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Last Updated on February 11, 2021

How to Set Ambitious Career Goals (With Examples)

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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 plan your goals and make it happen is to make use of our Make It Happen Handbook. You’ll come away with a better understanding of your unique talents and skill-sets, and what you can do to plan your goal by taking consistent action. Get your handbook now.

Another option is to make use of our free guide The Dreamers’ Guide for Taking Action and Making Goals HappenFollow this step-by-step guide and learn how to start taking action to gradually reach your goal.

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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 November 17, 2021

Understand the Difference Between Goals and Objectives to Advance Your Career

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Understand the Difference Between Goals and Objectives to Advance Your Career

The days of staying stagnant and complacent within a job are gone and maybe gone forever. The Great Resignation has created a movement of people who won’t settle for work that doesn’t fulfill them, and they are finding alternative ways to advance in life and a career.[1] We’re experiencing a great “reset,” and that’s a good thing. Your career should help you live a better life by providing financial security. Your work should challenge but also fulfill you. However, challenging but fulfilling work means you’ll have to do your part to be an asset.

A lot of the reason people don’t advance in their careers is that they’re not demonstrating value. Showing why you deserve more opportunities is how you can advance in your career. The good news is that goals and objectives can help you demonstrate clear value, but you need a better understanding and strategy of using goals and objectives.

Working hard is not enough. You can work hard without direction, which does not help you advance in your career. You’ll need clear goals to advance in a career and create a life of freedom. You have to be working hard towards accomplishing specific tasks that align with progress and your vision of growth. To accomplish a career advancement, you’ll need clear goals and understand the difference between goals and objectives and how they work in tandem. Being clear on the steps you take is how you accomplish more and live a growth-focused life.

Having a clear understanding of the difference between goals and objectives is crucial to advancing in your career. Here’s how to understand the difference and use goals and objectives to build a career and fulfilling life.

The Difference Between Goals and Objectives

Goals are the destination you should be working hard towards. Goals are specific accomplishments you set for yourself that help you live a better life and advance your career. If you were to think about this from a high level, objectives are the specific tasks and metrics that help you accomplish goals.

You’ll need to set goals to advance in your career. Those goals could be related to the kind of income you’d like to make, the position of leadership you’d like to be in, or even as lofty as earning equity in the company you work for. Clear career advancement goals give you a destination to strive to reach.

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With that clear destination (your goals), you’ll then need a plan to accomplish your goals—that is where objectives come into the picture. You’ll need to set specific objectives for each goal. Objectives bring clarity and create a plan for the particular steps you need to take (and in what order) to accomplish goals.

Objectives are not goals, and vice-versa. Think of goals as the house and objectives as the materials it takes to build the house. Accomplishing your goals starts with an understanding of the difference between goals and objectives. With that clarity, you can set each accordingly to advance your career. You need each, but you can’t reach one without the other.

Too many growth-focused leaders waste time, effort, and opportunity by winging it. Without a plan, you’ll spend a lot of time chasing distractions. Those who advance in their career do this by understanding the difference between goals and objectives and creating a strategic plan accordingly.

How to Use Objectives to Create and Accomplish Growth-Focused Goals

Every day is a new opportunity to create and work toward accomplishing goals that bring freedom, financial security, fulfillment, and career advancement to your life. You’ll need a roadmap if you’re going to achieve growth-focused goals.

The best way to accomplish your goals and advance your career is to set objectives for each goal. Remember, objectives are the specific tasks that help you create a plan to achieve each goal. Setting the proper objectives can help you get a raise, a promotion, and show a company why you deserve advancement in your career.

It starts with what you’d like to accomplish in your career—where is this all going? You’ll need clarity about your short-term and longer-term goals. In the short term, it could be a raise that you’re seeking. In the longer term, you may like a position of leadership and more responsibility. You then need to get a piece of paper, your favorite goal-setting app, or your notes on your phone and write out your goals. It would help if you saw them. People are visual by nature.

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Write out your career goals. With the primary goals written out, it’s time to set objectives for each goal. The goals are the designation, but you’ll need checkmarks and specific steps to accomplish them. Objectives are essential to staying focused and consistent. Take each goal and break them into bite-sized chunks. When you break down a goal, it allows you to see the specific steps you’ll need to take to reach that goal.

If your goal is a raise, what extra effort do you need to put in your work to show value for your company? Map out what those specific steps are and make them your objectives. If your goal is a promotion or other career advancement opportunities, map out the specifics to get there and set objectives.

Writing out the goals then the objectives clarifies what you should be doing, what order you should do it, and sets a realistic timeline to accomplish your life and career goals. There’s fear that comes with setting big goals. Limiting beliefs try to convince you to keep your goals to yourself and not put them anywhere besides in your mind. Writing out your goals helps make them real, and it’s how you make a commitment to yourself.

You have to take your goals seriously if you’re going to advance in your career. This means making the goals real by setting objectives and putting those goals in a place of accountability. Don’t take the easy road by keeping your goals inside and not feeling the consequences of not taking action.

Using Goals and Objectives Strategically to Advance Your Career

We’re currently experiencing a shift in the world of work. People are deciding to quit rather than spend 40+ hours every week building a career that doesn’t fulfill them and help them accomplish their goals. This is good news because it creates opportunities for advancement.

If you are not fulfilled in your career, then maybe you should be thinking about whether or not a shift makes sense. If you enjoy what you do and see your career advancing you towards accomplishing your goals, it’s essential to set strategic objectives that help you achieve your growth goals.

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After you’ve taken the time to set your goals—and the objectives that let you accomplish those goals—it’s time to get to work. You can’t advance your career and achieve your goals without being willing to do hard work and do it consistently.

The thing to understand is that accomplishing objectives that help you reach your goals is a process that takes time. Too often, we want instant gratification. Living a life of accomplishment and career advancement is not instant and will require consistent hard work.

Create Goals and Objectives That Challenge You

If you accomplish every goal that you set, your goals aren’t lofty enough. The path to growth and advancing in your career happens when you set ambitious goals. You should look at your goals and have a slight fear of how high they are.

Strategically planned objectives are powerful. As ambitious as your goals are, well-thought-out objectives can help you stay focused and accomplish anything. In addition to lofty goals, you should set higher-standard objectives. Growth is the goal, and that requires a bigger vision.

Create goals and objectives that challenge you to be better in your career and add value to your company. Come into this with an understanding that you’re doing all of this to create an incredible life. Challenge yourself because you deserve to accomplish your objectives and reach your goals.

Too many take the easy road and set achievable goals. Goals and objectives that challenge you expand your belief in what’s possible and strengthen your mindset. A strong mindset is how you’ll get the energy you need to work on your goals for a sustained period.

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Final Thoughts

It’s important to understand the difference between goals and objectives to advance your career. You need both, but they need to have their proper place to work together. Clarity in what to do and how to do it is how you set goals and use objectives to achieve them.

Don’t confuse an objective for a goal—objectives are the steps, and goals are the prize. Be strategic with the objectives you create to help you accomplish your goals.

Advancing your career is the key to creating financial security, building wealth, and working to build a life of freedom. Goals and their objectives help you grow and become the best version of yourself. Understand the difference between goals and objectives, and use them to advance your career.

More About Setting And Achieving Goals

Featured photo credit: Smart via unsplash.com

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