How To Set Career Goals And Achieve Them | Step-by-Step Guide

Setting career goals is essential to achieving success in your chosen field. Whether you are comfortable working in a small firm or a large conglomerate, having adequate knowledge of the right career goals and the steps to get there will help you to get there indeed.

All you need to set your career goals are basic, yet vital principles that have been proven to be effective by successful people.

Applying the same principles will help you to achieve the same success, though in a different dimension. Never mind, they are clear and actionable and so, wouldn’t be difficult to implement.

To help you figure out what your career goals are and be able to channel your energy accordingly, we have compiled this article for you. Before we continue, let’s define what a career goal is.

Table of contents

What Is A Career Goal?

Defining a career goal in its simplest form is to ask a child what he or she would like to be in the future.

The same energy you used when you were young to tell everyone about your career goals should be used to convince your interviewer that you have all it takes to land that job. But then, you need to know what your goals are.

Your career goals should be seen as the target you set regarding your career. Everything, ranging from your job position to happenings around your career life that would help you to achieve a successful career, are your career goals.

They could be short-term goals like getting a certification for a specific skill or long term like becoming a top executive of a multinational corporation. They are what you focus your attention on while working your way to the top.

They guide the directions you follow and every activity surrounding your career must be aimed to achieve the career goals.

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Why You Should Set Career Goals

Setting career goals is crucial since it provides you with a framework for achieving your objectives. It’s a good start to want to do or finish specific things in life. Setting goals gives you a roadmap to follow in order to achieve them. Short-term and long-term goals are the two types of objectives to examine.

It is important to set career goals for so many reasons. One thing is that it is necessary to look ahead in your career, no matter the point in time. Reflecting on your career helps you to know where you are and where you are heading to. Finally, ensure to weigh your progress. 

Perhaps, you are one of those people who don’t see the need to set goals for their careers or they don’t have time to articulate everything, you may have to change your mind. Without much ado, let’s see other ways you can benefit from setting career goals.

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1. It helps you to achieve greater focus and peace of mind

When you have a clear objective of what you are working towards, you will be able to focus on them and avoid unnecessary distractions. Since you are focused, it is easier to identify what’s not working and know when you are deviating from the goals.

When you identify what is not working, you can then, look for ways to put everything in order like finding a career coach or skilling up to measure up. Moreover, every one of your actions will be directed towards achieving your goals.

In the end, you will find more satisfaction in your career, and that’s what matters the most.

2. You can make effective use of your time

Setting your career goals helps you to maximize your time. Since you already know what should be done, all you need to do is to allocate the right time to it and focus on other important things as well. But when you lack clarity, you will keep doing the wrong things and arriving at your destination almost empty and late.

That is not all. We all love to balance out when it comes to work and life. But not everyone can do it. What makes the difference is the allocation of time for important things. So, setting career goals helps you to be in charge of your time.

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3. It helps you to easily communicate with others

Since you know what you want and are set to achieve them, you can easily communicate it to those around you. It could mean updating your family at the dinner table or during a weekend hangout with friends. As a result, they can chip in one piece of advice or another and offer assistance where they can.  

In case you are one person who does not like to share what they are up to, you might reconsider your decision. Friends and family will always be there for us. Identify the ones that would always support your dreams.

4. It makes you more responsible

Once you define your goals, you have set a record for your success. All you need is to work towards the set goals. To this end, you will try your best to caution yourself out of anything that is unproductive. How else can you live a responsible life if you cannot set goals and achieve them? Even your employer would notice the new you and when it happens, promotion is inevitable.

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Examples of Career Goals

Shortterm examples

1. Gain a new skill

Time is past when one skill will keep a person in a job for long. Now, for you to make waves in your industry, you must possess several skills and perform excellently in them. Besides, it’s not just about the new skills, it’s about their relevance to your career. If you acquire the wrong skills, they are not going to make any difference in your career. That is why you need to be focused so that you can identify the best blend of skills for your career. In essence, the skills must fall under professional development skills.

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2. Foster your networking capabilities

Networking with other people is part of your career goals. It is not about knowing so many people, it is about having social skills that would make you interact intelligently with them and learn much about a range of topics. You can start with people surrounding you. From there, you can gain the confidence to network with others outside your click. Networking is one way of opening doors to opportunities abounding in the industry.

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3. Intern with a big firm to gain experience

Internship opportunities abound. However, you must not focus on the financial gain before choosing the company to intern with.

What you should be more concerned about is how much growth you can amass by interning with the company. Whether you are a fresh graduate or you are planning to change a career, an internship is an option you should not ignore.

