setting career goals

Where do you see yourself in five years? Ten years? What are your career goals?

Most of us have some form of career goals in mind—trying to earn a certain salary, reach a specific position, or even to pursue a whole new career altogether. Our career goals keep us motivated to continue pushing forward, even on the most challenging days. These goals also create a roadmap for our careers.

But, while we all know how important career goals are, have you taken the time to define yours? Many have a vague idea of what they want, but when it comes to the details, well, those tend to be vague, too.

Taking the time to actually write out your professional goals, create a timeline (even a rough one), and a solid plan will help you achieve them.

A psychology study with nearly 270 participants showed those who wrote down their goals were 42 percent more likely to achieve them.

But where do you start?

We can help! In this article, we explain how to define, determine your timeline, and network to meet your career goals.

Career Goals Examples

To begin defining your work goals, you must first determine how you measure success when it comes to your career. Does that involve money or reaching a specific step on that corporate ladder? 

Think about what you value most about your career, and then start creating a plan around that. Write out a long-term career goals list first and then break down those long-term goals into a list of short-term career goals. 

We’ll help—below, we’ve shared a few career goals examples.

Salary Career Goals

How much do you want to earn in two years? In five years? In 10 years?

Most likely, the more experience you have, the more you’ll earn. That’s why salary is a solid way to measure your success. 

The first step is to research your market. Use websites such as Indeed and Glassdoor to gage salary ranges for different positions within your career track. If salary is most important to you, then this will help you determine how to navigate your career. 

Specializing can help you earn a higher paycheck. For example, content writers with  SEO knowledge or a Google Analytics certification tend to take home a larger salary. That being said, here is how you can write out your salary work goals:

Long-Term Salary Goal Example

This is the dollar amount you wish to earn within a certain (long-term) timeframe.

  • I will earn a $90,000 salary within 10 years of beginning my career.

Short-Term Salary Goal Examples

These are the short-term checkpoints you need to hit on the way to your long-term goal.

  • I will secure a Google Analytics certification within the next three months.
  • I will finish an SEO course within the next six months.
  • I will volunteer for any extra content projects.
  • I will approach my manager about a raise during my next evaluation.

Position Career Goals

It’s the dreaded question in most interviews: “Where do you see yourself in five years?”

Most employers ask this to gage whether you plan on staying with the company and are ambitious enough to think about your future. 

But how do you decide your position-based career goals?

Again, it all starts with research. Look into the possible routes you can take with your current position, and think about what you value most with your career. 

It’s important to know where you’d like to go, so you don’t find yourself on the wrong career track. That’s because it’s easy to go with the flow and find yourself somewhere you don’t want to be. By taking the time to do your research and plan out where you ultimately want to end up, you’ll ensure you are on the right track. Below are long-term and short-term career goal examples for a teacher who wants to become a superintendent:

Long-Term Goal

  • Within 15 years, I want to be the superintendent of my school district.

Short-Term Goals

  • I will network with superintendents from other districts each month.
  • I will secure all needed certifications within the year and make sure they stay up-to-date.
  • I will aim for my student evaluations to be at least 80 percent positive.
  • I will work my way up to Vice Principal within five years.

Determine Your Timeline

After a bit of research, you’ve now determined your professional goals and where you ultimately want to end up in your career. If only it was as easy as snapping your fingers and getting there! But of course you need to be realistic about how fast you can achieve these professional development goals. That’s why it’s important to create a timeline.

Again—we know we sound like a broken record—but do your research and reach out to experts to see how to get yourself on the fast track to achieving your work goals. Learn how long it takes to reach each step, and again, write it all down. 

Take into consideration the following questions:

  • Where are you now?
  • Where do you hope to go?
  • Which skills do you currently have?
  • Which skills do you need to reach each level?
  • What are the stepping stones between where you are and where you want to be?

Also check into additional certifications you might need at each level. Be as proactive as you can securing those certifications (and keeping them up to date!), and you’ll move forward faster.

Network, Network, Network

Even with all the research, skill setting, and planning, you’ll need additional help. After all, we all get by with a little help from our friends, right? (What? You don’t also take advice from Beatles songs?)

That’s why you need to network. 

Networking is an art, according to Jessica Sweet, CPCC, CEIP, LICSW. She is a Career Coach, Therapist, Interview Coach, and on the Forbes Coaches Council.

“Many people worry that they’re bothering people when they try to network, and therefore, they avoid it,” Sweet said.

She said the trick is starting out small. Don’t bombard someone—it’ll freak them out and turn them off from you. Follow them on social media and interact with their posts. Read anything they write and email them about it.

“Think about an email the other person might be happy to get: a note that helps them in some way, offers useful insight, reconnects them with you (if you knew them before), connects them with someone from your network, etc.,” Sweet said.

Below is an example of a networking email. In it, the sender tries to build a relationship by offering a content idea while establishing a sense of respect and setting up a meeting.

Sweet also said to expect the relationship building to take some time.

“The goal of networking isn’t instant gratification. You can’t lead with, ‘Can you get me a job?’” Sweet said. “Sometimes you can’t even lead with, ‘I’d like to learn more.’ It is all about building relationships. If you’re worried about bothering people, instead, offer value.”

Once you feel you’ve successfully built that relationship, ask them if they can meet for a virtual coffee—because, honestly, that’s all we can do right now. If they agree, set up the video conference and prepare some questions such as the following:

  • How have you found success in this field?
  • What advice would you give to someone starting out in this industry? (Or at this stage?)
  • How can someone in my position help someone in your position?
  • How would you define “success” in this industry?

Make sure to thank them for their time and keep in touch! Help them want to help you.

Aligning Job Search and Career Goals

Your professional goals are the roadmap to your career. They guide you toward each step and help you set yourself up for success, by your own definition. 

Keep all of this in mind during your job search, too. When writing your resume, you want to show that you know where you want to go. You are ambitious and know what you expect from yourself and your career (which is, a lot). This will show your potential employers that they can expect you to give them your all—because how else will you reach your goals?

But how do you set up your resume to show all of this? Our Resume Builder can help! Just choose one of our ATS-friendly resume templates, fill in the required fields, and we’ll take care of the formatting.

Want to see if how well your resume is tailored to the next job on your career path? Paste your resume next to any job description below.

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