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.
This is why in this article, I’ll help you to define your career goals with the SMARTer goal framework, and will provide you with a list of examples career goals.
Table of Contents
- Make Your Career Goal SMARTer
- 40 Career Goal Examples
- Career Goal Setting FAQs
- Final Thoughts
Make Your Career Goal SMARTer
You have heard of SMART goal, but here I’d like to introduce to you the SMARTer goal.
A SMARTer goal goes beyond being Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Realistic and Time-Bound; it digs into the reason why you want to pursue the goal.
To find out the core reason why you’re setting ago, try the 5 Whys framework. The purpose of this framework is to repeatedly ask yourself “why?” five times. Each time you ask why, you are uncovering the core reasons behind your goal-setting endeavors.
For instance, let’s consider your initial objective of “getting promoted.”
- Why do you want to get promoted?
“Because I desire more responsibilities at work.”
- Why is having more work responsibilities important to you?
“Because I want to contribute meaningfully to the company and have a greater influence over important decisions.”
- Why is making a meaningful contribution and having decision-making authority significant to you?
“Because I want to experience career growth and actively contribute to the company’s success.”
- Why is progressing in your career and contributing to the company’s success important to you?
“Because I seek fulfillment in my work and strive for financial stability for myself and my family.”
- Why is feeling fulfilled in your work and achieving financial stability important to you?
“Because it will provide a comfortable and secure life for me and my family.”
By exploring these underlying motivations, you can gain a clear understanding of the aspirations that fuel your desire for promotion, ensuring that your goal is aligned with your true ambitions. This deeper understanding serves as a powerful source of motivation, providing you with the strength to persevere and overcome obstacles when faced with setbacks or challenges.
To learn how to set a SMARTer goal, read What Is Goal Setting And Why Is It Important?
Helpful hints when setting career goals:
- Start with short-term goals first. Work on your short-term goals, and then progress the long-term interests. 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.
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.
40 Career Goal Examples
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.
Advancing Your Career
- Increase Sales Figures: Achieve a ___% increase in sales over the next 6 months to qualify for the Senior Sales Manager position.
- Develop New Skills: Complete an advanced management training course within the next year to prepare for a managerial role.
- Grow Customer Base: Expand the customer base by __% in the next year through strategic marketing.
- Improve Client Satisfaction: Raise client satisfaction scores by __% in __ months as a benchmark for promotion eligibility.
- Expand Professional Network: Grow professional network by __% within __ months to enhance promotion prospects.
- Enhance Productivity: Increase personal productivity by __% over the next __ months, positioning for a team leader role.
- Develop a New Product/Service: Develop and propose a new product/service idea within the next __ months.
- Build a Personal Brand: Develop and maintain a professional blog or LinkedIn presence over the next year.
Improving Productivity & Efficiency
- Increase Efficiency: Implement a new process to increase departmental efficiency by __% within a year.
- Improve Time Management: Reduce non-essential tasks by __% over the next __ months to focus more on core responsibilities.
- Increase Team Productivity: Lead the team to a __% productivity increase within the next __ months.
- Reduce Operational Costs: Cut departmental costs by __% within the next 12 months without sacrificing quality.
- Optimize Work Processes: Streamline at leas __ major work processes within __ months to improve efficiency.
Learning and Growing
- Master a New Software: Learn and master a new project management tool within the next __ months to enhance efficiency.
- Attend Workshops: Attend at least __ industry-specific workshops or webinars each quarter to stay updated with trends.
- Earn a Professional Certification: Obtain a professional certification relevant to your field within the next year.
- Improve Public Speaking: Join a public speaking club and deliver __ speeches over the next __ months.
- Read Industry Books: Read and summarize 12 industry-relevant books within a year to broaden knowledge.
- Enhance Technical Knowledge: Complete an advanced course in [specific technology] within __ months.
- Expand Market Knowledge: Gain in-depth knowledge of an emerging market within the next __ months.
- Develop Emotional Intelligence: Attend a workshop on emotional intelligence and implement learned strategies over __ months.
- Enhance Conflict Resolution Skills: Resolve __% of team conflicts within 24 hours over the next __ months.
- Enhance Creative Thinking: Implement a monthly brainstorming session with the team for the next year.
- Enhance Customer Service Skills: Complete a customer service training course and apply skills within __ months.
- Improve Work Environment: Lead an initiative to improve the workplace environment within the next year.
- Network in New Industry: Build a network of at least __ professionals in the target industry within __ months.
- Gain Relevant Skills: Acquire 3 new skills pertinent to the desired career change in the next __ months.
- Attend Career Fairs: Participate in at least __ career fairs related to the new industry within the next year.
- Create a Transition Plan: Develop a comprehensive career transition plan within the next __ months.
- Engage in Informational Interviews: Conduct __ informational interviews in the new field within __ months.
Taking Leadership Positions
- Lead a Project: Volunteer to lead a new project within the next month and successfully deliver it in __ months.
- Mentor Junior Staff: Start mentoring at least __ junior employees over the next year to develop leadership skills.
- Join a Leadership Program: Enroll in and complete a leadership development program within the next __ months.
- Implement a New Initiative: Propose and implement one new departmental initiative within the next year.
- Improve Decision-Making: Make data-driven decisions in __% of cases over the next __ months.
- Participate in Leadership Roundtables: Attend at least __ leadership roundtables in the next __ months.
- Enhance Team Collaboration: Improve team collaboration metrics by __% over the next __ months.
- Strengthen Interdepartmental Collaboration: Initiate and maintain a quarterly cross-departmental project over the next year.
- Cultivate a Team Culture: Develop and implement a team culture improvement plan over the next __ months.
- Cultivate a Healthy Work-Life Balance: Establish and follow a work-life balance routine for the next year.
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.
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.
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.
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 SMARTer goals. When you set goals with this framework 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.
- 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.
And the next step? Work to achieve your goal — The Ultimate Guide to Goal Achieving