Setting career goals to create a better future for yourself (with examples)
Last updated on: October 5, 2022
Many employees nowadays are chasing career fulfillment instead of success.
We’ve grown to like challenges and want to get the most out of our careers:
- Constant growth,
- Evolution, and
- Enough free time to appreciate our accomplishments.
But, how exactly can we branch out in our careers, without risking failure? Is that even possible?
It is, through clear career goals.
Career goals are statements that you set for your professional progress.
Maybe you want to perfect your second language to land international clients, or you take up a writing course to improve your blog. Or you want a promotion that demands you make more sales, so you set goals to improve your productivity.
These are just some examples of goals, and there are no limits to how short- or long-term they can be. It all comes down to your personal wishes.
In this article, we’ll be discussing:
- The importance of career goals
- Career goal types
- How to set your career goals successfully
…all this while providing career goal examples so that you can have a better grasp of how to successfully set career goals for yourself.
Table of Contents
What is a career goal?
A career goal is a target — something you aim to achieve in your professional life.
It can be attending training to enhance your management skills or something more long-term, such as climbing the corporate ladder.
Now, to achieve your career goals, should you follow your dreams?
You can, but remember that “a goal without a plan is just a wish” — as stated by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry.
Take Nikola Tesla as an example. A brilliant man whose inventions changed the world while often remaining mysteries to the world.
However, Tesla was not a businessman, and he died broke since he was never interested in monetary gain — so others took credit for his work.
He was passionate about electrical engineering — but struggled to pursue it as a career.
Now, I admire Tesla — we get one Tesla in a million years — but if it weren’t for Edison, Westinghouse, or others who reshaped his passion into a lucrative business, would we ever be able to see his inventions and brilliant ideas come to life?
In conclusion, just because you love doing something, it doesn’t mean you possess the necessary skills to turn it into your career goal and benefit from it.
In the next section, you can read about the importance of goal setting in your career.
Why are career goals important?
Just like life goals, career goals are essential to personal development.
A hundred years ago, people didn’t have much choice concerning their career since it was predetermined by their social class or inherited from their parents.
But, with the opening of the first vocational bureau in 1908 in Boston, people started to get more opportunities to work in different areas of the same field and even change careers if they wanted to. The word “career” got a new meaning, and people started to pursue career goals to enhance their professional development.
Today, apart from having more job opportunities, here are 5 other reasons why setting career goals is beneficial:
Reason #1: Career goals improve your skills
When you set clear career goals, you push towards your target, and consequently, you may learn a lot along the way.
Maybe you’ll need to enhance your skills to achieve a certain career goal, such as learning a new language or obtaining a computer science certificate.
So, apart from achieving that career advancement you were aiming for, you may also get a chance to diversify your skills and/or perfect your craft.
Reason #2: Career goals help you use time more effectively
Do you feel like you work non-stop and that overworking has taken a toll on your health?
If your answer is “yes” — consider setting an achievable career goal.
Whether that’s changing your occupation for good or doing something less radical — you will surely start to notice that how you manage your time has improved as well. When you know where you are heading, you effectively utilize your time and put an end to time wastage.
Using a time tracking tool can help you have a timeframe in mind making your goal more achievable and realistic as a result.
Make sure your time tracking tool can:
✅ Track time you spend on activities in real-time (or lets you enter time manually)
✅ Make precise time estimates
✅ Track progress
✅ Export detailed reports
Reason #3: Career goals boost your self-esteem
Achieving your career goals gives you a sense of personal satisfaction, appreciation, and confidence.
Whether you get a bonus or just a pat on the back — you accomplished something. You pursued your career goal, and now you feel on top of the world and want to achieve even more.
Reason #4: Career goals help you find a sense of purpose
Wandering around without any aim and doing the same job without promotion for decades will eventually lead to dissatisfaction — one way or another. Would you rather complain about how you haven’t moved up the career ladder for years or do something about it?
When you set yourself a career goal — whether long-term or short-term — you feel motivated to work, improve, and find a reason to wake up in the morning. If it means leaving your job or even changing your profession completely, so be it.
