Have you ever thought about your career goals? This is a common question in job interviews, but perhaps not many of us have taken the time to think about specific career goals and how to achieve them.
As banal as it may sound, the question “Where would you like to see yourself in five years?” It’s a great way to balance your personal and professional goals. When you set a goal, you increase your chances of success – and the likelihood of accomplishing more than you thought possible from the start.
So how do you set realistic career goals and what’s the secret to achieving them? This guide has everything you need to know, with some specific examples.
How do you define your career goals?
As a kid, you probably had friends who wanted to be an astronaut one day. It is great when ambitious dreams come true, but as you settle into your career it is important to set realistic and achievable goals.
Fortunately, setting career goals is more of a science than an art that allows you to set goals that you can actively work towards as your career progresses. However, your career path can change, and with it your short- and long-term goals.
Realistic career goals should be specific enough to keep you moving all the time, while also giving you enough room to change direction if necessary. Here are two ways you can set goals that do just that.
Examples of career goals
Find your calls
“Some people are very financially motivated, but most are looking for professional fulfillment, not just a high salary,” says Molisani. This is especially true for millennials: According to a survey by homeworkstand, 65% of them said they took their first job because they saw an opportunity for personal development. (Only 21% based their decision on salary).
At the beginning of your career, one of your top business goals should be to find the industry that matches your ambitions. “Now is the time to explore different career paths,” says Barbara Savani, owner of Career Solvers, a New York-based job search consultancy. “It is difficult to change branches in later professional life when you have a family to support and you need a fixed salary.”
Develop a wide range of skills
Many examples of career goals depend on advancing your professional development. These days you have a tough time finding a job that only requires one skill and one ability. “Employers want to hire people with a wide range of talent,” says Mollisani. So instead of focusing on what your job title should look like five years from now, focus on developing skills that will make you more marketable to future employers.
Start by improving your communication skills. Molisani recommends joining Toastmasters, an organization that helps people sharpen public speaking. You may also want to take a writing class because almost every industry will ask you to write something, be it an email or an annual report.
Establish a schedule for training
Depending on your chosen area, you may need to complete specific training, certificate programs, or education to distinguish yourself in your career. To avoid deviating from the path, set a goal for yourself to acquire the skill or degree within a certain period of time (e.g., “I will be studying law in two years”).
However, before you enroll – and potentially take on student loan debt – think about why you want the degree and whether it will make a difference for your future. “Many go back to school for the wrong reasons and then become frustrated that their education doesn’t lead to better career opportunities,” says Svane.
If getting an MBA increases your earning potential, the investment will likely be well worth it; But if the degree isn’t relevant to your job, you’d better do without it.
Differentiate yourself in the field
To become a leader, you need to increase your visibility in your current company and in your industry. Show your boss that you have leadership potential by leading an initiative. Working on a group project? Be the person reporting to your manager. Join an industry group or association and regularly attend networking events.
Personal networking is essential, ”said Marcel Yeager, president of Career Valet, a career coaching company based in Washington, DC. You may even want to take on a leadership role (such as a secretary) to further raise your public profile.
Also, develop a strong online presence that will help you demonstrate your expertise. This means that you are active on social media – which means you need to tweet regularly and not just have a Twitter account.
Align your life goals with your career goals
Think about where you would like to be personally in five years, advises Molisani. Would you like to start a family in your hometown? Build your career there. Would you like to buy your own home or pay off your student loan debt?
Check out the Monster Salary Guide to see the average salary for someone in your field with five years of experience and to see if you need to make adjustments to stay on track.
Develop new business goals
No matter how much preparation you take to work towards your goals, you know that nothing is constant – and that’s fine. It is important to be flexible. If you notice that your career path is moving in a new and unexpected direction, better take it easy than fight it. The workplace changes, the industries change, and so do you.