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Last Updated on February 11, 2021

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 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

More by this author

Brian Lee

Chief of Product Management at Lifehack

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Last Updated on June 9, 2021

Finally Reach Your Goal with the 6 A’s of Change

Finally Reach Your Goal with the 6 A’s of Change

Many of us set goals for ourselves at the start of each new year. Some of us choose to set specific goals such as losing a certain amount of weight by a certain date or decreasing the amount of carbonated drinks we intake.

While others choose more general, less specific goals such as be more organized, be healthier, or manage time better.

Whatever your goals or New Year’s resolutions are, there almost always seems to be the assumption that we won’t keep our New Year’s resolutions by the end of the year. Most of the changes we wish to make are positive habits we hope to incorporate and establish in our everyday lives. Your belief that these goals are not attainable may actually be influencing your ability to make a change.

Our problem is that we tend to focus on the obstacles that may be placed in front of us that can prevent or hinder our goal attainment rather than focusing on the actual process towards attaining those resolutions. Some models like the Stages of Change Model, also known as the Transtheoretical Model, are great guides to assist with understanding our levels of change.

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So, how do we ensure we meet our goals and resolutions before another ball drops (literally and figuratively)?

With the Six A’s of Change!

1. Awareness

As the old saying goes, the first step towards change is admitting that change is necessary. Being aware and acknowledging that change is needed is the first step towards tackling a goal. It takes strength to understand that change is needed. Believe it or not, some people don’t realize when change is needed. This change can be external while others can be internal. It truly takes a sense of mindfulness to become aware that change is warranted. Mindfulness practice can be beneficial establishing awareness towards needed changes in your life. If you are at this step, give yourself a pat on the back! You are one step closer towards your goal.

2. Assessment

If there is something in your life you wish to change on a permanent basis, it may be helpful to attempt to understand the origin.

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For example: let’s say you have a certain behavior you wish to change. Assessing where the behavior may stem from can be beneficial to your goal attainment. Sometimes, establishing an origin is difficult and/or impossible to achieve and that is ok, but it doesn’t hurt to try.

The key is to attempt to assess the origin. Sometimes the root of the problem or not knowing the root can hinder growth or progression towards goal attainment. In theraputic practice, this is known as a psychodynamic approach. If you are able to find an origin or contributor of behavior, it’s important not to identify origin of behavior as an excuse but to better understand where that behavior comes from so you can begin to work on tackling the behavior and the origin to assist with permanent results.

Another part of the assessment stage is to understand and assess your why! Why do you want or need this change? Determining your why will assist in keep you motivated towards change.

3. Accountability

Stay accountable! One way to keep yourself accountable towards your resolutions and goals are to write them down. Write your goals down some place you can see them every day. I like to carry around a notebook that are designated towards my catergorized goals. My goals range from financial goals, personal goals, and business related goals. Each month I re-assess my goals to ensure that the goals I made in January of a new year don’t end up transfering over into other months or worse, years!

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Another way to hold yourself accountable is to tell someone. Your close friends and family can’t hold you accountable towards your goals if you don’t tell them. Having a supportive environment is helpful when attempting to make change.

4. Activation

In the activation step you are taking action. Activate measurable actions towards change.

For example, your New Year’s resolution may be to “be more organized in the mornings.” Some action steps you may activate include going to bed earlier, making the bed in the morning, and planning and prepping meals or outfits before bed.

The activation stage should feel like homework. This is a cognitive behavioral approach in which you implement or activate measurable steps towards change. These are all measurable action steps that you can activate to establish adequate change in habits that will ultimately assist with your goal attainment.

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5. Analyze

Once you have activated measurable goals the next step is to analyze. Is everything in your activation step assisting with attaining your ultimate goal: “to be more organized in the mornings”?

If you ask any business owner or entreprenuer, analyzing results and outcome measures is key towards success. If you don’t assess analytics within your own goals it will be difficult to determine if adequate change has actually been made. Ask yourself, are there some additional action steps that need to be activated in order to truly attain change? Am I being held accountable? Could I be doing more?

6. Attain

Lastly, attain! Ensure that you are not only obtaining the necessary activation steps but that you have attained your initial goal successfully. If you need to go back to step 5, that is ok. In this step, you have established adequate change and are sure that you have attained your goal(s).

So, there you have it, The 6 A’s of Change: Awareness, Assessment, Accountablity, Activation, Analyze, and Attain! Don’t be afraid of change! There is often a negative connotation that comes with the thought of change. However, change is truly the only thing in this world that remains constant. Let’s make 2017 the year we actually keep our New Year resolutions. Always remember, “Change begins in your mind.”

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Featured photo credit: Aline de Nadai via unsplash.com

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