But, bear in mind that you can’t just leave your job without having planned what to do next. We’ll talk about this in more detail later in the article.
Reason #5: Career goals eliminate procrastination for good
I couldn’t help but notice that people who repeatedly brag about their future career plans rarely ever do something to bring them to life. This usually happens because they want to make a change in their career but don’t know how, so they keep procrastinating.
What can actually help them achieve their future career plans is setting a clearly defined career goal.
When you do so, the habit of procrastinating diminishes as goals become real and achievable.
💡 Clockify Pro Tip:
If you are dealing with procrastination (no judgment, we all occasionally do), you may find this guide useful:
So, we explained why career goals are important — let’s now see what types of career goals you can pursue.
What types of career goals are there?
When it comes to career goals, there is no universal division into types.
However, in this blog post, we will classify goals based on the time required to complete them.
We will also give career goal examples based on their focus for each.
Therefore, career goals can be:
Short-term career goals
As the name itself implies, short-term goals are usually set to combat a temporary work obstacle or a current hiccup in your career path.
Everything that you can achieve within 6 months to a year is considered a short-term goal.
What’s more, short-term goals are most commonly just steps towards achieving a long-term goal.
Long-term career goals
Long-term career goals require more patience and dedication and take longer to achieve than short-term goals. These are usually the goals related to significant career milestones, such as getting a promotion or starting your own business.
To better understand short-term goals and long-term goals, let’s look at a couple of examples.
Short-term career goals (examples)
The following are examples of short-term and long-term career goals that deal with enhancing your education, personal skills, productivity, efficiency, work/life balance, and more.
Example #1: Short-term goals focused on enhancing your knowledge
A short-term goal focused on enhancing your knowledge can be finishing a course (they usually last from 2 to 12 months — depending on the field of study) for a new skill set.
If you, for instance, want to learn QA software testing to advance your computer-based skills, it will take no longer than a couple of months to finish the course. It is relatively quickly achievable and helps you improve your knowledge.
Other short-term goal examples focused on education include:
- Attending seminars,
- Enrolling in online courses,
- Finding a mentor, etc.
Example #2: Short-term goals focused on self-improvement
It’s always a good idea to work on yourself — you’ll feel more confident, and others will more gladly cooperate with you.
Therefore, opt for a personality development seminar or watch life-coaching videos if you don’t have time to attend a seminar in person.
You can also:
- Read books on self-improvement, or
- Keep a journal.
Example #3: Short-term goals focused on boosting your productivity
There are no instant solutions to boosting productivity, but there are some short-term goals focused on productivity advancement that you can achieve shortly.
For instance, if poor time management hinders your productivity, maybe you should consider working on your time management skills. For this purpose, you can use a productivity tracker app that easily identifies where your time goes, keeps you focused on critical tasks, and increases your productivity as a result.
Other short-term goals focused on productivity include:
- Changing your work routine, and
- Finding your most productive time of day — i.e. understanding if you are a morning lark or a night owl.
Example #4: Short-term goals focused on using your resources efficiently
What you need to do is set a short-term goal to manage your money wisely without damaging your business. Therefore, you should start keeping track of your company’s expenses (like mileage, meals, day rates, etc.) and choose between a traditional expense ledger or opt for an expense-tracking app that can do the job automatically.
Other short-term, efficiency-based goals include:
- Eliminating distractions, or
- Organizing daily meetings.
💡 Clockify Pro Tip:
To become an expense-tracking master, check this article out:
Example #5: Short-term goals focused on increasing work/life balance
Nowadays, many companies offer flexible work arrangements, and the hybrid model is proclaimed to be the future of work. This means that you can successfully combine both working in the office and from the comfort of your home.
Therefore, if your company offers such an arrangement, make the most of it to spend more time with your family or socialize with your colleagues.
Other short-term goals focused on improving your work/life balance include:
Long-term career goals (examples)
Here are some examples of more ambitious, long-term career goals that take longer to achieve.
Example #1: Long-term goals focused on enhancing your education in the long run
An educational goal that you want to accomplish in the future could be finishing college. That’s something that requires up to 10 years to complete, while physician studies can last even longer than a decade.
