How To Set-up And Achieve Career Goals

How To Set-up And Achieve Career Goals


What is a career goal?

A career goal is a clear statement that defines the ultimate job you aspire to throughout the course of your career. Provided it is realistic, a clear career goal allows you to then set yourself an action plan, or personal development plan, to work towards to achieve your professional ambitions.

Steps to set and achieve career goals

To help you achieve your ultimate career ambition, there are several steps you need to take along the way. From determining and defining your end objective, to plotting a personal development plan of action to ensure you get there, smart management of your career takes more than just motivation – it takes careful planning.


1. Explore the possibilities

You may be someone who has known for a very long time exactly what occupation you aspire to. Or perhaps you have several careers in mind with no clear understanding of which one is best for you. Either way, the initial step in formulating a career plan involves exploring in more detail the occupation/s that interest you and ensuring you are comfortable with the reality of your options.

To do this, research and explore your occupational preference/s to determine the qualifications, typical career paths and specific skills required.

Ask yourself:

  • What training and qualifications are required to enter the occupation/s?
  • What skills and interests are required to succeed in the occupation/s?
  • How do my skills and interests match up? Where are the gaps?
  • What do I find particularly inspiring about the occupation/s?
  • What training, support and resources could I expect to receive? Will these help or quicken my success?
  • What is the typical work environment like?
  • What are the standard responsibilities?
  • What advancement opportunities are available?
  • Where is the work located?
  • What is the typical salary?
  • What level of work-life balance is achievable?

At the end of this step you will have greater insight into your identified occupation/s.

2. Compare options

The next step involves comparing your options to narrow down your choices. Ask yourself:

Ask yourself:

  • What occupation suits me best and will satisfy my professional and personal ambitions?
  • What occupation best matches my skills, interests and values?
  • What occupation is likely to be in greatest demand by employers in the future?
  • What are the advantages and disadvantages of each option?
  • In which occupation can I achieve my desired salary and work-life balance?
  • Which occupation can I picture myself doing day-in, day-out?

When considering these questions, objectively think about what is required to succeed in each job. What weaknesses would you need to overcome to succeed? What strengths would see you thrive?

Also consider if each job feels like the right ‘fit’ for you.

At the end of this step you will have narrowed down your options and identified the one occupation that you ultimately aspire to.

From this, you can define what you want to achieve in this chosen profession. Write this goal down so that you can then devise an action plan to achieve it. For example, “In 15 years’ time, I want to be the financial controller of a large commercial organisation”.

Writing down your goal gives you a clearer direction and focuses you on the big picture of what you ultimately want to achieve in your professional life. Our Career Goal Planner contains a template to help you plot this out.

The process of setting career goals isn’t over though once you have defined your end-game. For it to become a reality, you must then plot a plan of action, or a personal development plan, to ensure help you achieve the goal you’ve set for yourself.


3. Establish short-term goals

That’s why the third step involves creating a set of short-term actions that will start you down the path towards your career objective. Focus on what you need to achieve in the next three to five years or so, specifically in the areas of:

  • Learning: To enter or progress in your preferred occupation, do you need to earn certain qualifications? If so, what courses should you consider?
  • Experience: What experience do you need to acquire to become a suitable candidate for your next promotion or to gain your first entry-level role in this field?
  • Skills development: What specific skills should you develop to make yourself a suitable candidate for your next promotion?
  • Ideal next job: What role represents the next sensible step towards achieving your career goal?
  • Professional membership: Would professional membership aid your career advancement?

Before answering these questions, it’s worth reviewing job descriptions for the next role you aspire to. This will highlight any skills or competencies that you need to focus on developing in your current role before you commence your next jobs search.

4. Establish long-term objectives

Once these short-term objectives are in place, you need to the next step in career planning involves turning your attention to longer-term planning objectives. Plot out a realistic career progression pathway that defines the jobs and their increasing level of skills, responsibilities and seniority that will allow you to reach your goal. This is essentially your roadmap for how you are going to advance your career to get to your ultimate end goal.

Before you can chart your course towards your future, most people need to research typical career pathways in their field. To do this, you can talk to a recruiter to understand the typical career paths for the role you aspire to. You can also reach out to any LinkedIn connections who are on the pathway you aspire to. Your mentor can also provide useful insights, as can a review of relevant job descriptions.

Based upon your research, you can plot your longer term career pathway and the specific jobs you’ll need to advance through. For each job define:

  • Technical skills to acquire: This covers the specific learned abilities you’ll need to pick up and use in each role.
  • Soft skills to cultivate: Identify the non-technical skills related to how you work that you’ll need to develop in this role, such as teamwork, networking, conflict resolution or adaptability.
  • Competencies to learn: List the knowledge and behaviours you need to acquire in this job, such as commercial awareness, negotiation or conflict management.
  • Specific experience to gain: What precise experience should you gain and what successes and achievements will allow you to quantify this experience to future employers?
  • Personal or professional development: How can you personally and professionally grow in this role? For example, could you participate in a professional membership body, undertake accreditation or upskill in new technology?
  • Ideal length of tenure: How long do you need to spend in this role to develop the necessary expertise and experience to become promotion-ready?

5. Write SMARTER career goals

When formulating your action plan, remember to set clearly defined, short objectives you can work towards. To do this, the SMARTER system can be useful:

  • Specific - Be as clear as you can and avoid ambiguous statements.
  • Measurable - Quantify what you must achieve.
  • Achievable - Motivate yourself but also keep your goals reachable.
  • Realistic - Be reasonable and focus keep your goals attainable so progress is attainable.
  • Timely - Create timeframes for completing steps.
  • Empowering - Ensure your goals feel right for you and help you make the changes you want.
  • Reviewable - Keep your goals flexible so you can adjust to changing market conditions.

Also make sure you give much time on your career and believe in it. Thanks for reading.

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