Career Goals: Definition, How-To and Examples

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 30 June 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Career goals are professional development goals that can help you progress in your career. Setting goals can be a major part of working towards your dream career. By defining your dreams and aspirations, you can feel more inspired to put in the time and effort to achieve them. In this article, we discuss what career goals are, why they're important and explore a few examples of career goals you can use to benefit your career.

What are career goals?

Career goals are objectives to increase your knowledge and skill set. You can combine your personal interests with performance goals or skills to succeed at work. For instance, if you want to improve your web development skills and your supervisor or manager needs help in developing a website, you can offer to learn more information about the topic to assist them. The exact career goals you set often depend on your unique aspirations in terms of your career.

Related: How to Write a Career Objective (With Examples)

Why are career goals important?

Career goals are important because they can help you come up with an effective action plan. Learning new skills and techniques makes you more qualified for a promotion or a career change. Long-term goals give you initiative, maintain your motivation and can help you advance in your job. Career goals can also make your work easier, as you become more productive and efficient based on what you learn. Setting career goals can show your manager that you take your job seriously and want to continue to excel in it.

How to set career goals

Here are the steps you can take when setting career goals:

1. Determine what your end goal is

Starting with an end goal in mind can be a good way to set goals for your career development. Determining your end goal can help you work backwards to develop smaller goals that allow you to ultimately achieve your larger career goals. When setting your end goal, you can ask yourself the following questions:

  • Where do I want to be in the next three to four years?

  • What position do I want to have?

  • What industry or company do I want to work in?

  • What accomplishments do I want to achieve?

2. Use the SMART goal method

The SMART goal method can be a great tool you can use to establish career goals. SMART stands for specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-bound. The SMART goal method can make your career goals more realistic, actionable and able to be measured, all of which can keep you motivated and on track to achieve your career goals.

Related: How to Write SMART Goals For Your Career (With Examples)

3. Divide your larger career goals into smaller tasks

The more you narrow down your career goals into smaller tasks, the more likely you are to keep on pursuing those goals. Consider taking each larger goal you set and divide it into tasks you can complete each day or week to work towards that goal. Make sure to check off tasks you have completed so you can track the progress you are making.

Examples of good career goals

Here are some examples of career goals for inspiration:

Complete a degree or professional certificate

Earning a degree or professional certificate that supports career advancement can be a great career development goal. Continuing education can improve your current skills set and can increase your chances of getting a promotion. There are several programmes available in various industries. Many colleges and universities offer online courses to accommodate varied work schedules.

Depending on the degree or level of education you want to earn, this can act as both a long-term or short-term goal. You can set a long-term goal of earning a master's degree or a short-term goal of completing a five-hour online class. Some companies provide professional development opportunities to help their employees grow. Consider asking your human resources manager if your organisation has a career development programme that allows you to learn new skills you can apply to your job.

Apply for a promotion

Applying for a promotion can be one of the great ways to challenge yourself. This can work as a long-term or short-term goal. Begin by determining what higher position you want to achieve next and review your qualifications. If you find you have met most of the requirements and only need to show additional skills like communication, you can make it your short-term goal. If you think that you have to gain additional experience, education or skills, you can make it your long-term goal.

Seeking a higher position, which comes with more responsibility, can help you learn new skills and continue to improve your career. If you believe you're ready for a promotion, consider making a list of projects you have accomplished to discuss with your supervisor or manager and highlight how they benefited the company. You can also highlight any skills you're excited to learn, such as leadership skills.

Take an internship to gain experience

To increase your chances of getting hired for a job, take an unpaid internship in your field. Internships can give you access to invaluable work experience and a look into the job market. Whether you are some who's looking to change careers or a freshly graduated college student, taking an internship may be the best way to get a close look inside the industry you want to work in.

Improve performance metrics

Performance metrics are information collected to measure activities and behaviour in relation to your overall performance. Improving your work performance metrics can prove your efficiency. Some examples of performance metrics you can track include how often you complete projects by their deadlines and how you help to reduce the overall costs of the company.

Consider setting both long-term and short-term goals to work towards and monitor your performance metrics so you can assess how you improve over the year. Also, highlight positive metrics in your job interview or include them in your CV so you can support your request for promotion or raise in the future.

Gain some new skills

Regardless of your industry, there are many companies looking for individuals with a range of abilities and talents. The more diverse your skill set, the better chance you may have of impressing hiring managers. Here are some of the most in-demand skills you can develop:

Networking skills

Improving your networking skills can increase your chances of creating a stronger professional network and improving your business-related knowledge. To begin networking, you can talk to your co-workers in other departments. You can also attend professional conferences or seminars or join professional associations where you can meet industry experts or professionals with interests. A networking event may focus on learning more about a particular skill or a new aspect of an industry.

Communication skills

Receiving and delivering clear information can increase your work efficiency. You can set a career goal to enhance or improve your verbal, written and interpersonal communication skills. For instance, to develop your verbal communication skills, you can attend a public speaking workshop that can help increase your confidence when delivering presentations, especially in public.

Related: Important Soft Skills Employers in Hong Kong Look For

Volunteer to learn a new technology

It's important to stay updated with new technology in your industry. Learning a new program or software that's relevant to your industry may show your willingness to embrace new technology in order to help the company improve productivity. You can also learn a new technology that can help your supervisor or team. For instance, if your manager needs to fix an error on your company's website, you can learn the fundamentals of a coding language so you can identify the error and fix it.

Related: What are the Benefits of Volunteering? Top Reasons to Volunteer

Develop your ability to work well in a team

Working on a team efficiently can show your manager or supervisor that you are dependable. If you're working with a project team, it's important that you take initiative and set meetings to review your progress. When attending meetings, make sure you listen to each member carefully and then give your ideas or opinion. Consider every team member's ideas or viewpoints, as this can help increase cooperation or collaboration during a team project. In addition, you can help your team members with any obstacles or challenges they might experience.

Build a website

Another way to grow professionally is to make a personal website. You can use your personal website to host your blog, personal mission statement, CV and professional portfolio. When you apply for a job, you can send a link to your personal website for potential employers to review more information about your specific achievements and the projects you have completed in your previous jobs.

Establish your own business

Establishing a business can be a long-term career goal. Today, the internet has made several aspects of being a businessman easier, as it becomes more user-friendly on a day-to-day basis. Anyone can now build their own website and sell anything from products to client services. If one of your career goals is running your own business, there's no time like the present to create your plan and begin taking the steps to build it. Determine what you're passionate about and look for opportunities to market it to potential clients.

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