Long-term career goals can easily feel out of reach for a lot of people or seem so far off in the distant future that it feels almost impossible to imagine it happening.
When reaching your career goals, it’s important to take one step at a time. The right steps you make today, no matter how small, can be vital to career success down the line — no matter how far away it might seem.
In knowing which the right steps are to take, you need to plan each step, and that’s where this guide can help you.
How to set your career goals
To start making the right steps towards achieving your dream career goals, you first need to understand what those goals are. It’s a good idea to make a list or keep a log of your relevant goals so that you can always check back and keep track of your goals.
- Be honest with yourself
- Set realistic goals
- Set both short-term and long-term goals
- Do your research to make sure you understand what steps you need to take
- Speak to others and share your goals
- Think about the big end goal, and break it down into smaller steps to get there
- Know that your goals might change
6 steps for reaching your career goals
Step 1: Avoid unrealistic goals
Indeed, it would be best if you didn’t let anything stop you from achieving your dreams, especially when it comes to career goals. Nevertheless, that doesn’t mean that some goals may not be unrealistic. Setting unrealistic goals can risk wasting valuable time, as well as increasing the risk of disappointment in the long-term.
Also, chase those goals that you want to achieve, but also work within your own means and the realms of possibility. Through proper research and planning, you will be able to understand which goals are realistic, and which may be too far out of reach at this point.
Step 2: Break up your short-term goals from your long-term goals
These will often go hand in hand, as you will usually need to achieve your short-term goals to make the long-term goals happen for you. However, to reach your long-term goals, you first need to know which steps to take to get there.
You may therefore want to keep a separate list or log for the short-term and long-term.
As an idea, you may have a long-term goal of attaining a specific career position. Your short-term goals may therefore be to graduate from school with the right qualification to move on to the next step (a step which will be closer to that long-term goal of your intended career position).
Step 3: Avoid doing anything which takes you away from your focused long-term goals
You may find yourself up against an unexpected crossroads, or steps which you didn’t expect to take. When faced with new possibilities or a potential change to your short-term goals, always ask yourself whether this other step will bring you closer to your long-term goal, or further away. Even if it seems completely unrelated, it could better your chances of reaching that long-term goal, such as teaching you a valuable skill which you can use later.
If, however, this unexpected step can offer nothing beneficial for your long-term goal, even if it seems like a great choice, then you shouldn’t waste time on it.
Step 4: Gain the right qualifications
Not all jobs require qualifications and depending on what your specific career goals are; you may not need to have a degree or a specific educational background. That doesn’t mean that qualifications won’t be significantly helpful in achieving your career goals. If they’re needed for the career path you have in mind, then you’ll need to make sure you become qualified for what you want to do. If they’re not urgently needed, or if you’re not even sure which career you want to go into at this stage, you should still look to increase your chances as much as possible by building your resume.
For example, working to achieve an online DBA can set you up for many business avenues, and also help you to stand out significantly from any other professionals who have fewer qualifications, or perhaps none at all.
Not only that but earning a qualification will teach you valuable skills which you can apply to any professional circumstance, and which will help you strive towards your goals.
Step 5: Always set positive goals
If you’re in a career position which you don’t currently want to be in, you may think that all your goals need to focus on moving away from that. You may therefore be tempted to write goals such as ‘leave my job within the year’ or ‘make sure I never have a low salary’. While these are important realizations to have, you should switch your thinking and instead make only positive goals for yourself.
Instead of focusing on the negatives of any current job or circumstances, you don’t want to be in, think about a positive new situation which you want to create for yourself, and how you can get there. This can help to promote a more positive mentality for you when you’re reading your goals, too, as it will be optimistic language rather than pessimistic.
You could try ‘earn a higher salary’ as a more positive goal, and then research how you can increase the potential of your earnings.
Step 6: Share your goals with others
Goals can, of course, be personal and private, but when it comes to career goals, talking openly about what you’re trying to achieve with friends and family will help you to feel more motivated, as well as make your goals feel more authentic and real. It may even open up possibilities for others to offer advice and support for those steps where you need input from others.
Sharing your goals also makes it more possible to focus on them, as you can then let others know if you need time to work on them, or if you’re going to be busy concentrating on your career for a certain period.
Let these six steps help you to get started with planning — and succeeding in — your career goals.