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Last Updated on August 10, 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 August 10, 2020

How to Set Short Term Goals for a Successful Life

How to Set Short Term Goals for a Successful Life

Change begins with the hope of what’s possible in your life. Hope leads to a sense of expectancy Combine this with setting short-term goals, and the likelihood of being more happy and successful moves from possibility to reality.

Short-term goals, when created with well-formed criteria, offer incremental steps towards successfully achieving your bigger goals.

In this step-by-step guide, you’ll discover the secret to creating short-term goals that will set you up for success and help you sail past challenges of staying motivated easily.

What Is a Short-Term Goal?

Short-term goals are ‘short’, meaning the time frame can be as short as 10 minutes, a day, or as long as a week or a few months. Well-formed short-term goals begin with the end in mind.

Quick tip:

Write down the specific result you want to achieve and the date when it should happen. Then, work backward from this date, describing what you’ll notice yourself doing (and achieving) until you take the first step.

A short-term goal is the smallest step you need for you to reach a bigger goal centered around achieving something you passionately desire.

Passionate desire‘ is the key.

As Tony Robbins says,

People are not lazy. They simply have impotent goals – that is, goals that do not inspire them.[1]

Having passion when setting goals means getting your mind and body activated to fuel your energy and focus. Each time you achieve a short-term goal, your body celebrates by producing and releasing chemicals such as dopamine, serotonin oxytocin, and endorphins (feel-good neurotransmitters).

Ian Robertson, a cognitive neuroscientist and author of The Winner Effect: The Neuroscience of Success and Failure, says,

Success and failure shape us more powerfully than genetics and drugs.

The regular release of the body’s natural chemicals supports brain change at a neural level, building your confidence, and renewing your goal-oriented focus.

The Benefits of Setting Short-Term Goals

Regardless of the area in your life where you set your short-term goals, it will have a ripple effect across all your life domains.

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  • Improve your career prospects and your sense of identity also shifts.
  • Improve your body shape through managing food intake and your energy improves in a way that’s noticeable at work and home.
  • Improve your mindset and your attitude changes around how you engage with others.
  • Improve your health and your desire for self-improvement lifts.

6 Steps to Success With Short-Term Goals

Setting short-term goals will lead you closer to a happier and more successful life, but can you achieve that?

Take the following steps and you will start achieving your dreams:[2]

Step 1: Know Your Best Hopes

Try this process yourself by thinking of an area in your life that you’d like to improve.

For example:

  • What are your best hopes for your finances?
  • What are your best hopes for your relationship?
  • What are your best hopes for your career?
  • What are your best hopes for your health?

This process involves ‘chunking up’ your ideas to imagine the results more clearly. In this process, you try to achieve not only the goal and the outcome it gives you but also the changes in your behavior and mindset as a result of achieving your goal.

Step 2: Notice What’s Different

The next question to ask yourself is: “What would you notice that was different from the way you usually did things?”

‘Noticing’ helps you build a vision of what could be possible. The richer the description you can build around the tiny details, the more ‘real’ your preferred future becomes.

Step 3: Ask: ‘What Else?’

Most of us know there’s a hidden reason or a long-buried hope beneath why we want something.

Often, our ego gets a little defensive about it and protective of it. But if we dig and resurface the truth, then weight can be lifted, allowing you the freedom to move forward.

Step 4: Ask: ‘Who Will Notice the Difference?’

Relationships with family, friends, colleagues, and your partner are important. Seeing the change they’ll notice helps put another perspective on the differences they see in you.

Imagine what they will notice about you that would let them know something changed about you as a result of achieving this goal.

Step 5: Imagine a Miracle Happened Tonight

Imagine that if you went to bed tonight and a miracle happened; and you were the very best version of yourself and that you had achieved your best hopes.

When you woke up tomorrow morning after the miracle happened, what would you notice that would tell you you’ve achieved the change you’re seeking?

