • Speak to strangers at work; if they are older than you, they are probably more senior and may have opportunities to offer.
  • Impress at team meetings or cross-functional meetings where hiring managers will see you in action.
  • Join and take part in sporting clubs, where people in your chosen industry might be, e.g., Company charity runs, the company gym or basketball team.
  • Join an industry society or association and attend the meetups and social functions.
  • Join industry-specific meetups
  • Ensure your LinkedIn profile is up to date with references from friends and colleagues.
  • Create your own online presence, webpage, twitter, or Instagram, and add value to your followers about your career targeted in your goals.

5. Seize your opportunity – Achieve your chosen career goal

You already have a specific career goal that you really care about. It is time to take steps to achieve it:

You need to decide that this is what you really want

You need to commit to the decision

You need to give everything you have to achieve the goal, whether it is overtime, curtailing your private life or moving city or even country.


No one ever achieved anything worthwhile without dedication and commitment to achievement.  If it is your number one priority it will happen.

Barry D. Moore 2019

Barry's 25 years of experience with Silicon Valley Corporations such as IBM, Compaq, Hewlett Packard, Hewlett Packard Enterprise & DXC Technology enables him to share his knowledge of succeeding in today's professional corporate environments and develop a great work life for yourself.

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