How to Set Career Goals & 9 Examples

Updated September 1, 2022 . AmFam Team

Looking to take the next big step in your career? Learn how to effectively set up your career goals (with examples) and set yourself up for professional success.

You've resolved to make a few changes and spend some time thinking about your long-term career goals. Why shouldn’t you? You’ve invested a lot to get where you are. But have you really considered the impact that setting career goals can have on accomplishing your professional objectives?

Putting your dreams into action is all about dedication and determination. Like other goals, it can help to write down your career development goals and assign each one a due date. That way, you can chart your progress and celebrate when you hit that target.

If you’ve been dreaming of a brighter tomorrow but find yourself wondering, “What career goal examples work best for me?”, we have some professional goal-setting tips for you to consider. But first, let's explore a few real-world examples that can help turn your dreams into reality.

9 Examples of Work Goals

Two of the best ways to advance confidently in the direction of your dreams are: 1) master new skills and 2) learn how to develop career goals. Take a look at these examples to help you build a path to success.

1. Boost your professional skill set

With the right training and certifications, you may find your new skills give you the confidence to ask for that promotion you've been eyeing.

2. Take on leadership roles

Requesting opportunities to drive or manage projects might just grab the attention of your company’s directors or hiring managers. Most higher-level jobs require some form of project management, and by volunteering to lead, you’ll gain valuable experience and effective leadership skills you can reference when the time comes to interview for a better job.

3. Finally get that degree

Returning to school may seem like a no-brainer, but if you’ve been away from academia for a few years, it can be daunting. Don’t let that stop you. Many employers offer tuition reimbursement for a reason: They often prefer to hire from within because managers are already familiar with what you have to offer. And better still, they know your potential.

4. Aim for higher-paying positions

Look carefully at your talents and experience, and search online for qualifying positions. You may find you can command a higher wage for the work you’re already doing.

5. Improve where you work

Employers will be more likely to hire from within when a candidate has a proven track record of creating efficiencies and driving changes that save money. Dig into how work’s getting done and see if you can get that same job done faster or more efficiently. When you succeed, be sure to document the change, and get the word out to your manager!

6. Nurture relationships with coworkers

A great way to make your presence known at work is to be present and mindful when communicating with colleagues. Seek out books on emotional development and team building in the workplace. You may find people start to seek out your advice — building the kind of deep trust that can help foster relationships with influencers at work.

7. Join professional associations

A relatively easy-to-accomplish, short-term career goal is to get involved with a professional organization or group that specializes in your job field. You’ll have a chance to network with others in your industry, and that can lead to real opportunities.

8. Volunteer in your community

Explore the volunteer opportunities in your area and go with one you love. For example, if you’re currently in accounting, leverage those skills and volunteer at a charity by helping with the books once in a while. If it works out, you may be able to write off the time you volunteer as an in-kind donation. The non-cash gift of your hours and expertise can translate into a deduction on your taxes if you’re volunteering at a non-profit group. Be sure to work with your accountant to get your taxes prepared correctly. 

9. Start your own business

If you’ve mastered what it takes to run a business for someone else, why not take that dream and turn it into your own? Entrepreneurs have to start somewhere. Launching a business where the learning curve is cut short can help you leverage the best practices you’ve developed elsewhere. You’ll hit the ground running!

7 Tips for Setting Work Goals

There’s so much you can do to increase the odds of reaching your career goals. From accurately tracking your progress to remaining realistic about what you can accomplish, you’ll find the following seven job-related goal-setting tips useful as you pursue your dreams.

1. Stay flexible

Life is full of surprises. By being open to changing circumstances, you’ll be better prepared to pivot and move on if a professional goal doesn’t work out.

2. Be specific

One important piece of advice is to write down your professional goals precisely. After naming the job you want, build a roadmap to guide you there. You’ll benefit from outlining a plan that describes the steps you’ll need to take to get from where you are now to where you want to be. A plan can help make achieving your dream easier, and you’ll have a better idea of how to get the job done.

3. Focus on positivity

If you find yourself stuck in a rut, remember, this is a process. You may need to take a step back, reassess and give your dreams some breathing room. Most importantly, remind yourself that you’re going to do great things and then tackle the next short-term goal with that new-found momentum.

4. Remain a realist

Although you may want to run your own software company someday, it may take a while to get there. It’s a real skill to know how to set reasonable career goals — it may take some practice. When you set realistic goals, you may find you’re more relaxed and enjoy greater peace of mind, knowing you haven't set the bar too high.

5. Chart your progress toward your goals

Have a process in place where short-term career goals can act as benchmarks toward your long-term ambitions. Career goal-setting tips like using a reminder app and placing sticky notes around the house can help you keep your objectives front and center.

6. Stick to a calendar

For your career goals to remain attainable, it’s key to set a reachable due date. That way, you can’t procrastinate. The objectives leading to your goals can help you scale out a reasonable schedule so you land on time, ready for your next big adventure.

7. Couple each objective with an action

Defining objectives for your goals can help you focus on what you need to do to move closer to your dreams.

The Importance of Setting Work Goals

Setting goals helps create a framework for career growth. Remember, when you're planning career goals, be as specific as possible from the beginning. And in addition to remaining motivated, it’s smart to work on increasing your focus over time. With that increased laser-like attention on your career objectives, you’ll find new capacity to take on more and dream bigger than ever before.

Start Focusing on Your Work Goals Today

Once you’ve started down the path to realizing your dreams, you may find yourself wondering why you waited so long! After you take those key first small steps, you’ll feel great knowing you’re on the path to success. Bringing your dreams to reality can open up rewarding opportunities for you, both personally and financially.

Looking for more tips and motivation? Join the dream movement today — we’ve got all the resources you need to help support and guide your path along any dream pursuit.

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