Thinking about which college you want to enroll in is a tough decision that you probably start thinking about when you are in high school. You make that long-term goal based on your skills, knowledge, and interests.
Other examples of long-term goals focused on education include:
- Learning a foreign language, or
- Gaining a master’s degree or Ph.D.
Example #2: Long-term goals focused on sharpening your soft skills
A long-term goal focused on personal development can be developing better communication skills in the workplace.
If you feel like you are being “kept out of the loop”, or as if you “can’t fit in” — maybe you should start enhancing your soft skills. This includes practicing active listening and public speaking, reaching out to your colleagues (also a great way to build good relations within your organization), showing empathy, etc.
This is considered a long-term objective since improving your soft skills and building effective communication in the workplace don’t happen overnight. Even after you accomplish this, you need to keep working hard to maintain your skills.
Other long-term goals focused on personal advancement include:
- Becoming a better team leader, or
- Managing emotions at work.
Example #3: Long-term goals focused on inducing changes into your work habits
If you want to increase your productivity for good, apart from enhancing your time management skills, think about doing something that will bring lasting results. Of course, this will take more time and effort.
You can create a schedule that you are going to stick to. For that purpose, try using the time blocking technique that lets you organize your day by allocating small blocks of time for each activity or task — to make your schedule more manageable.
Creating such a schedule will lay out what you will work on and when. Not only will you produce better output but also avoid procrastination.
Bear in mind that achieving such a goal requires patience — since building a habit of creating a workable schedule is a lengthy process that takes time.
Other long-term goals that may help you better your work habits include:
- Taking frequent breaks, or
- Breaking bad habits.
💡 Clockify Pro Tip:
If you want to maximize your productivity using other techniques and apps, check this article out:
Example #4: Long-term goals focused on setting a financial goal for your future
Let’s say you want to map out a thorough retirement plan. This is a long-lasting undertaking, and you should start thinking about it as soon as you can.
You will need to map out a detailed financial plan such as leaving aside 10% of your income each month or avoiding spending money on unnecessary things.
You can perhaps divide this long-term goal into small short-term goals and celebrate milestones. Those “sub-goals” can include:
- Tracking your expenses, or
- Setting a savings account.
Example #5: Long-term goals focused on decluttering your life
By decluttering your life, we mean getting rid of everything that stands between you and success.
Start with reducing clutter in your home, phone, computer, and workstation (whether that’s an office or your home). Then, slowly work your way to more complex ‘decluttering tasks’.
These may include some bigger undertakings such as:
- Organizing your days better,
- Learning how to prioritize tasks, and
- Delegating everything you possibly can.
Finally, don’t forget to reevaluate your relationships and figure out which ones might harm your well-being.
Decluttering your life is a long-lasting process, and it involves many steps before reaching your final goal.
How to set your career goals successfully
Now that you’ve read some examples of short-term and long-term goals, you are probably wondering: How can I achieve such career goals?
Although there are no strict guidelines on how to set your career goals (whether short-term or long-term), we want to emphasize some universal steps you should take along the way.
These steps outline a simple and effective strategy as you start your journey to setting career goals:
- Find your personal motivation and self-discipline
- Find support from those close to you
- Break down your goal into manageable pieces
- Be SMART with your goals
- Track the progress of your career goals
- Take time to reevaluate and modify your goals as you go
- Balance career goals and personal life
- Define your career goal statement
Step #1: Find your personal motivation and self-discipline
Motivation is a fickle emotion that is very difficult to grasp. We often believe that we can only get things done if motivation strikes us at just the right time.
Sadly, that is not the case.
Instead, we tend to get much more done when we exert discipline.
Did you know that you can create motivation, instead of waiting for it to come around?
Here are just a handful of ways to motivate yourself:
- Make a reward system for yourself after reaching specific milestones,
- Analyze your lack of motivation to find out what prevents you from moving forward,
- Have a planner specifically for career goals, and write down everything you’re planning to achieve, and
- Team up with a friend, or find support within your family.
💡 Clockify Pro Tip:
All these motivation tips are explored in detail in our other article:
Step #2: Find support from those close to you
We’ve mentioned that a friend or a coworker who has similar goals as your own can be a good motivator.