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4. Improve your productivity

We all want to gain much within a short time. However, only a few people are willing to pay the price. Being more productive has to do with working smarter rather than working harder. You could leverage tech skills to work smarter. If you would love to know, no employer ignores an employee with sound tech skills.

Long term examples

1. Earn a degree or certification

You can never be relevant in your organization if you keep working with your first degree. You need to acquire advanced degrees and certifications to increase your knowledge base. While gaining these does not mean you are much better than others, focusing on what you need to learn will give you more confidence. Thus, increase your knowledge and skills, while aiming to the top.

2. Change your career

When you no longer feel yourself in your current career, it’s evidence that you need to make a career switch. It’s not bad to maintain one career all your life. However, since our tastes change over time, you might discover that your current career has exhausted you, taking away your happiness too. Earning a degree or certification can be the best bet for you to switch your career. What’s more important is the reward that comes with your decision.

3. Upgrade your skills

Like we pointed out, you can maintain one career all your professional life. However, to remain relevant in your career, you must constantly upgrade your skills. That is why it is a long-term goal. You can never be ‘over-skillful’. So, whatever you can do to upgrade your skills, don’t give up on them. Become a better expert by acquiring both soft and hard skills.

4. Attain a leadership position

With all the efforts above you to ensure your career goals are achieved, you can never be far from a top leader in your field. 

Stepbystep Guide on How to Set Career Goals

Here’s an outline of how to set career goals.

1. Explore the possibilities

Some people already know from the beginning what career to aspire to, while others would have to put certain career options before them and then, select the most appropriate one. In whichever way you want it, the first decision you took that landed you where you are involved in exploring what’s most interesting to you. 

You need to convince yourself that the career choice you are making is the best. To achieve this, it is good for you to research and explore your career preferences to determine the qualifications and skills required, opportunities in the field, typical work environment, and salary as well as your career path.

2. Compare options

When you compare the options before you, it will help you to narrow down your choices.

What career suits you best and matches your skills perfectly? What are the advantages and limitations facing each of them? Which of them will offer you a better work-life balance and a satisfactory salary?

Knowing the answers to the above will paint a clearer picture of what you want to ultimately achieve in your career life.

3. Define your short term goals

You must create a set of actions that would be achievable within a short period. You will need to focus on what you want to achieve within five years in the areas of learning, experience, skill development, certification, and professional membership.

4. Set your long term goals

Once you establish your short-term goals, it is ideal to work towards long-term goals. You must chart a professional pathway that is clear, actionable, and realistic enough to take you towards your career peak. It tells the level of skills you will need to acquire and other roadmaps to get to your ultimate goal.

For that reason, you must write out the following as they will guide your decisions:

  • Technical and soft skills you will need to cultivate
  • Specific experience to gain
  • Personal and professional growth
  • Length of time to acquire them

The above will help in setting you up for career progression. In addition, your goals should challenge you. Ensure to make them ambitious but achievable. If perhaps, you do not meet your goals in the time you allotted for them, you can re-evaluate and try again. What matters is that you are making pragmatic efforts.

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5. Let your goals be SMART

Your goals, like we pointed out, must be clearly defined and short enough to be able to easily achieve them. That is why it must be SMART:

Specific: it must be specific and unambiguous

Measurable: it should be quantifiable and not vague

Achievable: you should set them in such a way that they cannot be difficult to achieve.

Realistic: they must be set reasonably to be able to attain them.

Time-bound: you must be able to achieve them within a specific period.

Types of Career Goals

The two main types of career goals are long-term and short-term. However, other types of career goals could be classified under short-term and long-term goals.

The four major common ones are:

1. Professional advancement goals

These goals help to improve your performance at work and make you more effective than before. They aim to accelerate your climbing higher up your career ladder. 

A short-term example is a marketing agent meeting his sales goal for the week, while a long-term example is becoming a senior partner in his firm.

2 . Leadership advancement goals

These goals are just about improving your managerial skills while positioning yourself for leadership recognition. It also comes with higher responsibilities.

A short-term example is when an entry-level employee works his way up to the position of a manager, while a long-term example is when he plans to become an executive director.

3. Educational advancement goals

As someone committed to growth, you should know that there is always room for advancement. You must keep up-to-date with the trends in the industry or learn something new, regardless.

An example of a short term is learning public speaking, while long term goals finishing your school and becoming a top leader in your field.

4. Personal development goals

These goals aim to obtain self-improvement and skills like customer service and negotiation. When you achieve them, your professional life will experience some transformation.


Your career goals should determine your career success. So, if you want to be successful, set good and realistic goals. Then, focus on achieving them within a given timeframe. You are almost there, keep pushing.


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