Step 6: Describe Your Day as If the Miracle Had Happened

Go through your day, moment by moment. Begin with what time you would wake up and then describe the differences you would notice in every tiny action you do.

Notice in detail what’s different about this day – a day when you are at your very best because you’re living your best hopes.

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How to Track Your Short Term Goals Success

When you set a short-term goal, establish a measurement system to track your progress:[3]

1. Create a Running Tally

One of the best devices to keep your short-term goal setting on track is to keep a running record or tally of the number of days in a row that you’ve sustained your goal.

For example, if improving your health is important to you and you plan to reduce your weight by 5 kilos by not eating any foods containing sugar, then set up a simple chart and track how many days in a row you can do this. Aim for 5 days, then 10, then 20 days in a row. If you have a small diversion and eat sugar one day, simply start again.

Once you feel confident that you can continue with this step, add another such as taking 5,000 steps per day. Again, set up a simple tally chart either in your diary or somewhere visible and enjoy marking up one more day that you’ve achieved your short-term goal. It won’t be long before your goal of losing 5 kilos is met.

2. Keep a Journal

Maintaining a journal will help you focus on identifying the things that are different because you’ve set a well-formed short-term goal.

Aim to complete the journal at the end of each day and recall in detail the things that you’re noticing. This helps keep you connected with your desired outcome and the transformation you’re experiencing in both your behavior and mindset.

Take a look at this guide if you’re starting out journaling: Writing Journal for a Better and More Productive Self (The How-To Guide).

3. Share Your Progress With a Trusted Friend or Coach

By voicing the change and expressing how far you’re noticing yourself move towards your goal, you’re reinforcing the power of change you’re experiencing.

And you’ll be activating the feel-good neurotransmitters that are so important for bringing your confidence, motivation, and positive changes to your brain to succeed.

Here’re more reasons why you should get yourself a life coach: 7 Reasons Why You Should Find a Life Coach to Reach Your Full Potential.

4. Visualize Your Progress

Before you go to sleep in the evening, visualize your tomorrow. See yourself continuing to do the things that support your change.

Walk yourself through the tiny details that add up to the changes you want to see yourself doing, including the time you’ll wake up. In the morning, re-activate the visualization and then ‘step into’ your day.

Short-Term Goal Example: A Career Short-Term Goal

How to advance your career with short-term goals? Specifically, you will need short-term goals to help with your career. This is also how many people want to utilize short-term goals.

Start by Planning Your Career Visually

Walt Disney was sacked for lacking imagination. Oprah Winfrey was told she’d never make it on television. Careers are destroyed by naysayers intent on keeping you small. The successful person designs a career goal and then creates incremental steps to ‘ladder up’ with short-term goals.

Justin Dry from VinoMofo, a successful Australian wine distribution company, always begins his goal-setting process with visual planning. He says,

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I need to see it all in front of me like a puzzle I’m putting together. It kind of looks like the workings of a madman with lots of weird and wonderful shapes and lines connecting the words.

Whether you use masses of post-it notes that cover a wall, large sheets of paper to spread your ideas on or a journal to map your path – messy planning gets your ideas out of your head so you see different possibilities and pathways available to you.

Begin this process by asking, “What are my best hopes for my career?”

Write them down and place them somewhere you’ll notice them every day.

Make You Think Like a Start-Up Entrepreneur

While successful career planning starts with a messy and random process to let those ‘idea gems’ – the embryos of well-formed short-term goals rise, the next step is taking these nuggets and using them to set your direction.

Think of yourself (and your career) as if you’re the CEO of your successful start-up – one with a clear vision of what you want and how you’ll get it. Rather than waiting for a boss to give you goals, be proactive, and set your own.

Karen Lawson, CEO of Slingshot says,

Set a vision, and be focused on the intent of these goals. Create actions which not only build on those of yesterday but also improve what you do tomorrow. Your pathways will need to be flexible, challenged, and accountable.

