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Last Updated on November 27, 2020

How to Set Ambitious Career Goals (With Examples)

How to Set Ambitious Career Goals (With Examples)

Taking your work to the next level means setting and keeping career goals. A career goal is a targeted objective that explains what you want your ultimate profession to be.

Defining career goals is a critical step to achieving success. You need to know where you’re going in order to get there. Knowing what your career goals are isn’t just important for you–it’s important for potential employers too. The relationship between an employer and an employee works best when your goals for the future and their goals align. Saying, “Oh, I don’t know. I’ll do anything,” makes you seem indecisive, and opens you up to taking on ill-fitting tasks that won’t lead you to your dream life.

Career goal templates’ one-size-fits-all approach won’t consider your unique goals and experiences. They won’t help you stand out, and they may not reflect your full potential.

In this article, I’ll help you to define your career goals with SMART goal framework, and will provide you with a list of examples goals for work and career.

How to Define Your Career Goal with SMART

Instead of relying on a generalized framework to explain your vision, use a tried-and-true goal-setting model. SMART is an acronym for “Specific, Measurable, Action-oriented, Realistic with Timelines.”[1] The SMART framework demystifies goals by breaking them into smaller steps.

Helpful hints when setting SMART career goals:

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  • Start with short-term goals first. Work on your short-term goals, and then progress the long-term interests.[2] Short-term goals are those things which take 1-3 years to complete. Long-term goals take 3-5 years to do. As you succeed in your short-term goals, that success should feed into accomplishing your long-term goals.
  • Be specific, but don’t overdo it. You need to define your career goals, but if you make them too specific, then they become unattainable. Instead of saying, “I want to be the next CEO of Apple, where I’ll create a billion-dollar product,” try something like, “My goal is to be the CEO of a successful company.”
  • Get clear on how you’re going to reach your goals. You should be able to explain the actions you’ll take to advance your career. If you can’t explain the steps, then you need to break your goal down into more manageable chunks.
  • Don’t be self-centered. Your work should not only help you advance, but it should also support the goals of your employer. If your goals differ too much, then it might be a sign that the job you’ve taken isn’t a good fit.

If you want to learn more about setting SMART Goals, watch the video below to learn how you can set SMART career goals.

After you’re clear on how to set SMART goals, you can use this framework to tackle other aspects of your work. For instance, you might set SMART goals to improve your performance review, look for a new job, or shift your focus to a different career.

We’ll cover examples of ways to use SMART goals to meet short-term career goals in the next section.

Why You Need an Individual Development Plan

Setting goals is one part of the larger formula for success. You may know what you want to do, but you also have to figure out what skills you have, what you lack, and where your greatest strengths and weaknesses are.

One of the best ways to understand your capabilities is by using the Science Careers Individual Development Plan skills assessment. It’s free, and all you need to do is register an account and take a few assessments.

These assessments will help you determine if your career goals are realistic. You’ll come away with a better understanding of your unique talents and skill-sets. You may decide to change some of your career goals or alter your timeline based on what you learn.

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40 Examples of Goals for Work & Career

All this talk of goal-setting and self-assessment may sound great in theory, but perhaps you need some inspiration to figure out what your goals should be.

For Changing a Job

  1. Attend more networking events and make new contacts.
  2. Achieve a promotion to __________ position.
  3. Get a raise.
  4. Plan and take a vacation this year.
  5. Agree to take on new responsibilities.
  6. Develop meaningful relationships with your coworkers and clients.
  7. Ask for feedback on a regular basis.
  8. Learn how to say, “No,” when you are asked to take on too much.
  9. Delegate tasks that you no longer need to be responsible for.
  10. Strive to be in a leadership role in __ number of years.

For Switching Career Path

  1. Pick up and learn a new skill.
  2. Find a mentor.
  3. Become a volunteer in the field that interests you.
  4. Commit to getting training or going back to school.
  5. Read the most recent books related to your field.
  6. Decide whether you are happy with your work-life balance and make changes if necessary. [3]
  7. Plan what steps you need to take to change careers.[4]
  8. Compile a list of people who could be character references or submit recommendations.
  9. Commit to making __ number of new contacts in the field this year.
  10. Create a financial plan.

For Getting a Promotion

  1. Reduce business expenses by a certain percentage.
  2. Stop micromanaging your team members.
  3. Become a mentor.
  4. Brainstorm ways that you could improve your productivity and efficiency at work
  5. Seek a new training opportunity to address a weakness.[5]
  6. Find a way to organize your work space.[6]
  7. Seek feedback from a boss or trusted coworker every week/ month/ quarter.
  8. Become a better communicator.
  9. Find new ways to be a team player.
  10. Learn how to reduce work hours without compromising productivity.

