Career Goals: The Importance of Setting Milestones

Have you ever taken the time to sit down and consider — sincerely think about — where you see yourself in one year? Five years? Ten?

We’ve all been there. You feel trapped in a dead-end job, you can’t find the right opportunities and nothing is going your way. But being able to clearly envision your career goals is key to accomplishing what you want in life. Articulating your vision to yourself is the first step toward getting to truly where you wish to be in your professional life.

If you want to progress, it is imperative that you identify your own personal career goals. The Corporate Finance Institute define a career goal as “a well-defined statement explaining the profession that an individual intends to pursue throughout their career.”

Career goals can be divided into short-term and long-term. Short-term goals can be roughly defined as those that can be achieved in 6 months–3 years. Long-term goals may take between 3–5 years.

The Importance of Career Goals

Many people consider setting career goals to be a bit of a waste of time. Don’t fall into this way of thinking. Without goals to guide every career move you make, you’ll find yourself void of any roadmap with which you can make sense of the path you are on. After all, how will you ever reach your destination if you can’t even see exactly where it is?

It’s common for people to restart or refocus their careers, although the level of success they will experience with such an endeavor is highly contingent on how prepared they are upon entering into it. Your goals must be both reasonable and achievable. If thought through effectively, they can provide you with a benchmark for determining your career trajectory and how you are doing professionally. But how do you work such ambition into realistically workable goals in the first place?

The Self-Assessment

Before you can begin planning your career goals, you need to be totally honest with yourself and scrutinize exactly what you want out of life. Whether you write the answers to the following questions down or discuss them with someone you trust, you might just be amazed at how much more clearly you begin to think once you have broken down your aspirations into tangible statements.

  • Where am I on my career path?
  • What have been my major career accomplishments so far?
  • How do I perceive myself, and how am I perceived?
  • How confident am I in my capabilities and skillset?
  • Do I have a gift or calling?
  • What is my greatest passion?
  • If I could start over in any industry or career, what would it be?
  • If I could acquire or learn new skills, what would they be?
  • How do I feel about my career? Is it right for me?
  • Do I thrive working in a team or on my own?
  • What motivates me?

Once you have answered these questions as sincerely and authentically as you can, you’re ready to move on to the next phase.

How to Identify Your Career Goals

It’s all very well yearning to become renowned or respected in your field or wildly successful at your job, but at some point, you need to break your goals down into nuts and bolts in order to better understand how to advance.

Be specific

Look into the future and visualise exactly what you want. How exactly do you wish your job to look? Instead of merely asserting that you want a promotion, think about what that would mean to you. By being specific, you attain greater clarity about what you need to do in order to achieve the goal. It becomes far easier to devise a plan. Specificity also affords you more motivation because you can immediately get started working toward it.

Keep your goals measurable

You need criteria so that your goals are unambiguous. Let’s say you wish to boost your income. This is too vague. If, however, you wish to have increased your salary by 20% within the next 2 years, you won’t rest until you have hit and passed that milestone. Create benchmarks by which you can track your progress and you can’t go far wrong.

Challenge yourself

Setting career goals is all about balance. You need to spur yourself into action by pushing yourself outside your comfort zone, but also not set yourself up for failure, as this can damage your self-confidence. That being said, of course, there needs to be risk, a chance of failure, because it’s only by learning from our errors that we grow as individuals and become ever more resolute in our determination to achieve our goals. Your goals must be in accordance with your skills and abilities, or at least in line with skills and abilities you can feasibly acquire in the future.

Your goals should motivate you

People will often set goals just because they sound good or they believe them to be goals they ‘should’ be aspiring to achieve. However, your goals need to be important to you. You must care about their outcome, otherwise you will never feel the drive to even attempt to achieve them. 

How Am I Going to Achieve My Career Goals?

A goal without a plan is just a dream. If you don’t know what you need to do to achieve your career goals, they will remain a figment of your imagination.

Now you have your goals, it’s integral to their success that you get real with the details, as well as the logistics and practicalities of going about implementing them.

  • What skills will I need?
  • What certifications or qualifications will I need to attain?
  • How much will it cost?
  • What changes to my lifestyle and working life will I need to make?

A major goal might seem tough to reach, but by breaking it down into more manageable chunks or sub-goals, you can always be working in the short term toward that dream of the long term. Furthermore, you need to assess how committed you are, how determined and resolute you are in achieving your goals. If you doubt your commitment, that’s fine — in fact, it’s honorable to admit to yourself that you simply won’t actually put in the work, because in doing so you then save yourself a lot of time you might otherwise be wasting in living a lie.

Moreover, it’s key to ascribe a deadline to your goal. It’s no use telling yourself that you’ll do it ‘someday’ because this nullifies any effectiveness that trying to plan your career goals might have. By assigning a deadline, you have a critical metric for measuring your outcome, and you know that if you have not achieved your goal by that date that you were either unrealistic or not working hard enough toward it.

Finally, write your goals down. Research from Dominican University shows simply writing your goals down increases your chances of actually achieving them by an astounding 42%. If they are on paper, place them somewhere you will see them constantly and will always be reminded of what you have set out to achieve. It doesn’t matter if it’s on the bathroom mirror, your desk, stuck to the refrigerator door with a magnet — get your goals both metaphorically and literally in your line of sight.

What’s Next?

Once you have achieved a goal, there’s no need to stop! No matter where you are in your career or what goal you’ve just achieved, you can always strive for more — if that’s what you want.

Setting and achieving goals is arguably the most beneficial thing you can ever do for your career. By becoming the best you can be, you will make a difference at your company and maximize your own work-life balance and day-to-day job satisfaction. Setting goals keeps you driven, motivated and resolutely focused on what really matters the most to you and your career. Your career will always have its ups and downs, but setting goals will keep you on a steady path to success.

What’s more, you don’t have to go it alone. At Links International, we know that setting goals for your career is paramount to a long and happy work life — and our award-winning services can help you find the job that will set you on the right path. Moreover, our salary guide lets you know how your current earnings compare to others in your field and can prompt you to request a raise, negotiate your salary or seek alternative employment if you feel you’re simply not being paid enough. Links International’s award-winning recruitment services are designed to cover every aspect of your HR processes and have made us a leader in HR outsourcing in Asia. Get in touch with us today and one of our friendly team will be delighted to help you with any and all of your recruitment-related queries.