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Career Success

15 Career Milestones To Celebrate (And How To Set New Ones)

Written by Kim Monaghan
Career Happiness Coach, HR Consultant, Trainer & Speaker
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When you look at your professional life in terms of career milestones, it can be very exciting and rewarding. By honoring your successes along your professional journey, you build your confidence, pride, and courage and open your eyes to new opportunities.

Career milestones happen every day. They may include completing a project, landing an interview, or getting kudos from the boss. Unfortunately, too often, smaller career milestones are discounted, with professionals focusing only on the big ones—like a new job or retirement.

But when you diminish smaller career milestones or ones that are less overt, you’re taking away a tiny bit of your professional soul. Instead, celebrating each one provides the required internal fuel to go after and achieve the next one.

Achieve Career Milestones By Setting Achievement Goals

Setting achievement goals is important. These goals can be big, like landing a promotion, or small, like accomplishing thirty minutes of uninterrupted focus time.

The size of your goals does not matter, just that you set achievement goals and go after them.

Moving toward these goals, even if you don’t fully realize them yet, is huge. It helps you move the needle further toward your professional and personal success.

When you have a visual career path, it makes achieving success even easier. This career path can only be followed when you know where to go.


So, enter the career development map.

Create A Career Development Map

A career development map is just what you would imagine it to look like—a treasure map. In the end, it is the ultimate goal for this year, or in five years, or whatever target time you have in mind.

Even if your ultimate goal isn’t totally clear, it will tighten up as you move forward. The key is not to get stuck sitting and waiting for that ultimate goal to be perfect. You need to move!

The purpose of a career development map is so you know which direction you are going. This map may be your guide for your life path, including career milestones from graduation to retirement.

The interesting thing about this career development map is that it’s dynamic. Like the one you might find at Hogwarts, this map will have new and unexpected milestones that pop up along the way. And remember that your goals can evolve and change as you evolve and change.

As you move forward on your career path, life also simultaneously happens. What you want now may be very different in ten years. That’s okay.

If you’re willing to be flexible and put in the work, this career path will take you on a journey of a lifetime—literally.


15 Career Milestones to Celebrate

Ready to get started? Here are fifteen big and small career milestones that you should strive for and celebrate along the way.

1. Graduation

Many successful professionals have graduated from somewhere. This could be high school, college, a university, or a personal milestone that is less to do with education and more to do with life.

The university of experience is a career milestone that has shaped many a success story, while other icons attribute their achievements to more formal educational pursuits.

Whether it be a traditional academic program or a non-traditional self-development program, graduating from an intensive learning endeavor is the first major career milestone worthy of a celebration. But don’t stop there. This is one of those career milestones that should have a ripple effect.

Continue to set up courses, programs, conferences, and self-study endeavors throughout the remainder of your career journey so you can continue graduating and growing along the way.

2. First Interview

You probably remember your first interview. It’s a career milestone that one never forgets. The nerves and the preparation won’t go away as you embark on more interviews—nor should they if you want to succeed—but those associated with your first interview have a lasting impact.

This career milestone sets the tone for future interviews. You experienced a lot, and you learned a lot. And the great thing about interviews is each future one is a mini career milestone, moving you closer to the job of your dreams.


3. Important Move

This could be your first apartment, or maybe you transferred to a corporate division across the globe. Perhaps you moved into your parent’s guest house. Whatever the move looks like, it’s a career milestone.

Yes, I said “career” because it is the milestone that asserts your independence and that has positive future consequences.

When you step into your own space and become an independent person, you learn the nuances of life and leadership. This is a fantastic learning lab of transferrable responsibilities for future career milestones.

Budgeting, planning, self-care, networking, and self-awareness are just a few of the skills that you will hone in on when you finally own your own space.

4. Inaugural Job

Your first job is a huge career milestone. Many professionals start early with a newspaper delivery service, running a lemonade stand, babysitting, or wait-staffing in high school and beyond.

Your first job is a career milestone that comes with a heavy crown. This is where you find yourself in a professional boot camp of sorts, trying to figure out what it takes to succeed and get a paycheck.


Even if you consider your first real job to be the one that gives you a nice salary and benefits, each day of your first 90 days is a mini career milestone.

