Career Goals: Developing a Vision for Professional Growth

smart career goals on notepad

Setting career goals is an integral part of career planning. It could be argued that goal setting is the most important component of professional development. But, many people fail to understand why identifying their objectives matters, which results in a lack of long-term targets that could potentially help them succeed.

Why career goals matter

  • They help guide you: Identifying your targets is crucial for success, without them, you’ll never know which step to take next.
  • They motivate you: Working towards something that matters to you will not only make you more productive, but it will also help make you happier in the workplace.
  • They make you more responsible: Owning mistakes and successes, as well as claiming responsibility for your growth is a major step in becoming a better professional.

Setting your career goals

The first step in successful goal setting is figuring out what success means to you. Sure, we all dream of having insane amounts of money without ever lifting our finger, but to plan your career, you need to be realistic about what you can achieve.

Think of what would make you proud of yourself. Would it be becoming a big shot CEO, or running a small business? Doing meaningful work in a third world country or a job that allows you to spend time with family and friends?

Deciding on what would help make you feel successful will help guide the rest of your decisions. Separate your objectives into long and short term goals as this will make them more manageable and it will also help you identify and plan your next steps.

What’s also important to note is that you need to keep track of your progress at all times. Goal setting is not a process that you just do once and then forget all about it. Your goals might change quite frequently, so it’s important to avoid making mistakes in this area because it’s your professional development that is at stake.

Long-term goals

These are the big things you want to do professionally. For example, getting another degree, switching careers, starting your own business, etc. To achieve them you’ll need a lot of time and hard work, but they can be incredibly rewarding.

Short-term goals

These refer to targets that are more achievable and can help push you towards achieving your long-term objectives. In a way, they are the steps you will need to take to achieve your long-term goals.

Identifying career goals

Goal setting is all about pinpointing different career objectives and figuring out the different steps you are going to need to take to achieve them. The questions listed below will help you identify career goals.

1. What is my passion?

As passion in the workplace is not as simple as being passionate about art or computers, it’s important to understand what truly drives you. Often, the best way to understand your passions is by thinking of what pushed you towards the degree you chose.

2. What experience do I have?

To keep your targets realistic, you also need to take into account what you can do. What are your skills and what has work experience equipped you with?

3. What do I enjoy doing?

Bear in mind that we spend the majority of our day at work, so it’s important to invest in something you enjoy. Think about your likes and dislikes at work. If for example, you enjoy looking at surveys and picking up trends think of how you can incorporate it into your objectives.

4. What are my strengths and weaknesses?

You should take into account your key competencies. If you are good at something then it’s likely that you will be successful at it. Taking into account your weaknesses is also crucial as this will help you make your targets more achievable.

5. What kind of professional do I want to be?

Think of what abilities you’d like to develop and what you are interested in learning. Consider the knowledge and skills you want to focus on and where your conscience is leading you.

Building a career plan

After you’ve determined what your goals are, you need to map out a strategy that will bring you closer to them. Don’t try to look at each goal individually, as they all form part of a bigger plan. To make your planning more effective, you’ll need to research and come up with detailed plans for your strategy.

Strategies to consider

1. Write your targets down

Writing your goals down will force you to really think about them so it’s a strategy that could potentially ensure success. Although it requires time, it’s definitely worth the trouble as it will also make you more focused.

2. Hire a professional coach

It’s not always easy to make decisions about things that are so close to you, so you might want to consider hiring a professional that will make it easier to develop a strategy, while they’ll also be able to provide you with valuable tips and advice.

3. Set SMART goals

The term SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Timely goals. The framework allows you to set well-defined and clear objectives whose progress you can track which will allow you to stay motivated.

Career goal examples

  1. Increase performance metrics: Performance metrics are basically your KPIs, ie. how good you are at your job. Improving customer satisfaction and reducing costs are two common examples.
  2. Advance your career: Taking on new challenges is essentially to remaining motivated in the workplace and this is why you should be focusing on where you’d like to see your career go and how to go about getting there.
  3. Start a business: Starting your own business is a common dream amongst employees, especially those with an entrepreneurial mind. To succeed you’ll need to map out a very specific strategy.
  4. Continuing your education: Obtaining a degree and furthering your knowledge in your subject-matter is commended on and it can easily become a tool that will help you leverage your career.

Goal setting is an integral part of professional development. It’s always the first step to success which is why you need to take the time to identify your desires and how you can go about achieving them!