5 Career Goals You Absolutely Should Set for Yourself

Career Advice
10
minute read

Making the most of your career growth starts with your goals. Set the right milestones to aim for, and you’ll be well on your way to achieving the success you desire at work. Here’s how.

Great careers don’t happen by accident. They happen when you apply thoughtful planning and commitment to pursuing what you want most to achieve on the job. And that process begins with choosing the right goals to set for yourself.

Does that sound like a challenge? It doesn’t have to be. While there are many job-related milestones you could aim to accomplish, they can be narrowed down to a few key categories that are well worth focusing on at any stage of your career.

To help you identify next steps to building your future, here’s a look at why it pays to set goals, a list of 5 savvy career goal ideas, and some practical actions you can take to make them happen.

 

Why Set Goals at Work?

There are many benefits to establishing targets to achieve for your career. 

By setting career goals, you’re creating a clear vision of what you’d like your present and your future to look like. And a clear vision helps you identify and take practical actions that lead you closer to the success you’d like to achieve. 

Job milestones keep you focused. And when you achieve those milestones, you gain confidence. This sense of mastery sustains you through the inevitable challenges that arise daily on the job.

And achieving your goals can also help you to gather the work stories, performance metrics, and practical know-how that you’ll use as you market yourself for your next promotion, job move, or career change.


5 Career Goal Areas to Concentrate On

1. Grow in Your Role

If you do nothing more than keep up the same routine at work without growing, you are limiting your potential. When you successfully stepping outside your comfort zone, you’ll stay satisfied longer in your existing position because it’s expanding rather than stagnating. It also makes room for you to receive promotions or make smart lateral moves to get you where you want to be 5-10 years from now.

Tips for growing in your role:

·      Ask more questions of your manager and colleagues so you can improve your overall skill set and show you’re ready for leadership—and a promotion.

·      Take on new responsibilities, so you can gain valuable experience that will help you advance in your career.

·      Earn a professional degree or certification to keep your skill set up-to-date and add valuable new know-how to your toolkit. Bonus: Advanced degrees and certifications can often help boost your salary.

 

2. Build Your Network

It’s not just what you know that makes you successful at work—it’s who you know. Building key relationships in the world of work will help you do well both now and in the long-term. Seek to establish strong, authentic ties with coworkers, managers, third-party vendors, and people entirely outside your industry. Creating a work community for yourself leads to more support, greater joy, and lasting career success.

Tips for building your network:

·      Expand your work connections by attending and volunteering at professional organizations, both within and outside of your industry.

·      Find a mentor to collaborate with, get support from, and use as a sounding board as you advance in your career.

·      Set up one-on-one meetings to get to know fellow professionals, learn about their companies, and discover ways to creatively collaborate and help each other.

 

3. Develop Good Work-Life Balance

Success in your career is important, but it’s not all there is to life. It’s important to establish good boundaries so you can flourish both at work and at home. Plus, when you keep a reasonable balance between your career and your personal life, you’ll gain greater satisfaction in both areas. You’ll enjoy your job and your life more, avoid burnout, have more energy to get things done, and overall be closer to living the full life you want and deserve. 

Tips for developing good work-life balance:

·      Take time off for relaxation, whether it’s a vacation, a half-day of personal time, or just giving yourself permission to leave work at a normal hour on Friday afternoon.

·      Develop a hobby or pastime where you can challenge yourself, have fun, and grow skills that aren’t directly work-related—though you may be surprised how they tie into your career sometime down the road.

·      Create space for the important people in your life. Spend time with loved ones and friends, and talk about more than work. Keep these relationships strong and healthy.

 

4. Find Your Joy on the Job

You spend so much of your life at work—do you really want to be miserable when you’re there? Of course not! Whether you’re in your dream job now, or you have a desire to change employers or even switch careers, enjoying your job is essential to doing your best work. If you’re feeling unhappy at the office right now, it’s worth looking for ways to boost your career satisfaction.

Tips for finding your joy on the job:

·      Figure out what’s missing from your position right now, and look for ways to add those missing elements to your job. Making just a small shift or talking with your manager about added opportunities may be all that’s needed to restore your work happiness.

·      Pitch and head up a new initiative. Look specifically for work-related ideas you’re passionate about, and offer to take the lead on making positive changes happen.

·      Take a career test to discover the ways your passions and skills overlap in work-related fields. This helps you aim for job opportunities that are a better fit to who you are and what you’re good at.

 

5. Look for the Next Opportunity

Interested in a promotion? A management role? Or even a new career? Start heading in the right direction by actively looking for ways to move up to where you want to be. Being passive and waiting for someone to offer you a new role doesn’t often lead anywhere. By showing initiative and taking steps to advance in your career, you’ll be ready to leap into the next opportunity that presents itself to you.

Tips for looking for the next opportunity:

·      Ask your manager what you need to do to earn your next promotion. Don’t just listen; act on their advice to prove you’re committed to doing what it takes to be promoted.

·      Make impact on a high-profile project at your company by volunteering to be on that project’s team, and then make a major contribution to its success. This builds your skills and ensures you stand out to the higher-ups.

·      Stay open to possibilities. Even when you love your current position, a new opportunity may arise that’s ideal for you. So, stay on LinkedIn, pay attention to new job listings, and go for occasional interviews even before you’re actively searching for a new role.

 

Make Your Goals SMART

Once you’ve set your career goals, it’s time to make them happen. And the tried-and-true SMART approach is an effective way to do so. Here’s a refresher on how to do that:

·      Specific — Identify clear, concrete, actionable steps you can take, such as “I’ll take a certification in project management this fall, and complete it within 3 months.”

·      Measurable — Figure out defined metrics that will show you whether you hit your goal or not, such as “I’ll improve my sales closing rate by at least 5% in the next 6 months.” Hint: If your goal can’t be measured, it’s probably not specific enough.

·      Attainable — Great career goals are both a challenge to achieve, as well as realistic. “Becoming CEO in one year” may not be achievable if you’re in an entry level position, but “becoming a manager of entry-level employees” certainly is.

·      Relevant — Make sure your goal is both important and valuable to you and your company. If your company wants to sell more widgets, a relevant goal may be something like, “Learn my manager’s techniques for successfully upselling current clients to increase sales orders.”

·      Timely — Set a specific timeframe or deadline within which to accomplish your goals. This creates a sense of urgency and clarity that drives successful completion of each step you’re taking. An example is, “I’ll investigate online courses in social media management and narrow my choices down to my top three in the next two weeks.”

 

Summing It All Up

Success in your career, both short-term and long-term, depends on having clear milestones you plan to achieve. The more you take an active role in your career growth, the better your chances at gaining the opportunities, promotions, and salary increases you desire. 

Look for ways to grow in your current role, expand your network, stay balanced with work and life, enjoy your job, and spot new possibilities. And sharpen your goals by using the SMART method to ensure they are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and timely. By doing so, you’ll make it a lot easier to achieve career goal success both now and in the future.

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