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How Do You Set Career Goals?

There’s no doubt that today’s workplace is challenging. We work longer hours, have more tasks and responsibilities to juggle, and are often expected to achieve results faster than ever before. And yet, one thing hasn’t changed: we still need to set goals for ourselves in order to get ahead in our careers. 

According to mentorcliQ, “Career goals are specific milestones that you can (do) to achieve in your career journey to aid in your professional development. The milestones that you have set are aligned with your chosen profession.”

So how do you make sure your career goals actually happen?

Create a list of career goals.

Now that you’ve thought about the kind of career you want, it’s time to take your list of goals a step further. Use these questions to help shape your goals into a concrete plan:

  • What are your most important career goals?
  • How will you achieve them?
  • What steps do you need to take in order to achieve your goal(s)?

Put your goals into categories.

There are many ways to categorize your goals. Some people like to group them by time frame, such as short-term goals, mid-term goals and long-term goals. Others find it helpful to group their career goals with their financial ones; others still stick with professional or personal categories.

Whatever you choose is up to you—but we do recommend that you use some type of system so that once you’ve collected all of your ideas, they’ll be easier for you to sort through later on down the road when it comes time to prioritize them (and trust us when we say this is a good thing).

Evaluate where you are in your career.

The first step in setting career goals is to evaluate where you are in your current position.

  • Be realistic about your current position. Don’t bite off more than you can chew by setting a goal that’s too ambitious for where you currently stand.
  • Think about what accomplishments you’ve made so far and what strengths and weaknesses those accomplishments show. For example, if your resume has some gaps in it and not as many achievements as other candidates with similar experience, it’s best not to set an incredibly high bar for yourself right out of the gate—that way lies burnout!
  • Consider the long-term vision for your career (or profession). Do this by answering these questions: What do I want out of my job? What kind of person do I want to become professionally? How will these changes help me achieve my personal goals?

Narrow down the list of career goals.

You will want to narrow down the list of career goals. This can be a difficult task, but it is important that you do not overwhelm yourself. Instead of trying to accomplish everything at once, focus on achieving one goal at a time.

For example: If you want to become an engineer and a business owner, those are two separate goals that require different actions and effort to achieve. You could make an outline of what needs to happen in order for each goal (i.e., studying engineering courses) and then start working towards that goal first before working on achieving another career objective (i.e., starting your own business).

Think about how much time you have to reach each goal.

It’s important to distribute your goals according to how much time you have. That’s because different life stages will require different levels of commitment. For example, if you’re in your 20s and starting out in a new career path, it may take longer than five years for you to reach some goals. But if you have more time on your hands (and maybe kids), then setting shorter-term goals is more practical and realistic!

There are also things like job security that come into play here: If I know my company is going through layoffs every few years, it changes how I think about my goals there versus somewhere where I know they’ll be around longer term.

Assess your interests, strengths and weaknesses.

The first step to setting career goals is knowing yourself. Do you have a knack for finances? Do you have a gift for communication? Do you excel in the creative field? All of these things will help determine what kind of work interests you, as well as what skills and attributes are necessary to get there.

This part of the process is important because if you set goals that are too lofty or unrealistic, they can be discouraging when they don’t pan out. Similarly, if your goals aren’t relevant to who you are as a person or what makes sense given your strengths and weaknesses, it’s unlikely that they’ll motivate or inspire – and without motivation and inspiration, achieving any goal becomes difficult at best!

Plan around obstacles that could prevent you from achieving career goals.

So what should you do? You should plan around obstacles.

It’s easy to think that we can work ourselves around the things that stand in our way, but when it comes down to it, there’s a big difference between planning for something and simply hoping for the best.

When you plan around obstacles, you’re acknowledging them and deciding how you will overcome them—or at least how you will react if they do come up.

Let’s say one of your career goals is to become an executive assistant at a large advertising firm like Ogilvy & Mather or DDB Worldwide. If this goal is important enough for you, then make sure your plan includes getting help from someone who has already done this job before (or someone who has done a similar job).

This person can provide advice on how to network with people who know someone at those companies so they might be willing to give an interview when needed!

Draw a line from what you want to do to what you need to do in order to get there.

The first step in setting your career goals is to figure out the steps you need to take in order to achieve them. Think about what skills, education and experience you need in order to reach your goals.

This is important because it helps you clarify exactly what it will take for you to get where you want to go. And once that’s done, think about whether or not this is realistic for someone with your current skill set and experience base. If it isn’t, consider how much time and effort it would take if you were going down this path instead of another one (and then weigh those options against each other).

Finally, make sure the steps are achievable: don’t set yourself up by setting impossible expectations on yourself!

Break big goals into smaller steps.

Now that you’ve got an overall goal in mind, it’s time to take a step back. What does achieving this goal look like? If you’re new to the workforce and trying to get promoted, for example, your big goal might be getting promoted within three years. But breaking down that big goal into smaller steps can help guide you toward making progress on your career goals. For example:

  • Set a one-year target. The first year of your search may be the most challenging because it’s easier to get distracted by other things at work or outside of work than when there are only so many months left until you reach your next milestone (like finishing up an internship). Setting short-term targets like “improve my resume” or “find someone who will critique my resume” will keep you motivated and focused during this stage of career planning.

Use the SMART method for setting goals. Specific, measurable, action-oriented, relevant and time-bound should be the elements of every goal.

SMART goals are specific, measurable, action-oriented, relevant and time-bound. You’ll be able to articulate each of these elements in your goal by using the SMART method.

Example: I will improve my communication skills at work within three months. This goal is specific because it’s stated very clearly. It’s measurable because it has a clear endpoint (three months). It’s action oriented because it makes clear what you plan on doing (improving your communication skills), which gives you something concrete to focus on when establishing goals for yourself. It’s relevant since improving one’s communication skills is always useful both personally and professionally—you’re always better off being able to communicate effectively with others than not being able to do so! This last element—time bound—is self-explanatory; without this part of the equation there would have been no way for me to track my progress towards achieving this goal.”

Be accountable to yourself by telling someone else about your career goals and inviting them to ask you about your progress over time.

To make sure you stay on track, you can even tell someone else your plans, and then ask that person to check in with you over time. This will allow them to be a sort of accountability partner who will help keep you motivated. If they don’t hear from you for a while, they might reach out to see if everything is okay—and then maybe offer advice about how to achieve your goals.

There are ways to make setting and achieving career goals easier for yourself

There are a few things to keep in mind when setting career goals. First, it’s good to start by thinking about what you want for yourself and your business. This can help motivate and guide you as you begin to narrow down the many possibilities of what success might look like for your company or brand.

Second, once you have an idea of what kind of goals are important to pursue in order for your project or business to progress, the next step is figuring out how those goals will be achieved. For example: If one of your career goals is increasing revenue by 10%, then one way that might happen would be through acquiring new clients who will purchase services from your company (and paying well). Another option would be reducing overhead costs while maintaining service quality levels—which could lead directly into higher margins as well!

Thirdly, making sure all these pieces fit together takes effort; however once they do fit together properly they create something magical called energy flow…

With a little planning and self-reflection, you can set goals that work for you. It’s never too late to start making changes in your life—and setting career goals is the perfect place to start. The most important thing is that you take time out of each day to reflect on what’s going well, what isn’t working as well and how you can improve things overall. You might find that this kind of introspection helps keep things in perspective when it comes time for setting new goals!

If you need help with any of your career items, contact us for a customized approach to your needs.

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