There is something in creating a “tribe” of like-minded people for the purpose of support, resource sharing, and helping each other grow.
Additionally, it is great for accountability when you can’t keep your word.
Therefore, if you have a problem acting on your resolutions and promises, find someone who will hold you responsible for them.
Step #3: Break down your goal into manageable pieces
Now, it’s time to chunk your goal down into smaller pieces.
This way, you’ll have a better idea of the tasks that need to be completed to successfully reach your goal.
For example, to earn a programming certificate, you’ll need to complete tasks such as:
- Ensure you have a computer with an i5 processor or higher
- Balance your current job or classes with the programming course
- Practice and do homework regularly
- Call your developer friend when in doubt
You can create simple “To-do” lists that help you keep track of all your tasks or activities and unburden your mind from remembering everything.
💡 Clockify Pro Tip:
If you want to find out more about how to break large goals down into more manageable pieces, visit the following link:
Step #4: Be SMART with your career goals
Let’s revisit the example we’ve previously mentioned.
Once you’ve defined your future goal — to earn a programming certificate — it’s not enough to say “I want to earn a programming certificate” to attain that goal successfully.
Instead, make your goal “smart” and incorporate the SMART goal criteria into your goal-setting process.
In other words, ensure your goal is SMART:
- Relevant, and
Specific career goals
You need to provide more details about your goal.
Try answering the questions “What?”, “How?”, or “Why?” to make your goal more distinct.
Therefore, saying “I want to enroll in an online course so that I can earn a programming certificate and find a job in the IT industry” will make your goal as specific as it can be.
Measurable career goals
To make your goal measurable, you need to make sure there are specific indicators that show if you’ve made progress along the way.
When making the goal measurable, answering these questions can help you:
- “How many/much?”
- “Can you measure the outcome?”
Your measurable goal should sound something like this: “I will pass the test for a certain certification level.”
Attainable career goals
Do you possess the necessary skills to finish the programming course? Do you have all the necessary resources?
Therefore, your attainable goal should sound something like this “I possess some basic hard skills such as HTML and CSS knowledge, therefore, I have the necessary base for successfully completing the course.”
Relevant career goals
Do you feel like your future career goal is something that really interests you?
Your relevant goal should say: “I’ve always been interested in computer science, and this course will boost my knowledge and increase my chances of getting a job in the field.”
Time-bound career goals
Finally, answer the question “When?” since every goal needs to have a target date.
Try setting a realistic time frame so that you don’t end up disappointed or discouraged to move on.
Therefore, your timely goal now sounds like this: “I’ll have classes four times a week for two months. I suppose if I commit myself to regular learning and practicing, I will be able to pass the exam by December.”
Step #5: Track the progress of your career goals
We’ve mentioned that the only way to reach your milestones is through discipline.
By working towards your goal regularly, you increase your chances of succeeding.
For example, you can do small programming tasks every day to practice for a certification test.
However, for the majority of us, forming a habit proves to be much harder.
The easiest way to track your goals is via a suitable app. This is especially useful if traditional habit tracking doesn’t work for you.
Here’s how you can easily track your daily goals in Clockify — as the tasks pop up, you simply start the timer. When you’re done, you stop the timer, and voila! It’s as easy as that.
Furthermore, in Clockify, you have the option of planning out your tasks for the entire week or even month.
With such clear overviews of your tasks, you will be able to stay on top of your goals easily.
Here is what it looks like in Clockify:
When the week passes, you’ll have a clean-cut overview of the time spent on career-related goals. These can help you regroup your tasks and make any necessary changes to your schedule.
Step #6: Take time to reevaluate and modify your goals as you go
It’s perfectly normal to realize that your professional goals evolve and change over time — especially earlier in life.
Maybe you’ve been working as a programmer for a few years now and found out in the past few months that you’re gaining interest in QA.
Or, it turns out you are really good at mediating between teams and understand the production pipeline well enough to try project management.
The point is — it’s okay to reassess your goals in the process and make any changes you deem necessary.
How to know if you should change your career goals
When talking about redefining your career goals, this important question always comes up. We take our careers seriously, so, naturally, we’ll question our choices.