For Acing a Job Interview

  1. Identify personal boundaries at work and know what you should do to make your day more productive and manageable.
  2. Identify steps to create a professional image for yourself.
  3. Go after the career of your dreams to find work that does not feel like a job.
  4. Look for a place to pursue your interest and apply your knowledge and skills.
  5. Find a new way to collaborate with experts in your field.
  6. Identify opportunities to observe others working in the career you want.
  7. Become more creative and break out of your comfort zone.
  8. Ask to be trained more relevant skills for your work.
  9. Ask for opportunities to explore the field and widen your horizon
  10. Set your eye on a specific award at work and go for it.

Career Goal Setting FAQs

I’m sure you still have some questions about setting your own career goals, so here I’m listing out the most commonly asked questions about career goals.

1. What if I’m not sure what I want my career to be?

If you’re uncertain, be honest about it. Let the employer know as much as you know about what you want to do. Express your willingness to use your strengths to contribute to the company. When you take this approach, back up your claim with some examples.

If you’re not even sure where to begin with your career, check out this guide:

How to Find Your Ideal Career Path Without Wasting Time on Jobs Not Suitable for You

2. Is it okay to lie about my career goals?

Lying to potential employers is bound to end in disaster. In the interview, a lie can make you look foolish because you won’t know how to answer follow up questions.

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Even if you think your career goal may not precisely align with the employer’s expectations for a long-term hire, be open and honest. There’s probably more common ground than they realize, and it’s up to you to bridge any gaps in expectations.

Being honest and explaining these connections shows your employer that you’ve put a lot of thought into this application. You aren’t just telling them what they want to hear.

3. Is it better to have an ambitious goal, or should I play it safe?

You should have a goal that challenges you, but SMART goals are always reasonable. If you put forth a goal that is way beyond your capabilities, you will seem naive. Making your goals too easy shows a lack of motivation.

Employers want new hires who are able to self-reflect and are willing to take on challenges.

4. Can I have several career goals?

It’s best to have one clearly-defined career goal and stick with it. (Of course, you can still have goals in other areas of your life.) Having a single career goal shows that you’re capable of focusing, and it shows that you like to accomplish what you set out to do.

On the other hand, you might have multiple related career goals. This could mean that you have short-term goals that dovetail into your ultimate long-term career goal. You might also have several smaller goals that feed into a single purpose.

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For example, if you want to become a lawyer, you might become a paralegal and attend law school at the same time. If you want to be a school administrator, you might have initial goals of being a classroom teacher and studying education policy. In both cases, these temporary jobs and the extra education help you reach your ultimate goal.

Summary

You’ll have to devote some time to setting career goals, but you’ll be so much more successful with some direction. Remember to:

  • Set SMART goals. SMART goals are Specific, Measurable, Action-oriented, and Realistic with Timelines. When you set goals with these things in mind, you are likely to achieve the outcomes you want.
  • Have short-term and long-term goals. Short-term career goals can be completed in 1-3 years, while long-term goals will take 3-5 years to finish. Your short-term goals should set you up to accomplish your long-term goals.
  • Assess your capabilities by coming up with an Individual Development Plan. Knowing how to set goals won’t help you if you don’t know yourself. Understand what your strengths and weaknesses are by taking some self-assessments.
  • Choose goals that are appropriate to your ultimate aims. Your career goals should be relevant to one another. If they aren’t, then you may need to narrow your focus. Your goals should match the type of job that you want and the quality of life that you want to lead.
  • Be clear about your goals with potential employers. Always be honest with potential employers about what you want to do with your life. If your goals differ from the company’s objectives, find a way bridge the gap between what you want for yourself and what your employer expects.

By doing goal-setting work now, you’ll be able to make conscious choices on your career path. You can always adjust your plan if things change for you, but the key is to give yourself a road map for success.

More About Setting Work Goals

Featured photo credit: Tyler Franta via unsplash.com

Reference

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Brian Lee

Chief of Product Management at Lifehack

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Last Updated on January 15, 2021

6 Ways to Finish Strong (When Your Momentum Is Low)

6 Ways to Finish Strong (When Your Momentum Is Low)

There are times in your life when you will have to define a path to achieve your goals. These are moments to decide how you will push through to finish strong.

Will you give up or give it all that it takes? Will you bring all your energy and skills to bear or provide an excuse? The only person that possesses the power to choose your response is you.

It may sound impossible anytime you hear the phrase “finish strong.” This is because your natural tendency would be to settle for the status quo or accept fate, and when you are facing life’s biggest challenges, you may face the temptation to quit or compromise your standards.

The story of Tyrone Muggsy Bogues will inspire you. He lived in abject poverty while his father languished in prison. He was hit by a stray bullet at age five and grew up to be 1.6m tall[1].

All these challenges did not deter him from becoming the shortest player in the history of the National Basketball Association. Tyrone had 6858 points, 1369 steals, and 6726 assists all through his NBA. career. Just like Tyrone, you should not allow life challenges to stop you down from finishing strong.

Here are some fun facts to buttress why you need to push through the end:

  • Most of the points scored in football occur a few minutes before the game ends.
  • The last seconds in a race determines who wins as every runner wants to give the most effort.
  • You work harder when there are deadlines to meet.