Begin by listing the bigger steps needed to achieve your goal. Then chunk these down into smaller steps with specific actions needed to achieve them. These action steps are the workhorses of your short-term goals.

Create a specific time frame to complete them and maintain accountability – as if you’re reporting to your ‘higher up’.

Begin this process by asking yourself: “What difference will I notice when I take these steps?” Then ask: “What difference will my boss/es notice when I take these steps?”

Establish ‘Triggers’ for Your Daily Habits

Twyla Tharp (born 1941) legendary dancer and choreographer, maintains an exacting routine designed to trick her mind into a daily exercise habit.

I begin each day of my life with a ritual; I wake up at 5:30 A.M., put on my workout clothes, my leg warmers, my sweatshirts, and my hat. I walk outside my Manhattan home, hail a taxi, and tell the driver to take me to the Pumping Iron gym at 91st street and First Avenue, where I workout for two hours. The ritual is not the stretching and weight training I put my body through each morning at the gym; the ritual is the cab. The moment I tell the driver where to go I have completed the ritual.

It’s a simple act, but doing it the same way each morning habitualizes it — makes it repeatable, easy to do. It reduces the chance that I would skip it or do it differently. It is one more item in my arsenal of routines, and one less thing to think about.[4]

To do this list, create a trigger point – the smallest step you’ll do that will catapult you into taking action as Twyla Tharp did. What will be your ritual of ‘getting in the cab’?

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Get You to Talk About the Future

Melanie Perkins CEO of Canva, a thriving design and publishing solution, is known for ‘frequently talking about the future’.

Orienting your thoughts towards a future-focus reinforces how important your vision and goals are to you. Ralph Waldo Emerson famously said, “You are what you think.”

  • Make it a habit to read your goals daily.
  • Think about what you’ll notice that will be different in your life when you achieve them.
  • Express your goals to someone important in your life.
  • Whisper them to yourself throughout your day.

Future-focused conversations (both with yourself and others) establish a pattern of expectancy, which continue fueling not only your desire but also the expectation of achieving it.

Manage Mental Resistance

When you begin with ‘hope’, you activate a sense of ‘expectancy’. A belief that what you want is not only possible, it’s within reach. Hope and expectancy are two powerful motivators in propelling you forward to a successful life.

When you’re ‘moving forward‘ with hope, you’re orienting yourself towards your desired future. When ‘moving away from‘ something you perceive as painful you’re activating ‘fear’, which can also be a strong motivator helping you avoid pain; for example, losing your job if your quarterly performance scores don’t improve.

Sarah, a manager at a busy merchandising company saw her doctor because she was feeling tired. After a thorough examination, the doctor advised Sarah to lose 15 kilos as this was contributing to her tiredness. The news felt overwhelming as Sarah worked long hours and rarely found time to shop for fresh food, so she relied on fast food to keep her going.

For Sarah, the doctor activated her fear by describing what could happen (heart attack and/or diabetes) if she didn’t manage her weight by shedding 15 kilos.

While ‘moving away from’ motivation can be successful, a way of amplifying positive motivators that will see Sarah begin ‘moving towards’ her goal is by talking about what outcomes Sarah would notice by losing 15 kilos.

For example, managing her weight may see Sarah being more efficient at work, getting out more socially, or feeling more able to manage work pressures and deadlines.

To do this with your own goal setting, think about what’s important to you about achieving your goals. Write down your answers. Ask: “What will you notice that will be different in your life when these changes happen?”

Summing It Up

Change is possible. Short-term goals that build upon each other are the stepping stones to achieving your best hopes.

Using your creative imagination by noticing the small differences occurring daily offers a positive way to create practical change in an easy and doable way.

Above all, make sure your goal is powered by ‘passionate desire’ so you achieve your desired outcomes.

More Tips About Goals Setting

Featured photo credit: JESHOOTS.COM via unsplash.com

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