Let’s take a look at the signs that show you if and when you should modify your goals:
- The amount of effort you’re putting in overshadows the reward,
- You no longer find joy in pursuing a goal,
- It’s beginning to negatively impact your personal life,
- You realize the goal is actually not as important anymore, or
- Unexpected life changes occur.
Make it okay with yourself to come back to your goals and reevaluate them every now and then.
Especially if you’ve realized that a different career path suits you better.
Chasing a goal just to achieve it — even though you know it’s a dead-end — is just a waste of time and energy.
It’s better to give up, count your losses, and move on in another direction.
Step #7: Balance career goals and personal life
It’s not easy to balance work and life, especially if you’re setting new career goals for yourself.
And, even with a support system within your friends and family, the idea of dedicating so much time to your career can seem gloomy.
Not everyone is up for the “grind”.
As a matter of fact, multiple media outlets today are speaking up against the “rise and grind” culture. At Clockify, we’re of the same mindset. There is no real success if you nearly lose yourself by the time you reach it. Health and sanity should always come first.
With that in mind, here are some tips on how to pursue your goals in a healthy, balanced manner.
Tip #1: Decide how far you are willing to go
In time, you’ll want to find out what your absolute limits are and stick to them.
If achieving a certain goal will say, have you work 100 hours a week while you can barely manage 60, then you need to know if the goal is worth the sacrifice.
Deciding how far you are willing to go early on will immensely help balance out your work and life.
Tip #2: Try making smarter choices
You don’t have to take every opportunity that comes your way. Some will be beneficial for your career, while others will be a dead end. Take the time to assess which ones to accept and save yourself some time you would otherwise waste.
Choose experiences that will move you forward, teach you something new, and add significantly to your life. Everything else will just be pointless.
Tip #3: Find someone you admire to mentor you
How can a mentor help your work-life balance? It’s actually quite simple.
People who have been in your shoes before have seen all the challenges, ups, and downs this path brings. They will know best what kind of traps lie ahead.
Moreover, good mentors will give priceless advice on overcoming said obstacles and teach you valuable shortcuts and tips on how to choose the best opportunities for yourself.
Their advice will save you a lot of time and energy that you would waste on trial and error.
Step #8: Define your career goal statement
Now that you’ve learned enough about setting career goals, it’s time to leave a paper trail of your well-established goals for the future.
That is precisely what a career goal statement is — a written description of your long-term professional plans.
Goal statements describe your aspirations, skills, or job titles that you would like to earn in the future to level up.
You can attach yours to a job application or cover letter to provide a better grasp of your future career plans and directions.
Career goals statement (examples)
Take a look at some career goal statement examples below:
Career goal statement example #1:
“My career goal is to get promoted to a software application developer within the next 2 years. To do so, I must level up my programming skills, make sure I have the necessary equipment, take programming classes, and keep up with programming trends.”
Career goal statement example #2:
“I’ve been a senior officer for a year and a half now, and I aspire to move up the career ladder and become an assistant manager in less than 2 years. My responsibilities will entail supervising employees during day-to-day tasks, so I will have to sharpen my soft skills, as well.”
Career goal statement example #3:
“I will obtain a buyer’s agent real estate license within 6 months. To do this, I will complete a real estate course, and then I will be able to act on behalf of the buyer.”
Conclusion: Career goals point your life and career in the right direction
While your career path can seem complex, it can also be interesting and versatile once you begin the journey. Setting goals for yourself is not only good for getting a better position, a promotion, or switching to a higher-paying job — It’s beneficial for your personal growth as well.
Career goals can help you learn more about yourself as a person. They reveal your skills, your interests, mental toughness, and your overall outlook on life.
Of course, don’t forget that the road to an attainable career goal can get bumpy, and you need to stick to your plan to carry it out successfully.
With that being said, this journey should excite you. So, grab the proverbial bull by the horns, and good luck!
✉️ Do you have a career goal? How did you achieve it? Write to us at email@example.com for a chance to be featured in this or one of our future articles. Also, if you liked this article, share it with someone else you know will find it useful.