As you navigate the process and learn how to apply what you know and integrate your style into the corporate culture, celebrate the fact that you are on your way to the rest of your life. This career milestone is one of the biggest leaps on your career map and should be honored accordingly.

5. Next Job

After your first job, you may stay with that company for the remainder of your career, or there may be many more jobs along the way. As you build your career profile with successes, accomplishments, and career milestones, recruiters and decisions makers will reach out.

If you choose to take another job or take a hiatus from work, celebrate the transition without guilt or worry. This is the professional path and provides endless opportunities for you to use your talents in new and exciting ways.


6. Big Promotion

This is one of the more enviable career milestones. Too many people shoot for the big promotion but forget to acknowledge that increasing responsibilities is just as valuable as a new title or salary.

However, when your big promotion is realized, it’s a huge leap along your career path.

7. Noteworthy Projects

Projects come in all sizes, but there will be one that really stands out from the others. Accomplishing all the work involved to seeing it through to completion is a huge career milestone.

This confidence-boosting achievement—along with future noteworthy projects—should be noted on your resume and summarized in interviews and annual reviews.

8. Day-to-Day Accomplishments

Just as projects are career milestones, accomplishments will take place on your career journey that is worth celebrating. Some may include running a successful meeting, completing your first ninety days on the job, negotiating a better price from a vendor, or landing a new client.

Depending on your job and industry, you will want to make major accomplishment goals throughout your career journey.

9. First Speech

There comes a time in every professional journey when you will make a speech. This could be in a public forum or in front of your team, but your first speech is a great step toward shoring up your leadership identity and becoming a successful communicator.

10. Critical Conversations

At first blush, this may not seem like a career milestone, but trust me—it is.

There will be a time (or times) throughout your career when you successfully engage in a crucial conversation that changes outcomes for the better. Standing up to a difficult coworker or persuading your boss to make a change may count as a few.

It becomes a career milestone when the stakes are high. You prepare thoughtfully and engage in critical conversations with grace and professionalism. You will remember these conversations for the rest of your life.

11. Great Evaluation

Evaluations are delivered more modestly these days. Instead of glowing and five stars, most companies have policies that encourage their leaders to stay in the middle zone when documenting evaluations.

That shouldn’t rob your enthusiasm from a great outcome. When you have a successful annual evaluation, celebrate it.

Treat yourself to a sweet treat or lunch out with a friend who will give you the time to share. Then, after celebrating this career milestone, make notes on what you’ve learned so you can continue the path of positive feedback.


12. Leadership Role

A leadership role doesn’t necessarily equate to management. Rather, this career milestone takes place when you step into the driver’s seat of a project, an initiative, a company, or a team. It’s a big one, and it comes with heightened responsibilities.

As your leadership journey takes off, so will the amount of work and authority. Honor this path respectfully and authentically so that more leadership opportunities will come your way.

13. Boardroom Seat

Not everyone seeks to sit on a board, but it is a major carer milestone for many. Sometimes, boardroom seats are voluntary, whereas others are by appointment.

Regardless of how you land your seat, focus on doing great work for the organization that you serve. Your career profile will be positively impacted, and so will your reputation if you conduct your board seat with respect and servitude.

14. Career Retirement

When the time comes to leave your current occupation and step away from the grind, go all out in celebrating this career milestone. It’s one of the biggest goals most professionals strive for.

15. Encore Career

Don’t stop learning, growing, and impacting others. An encore career, whether that comes at forty-five or the influential age of eighty, is designed for you to live your best career life.

With that in mind, start thinking about what your professional journey will look like beyond the formal career. When you are no longer tied to an eight to five, you can explore whatever you fancy.


This encore, or second career, does not have to align with your experience or training or be full-time. A little side-hustle or an entrepreneurial endeavor or common choices—or volunteering or going back to work in an entirely new occupation for some—is a career milestone that speaks to your soul.

Final Thoughts

When you reflect on your career milestones, look back fondly on the journey today and be proud of all that you’ve achieved. You’ve got a long way to go, and in some instances, milestones will be revisited time and again. But that’s what makes the career journey exciting and insightful.

Start celebrating all that you have achieved and planning for the critical career milestones yet to come.

Featured photo credit: JD Mason via unsplash.com

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