Here’s more proof of why the finish is highly significant. People rate the quality of life higher when it ends better, not minding if it was short. This is often called the James Dean Effect[2].

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These five proven steps will enable you to finish strong if you already have goals you want to accomplish.

1. Write Your Goals Down

A study revealed that people who write their goals down have an eighty percent chance of finishing strong[3]. You can create a Goal Journal or adopt the S.M.A.R.T goal technique.

Don’t forget, your goals have to be:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Realistic
  • Time-bound

While it might look like an additional task to write down your goals instead of storing them in your memory, there are more sides to it.

Two things happen when you write something down:

You are documenting the goals on paper, which makes it easier to assess and audit in the future. Neurologists believe you will recollect visual cues more compared to non-visual cues.

Furthermore, you are encoding those goals as they travel to your brain’s hippocampus, where analysis takes place. From that point, sorting happens. Some goals are stored in your long-term memory while others are discarded. Writing facilitates the encoding process, so write down those goals!

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2. Break Your Goals Into Milestones

Breaking down goals into small bites will help you celebrate your small victories. You need that momentum to finish strong.

For instance, if you are writing a book, you can:

  • Write the book concept or blurb
  • Conduct keyword and content research
  • Create an outline
  • Write the content
  • Edit and proofread
  • Format and publish
  • Market the book

Establishing milestones provides you a clear format that will help you not burn out when working on your goals. Moreover, milestones are those actions you need to take to finish strong.

A study conducted by Gail Matthews shows that those who write their goals have a 33% chance of actualizing them compared to those who only have their goals in their brain[4].

3. Build Momentum

As I stated earlier, you need momentum to finish strong. You can gain momentum when you meet each of the milestones. In his book, Darren Hardy recommends consistency as a sure way to generate all the momentum[5].

How do you build momentum by being consistent? Hardy recommends five actionable steps:

Establish a Morning Regimen

According to Hardy, you may find it hard to take charge of your mid-day, but you can determine how you start the day and end it. Therefore, design your rise-and-shine routine. Do your Most-Important-Task (M.I.T.) in the morning.

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Morning routine to finish strong

    Create an Evening Schedule

    Hardy defines this period as when you cash out on your day. It is a moment to assess if you have accomplished all you wanted to that day. You can ask yourself these questions:

    • Which items do I need to carry over to the next day’s M.I.T. list?
    • What item on my to-do list is still relevant?
    • Which of the tasks do I need to cancel?

    Restructure Your Routine

    It can be boring doing the same thing over a long period. Therefore, inject some excitement into your plan. Visit the park, prepare new food, or take a short, online course. Shaking up your routine will naturally assist you in building momentum.

    Keep a Log of New Habits

    Track new behaviors and log the number of times you perform them. That way, you can compare your goals with the outcome.

    Avoid Negative Self-Talk

    What you say affects how you finish your goals. Positive self-talk is a time-tested method to set goals and follow through. Any time you doubt your ability to finish strong, respond with positive affirmations.

    Do not bow to negative pressure to give up. Control your thoughts, and do not permit external forces, such as fears and doubts, to control them. Here are ten positive affirmations to help you finish strong.

    5. Find a Mentor or an Accountability Partner

    You need all the support you can find to stay the course. A lot of successful individuals attribute their success to the influence of a mentor or an accountability partner.

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    The right mentor will offer you insight, advice, and connections to help you finish strong. A mentor’s role is to guide you on self-reflection and help you ask self-discovery questions.

    Here are ways to maximize mentorship:

    • Be curious: Ask questions that provoke deeper thoughts.
    • Be honest: Feel free to share your challenges and be open to feedback.
    • Be punctual: Be timely and stick to appointments.
    • Be specific: Establish what you want from the relationship.
    • Be respectful: Respect should be mutual. You should respect the boundaries set by your mentor, and your mentor should do the same.

    You can read more on How To Get The Best Out Of Mentorship.

    Bonus Tip: Engage the Self-Awareness Technique (S.A.T.) to Finish Strong

    It is not enough to be an enthusiastic starter; you must also be an optimistic finisher. What is self-awareness? Self-awareness is getting in touch with how you feel and think. It could also mean connecting to your core values and beliefs to live a life that aligns with them.

    Self-awareness can help you figure out your strengths so you can focus on them. It also helps you discover your weaknesses. The moment you accept what you can’t achieve, you will bring together all of your strengths to achieve what you can.

    An HBR report confirmed that when you have a clear picture of yourself, you can be more confident and unleash your creativity. You will also build long-lasting relationships and communicate better[6].

    Final Thoughts

    As you assess the aspects of your life, you need to finish strong, take time to study your past achievements, and apply the lessons to the last phase of your present pursuit.

    Always remember, you have all it takes to finish what you started.

    More Tips on Completing Your Goals

    Featured photo credit: Ethan Hoover via unsplash.com

    Reference

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